Early years Lil' Kim was born in Brooklyn in New York City, New York to Linwood and Ruby Mae Jones. She received the nickname of "Lil" due to her petite 4'11" frame by the Notorious B.I.G. At the age of nine, her parents separated, which marked the beginning of a tumultuous and often difficult lifestyle However, while in her late teens, her rhyming skills came to the attention of rapper Christopher Wallace (a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G.) who had just signed a record deal with Bad Boy Records.
The Junior M.A.F.I.A. & Hard Core Wallace introduced Kim to New York rap group Junior M.A.F.I.A., in which Kim became the only female member. In 1995, they released their debut album Conspiracy, which debuted at number eight on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and spawned the top twenty hit "Get Money."
After her success with the Junior M.A.F.I.A., Kim went solo, releasing her controversial debut album Hard Core on November 12, 1996. Hard Core was a hit, debuting at number eleven on the Billboard 200 and going on to achieve double-platinum status. The lead single, "No Time" (featuring Puff Daddy), became a top twenty hit; its follow-up, "Not Tonight," proved to be an even bigger success, as it went on to reach the top ten of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
On the heels of Kim's successful debut was the murder of Wallace, her mentor and lover, in 1997, which was said to have devastated Kim.
The Notorious K.I.M. After Biggie's death, Kim took a break from her own music, but still made guest appearances on other artists' albums. In 1998, she toured with Puff Daddy on the No Way Out tour. 1999 saw the launch of her own record label, Queen Bee Records, and in 2000, Lil' Kim returned with a new look and a new album. The Notorious K.I.M. debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 chart, selling nearly 230,000 copies in its opening week. Lil'Kim held the record for the most albums sold in the first week by a female rapper at the time. The album was later certified platinum, and has sold 1.4 million copies to date. The two singles released in the U.S., "No Matter What They Say" and "How Many Licks?," both showed Kim's versatility, but only made it into the lower reaches of the Billboard Hot 100. The record as a whole was not received as well as her debut by critics.
It wasn't until 2001 that Kim had her first true mainstream hit. She teamed up with Christina Aguilera, Mya and Pink to remake LaBelle's classic hit "Lady Marmalade" for the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack. The single reached number one on the Hot 100 for five consecutive weeks, making it Kim's first number-one single and making her the first female rap artist to hit number one on that chart. The song subsequently was one of the biggest hits of the year, and went on to win a Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.
She also recorded a new entrance theme for then World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Women's champion Trish Stratus titled "Time to Rock N Roll", which is used currently during broadcasts. The single was released on WWE Anthology, a compilation of entrance theme music to various superstars which also featured the likes of Saliva and Naughty By Nature.
La Bella Mafia On March 4, 2003, Kim released her third album, La Bella Mafia. Highly rated (4.5 mics) by music magazine The Source, La Bella Mafia featured the hits "The Jump Off" (featuring Mr. Cheeks) (a U.S. top twenty hit) and "Magic Stick," a duet with fellow controversial rapper 50 Cent, which peaked at number two on the Hot 100. The latter achieved airplay success despite the fact that no music video was released for the single.
La Bella Mafia debuted at number five on the Billboard 200, selling nearly 170,000 copies in the first week. By the end of 2003, it went platinum, eventually selling 1.1 million copies. Kim was nominated for five Source Awards and won two ("Female Hip-Hop Artist of the Year, and "Female Single of the Year"). This album also got two Grammy Award nominations: Best Female Rap Solo Performance ("Came Back For You") and Best Rap Collaboration ("Magic Stick"). She was also nominated for Best Pop Collaboration with singer Christina Aguilera for the song "Can't Hold Us Down", from Aguilera's album Stripped.
Criminal Conviction and The Naked Truth On March 17, 2005, Kim was found guilty of conspiracy and perjury for lying to a grand jury about her friends' involvement in a 2001 shooting outside the Hot 97 studios in Manhattan - involving the entourage of rap duo Capone-N-Noreaga and her reported fellow Brooklynite rival Foxy Brown. She claimed not to have known that her manager (Damion Butler), and another friend were at the scene, despite video footage showing all three exiting the building. Both men have pleaded guilty to gun charges since.
Kim was fined $50,000 and sentenced to a year and one day at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, to which she reported on September 19, 2005. She is currently promoting a reality show filmed before she began serving her one-year-and-a-day sentence in a Philadelphia federal detention center.
Despite her conviction Kim released a fourth album, The Naked Truth, during her sentence on September 27, 2005. It earned her a 5 mic rating from The Source, making her the first female rapper to ever accomplish this feat. The album debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 but did not sustain this position. It was Kim's lowest-selling album to date, selling only 326,000 units (Nielsen Soundscan). In February 2006, Atlantic Records held a press conference about the disappointing sales of the album, saying they would re-release it this fall, adding that the re-release " will include songs Kim wrote while in prison. It has been rumored that the re-release, The Naked Truth: Behind Bars will be released in November 2006, marking the ten year anniversary of her debut Hardcore.
The music video for the album's first single, "Lighters Up" was number one on BET's "106 & Park" for two weeks. "Lighters Up," was a top ten hit on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. The second single, "Whoa" was released on February 17, 2006. On March 9, BET premiered the show Lil Kim: Countdown to Lockdown, which was filmed before Kim headed to jail. The show became the highest rated premiere in BET history, with 1.7 million viewers.
Kim is scheduled to be released from the Federal Detention center (FDC) Philadelphia in July of 2006, which will mark 80f her 366-day sentence, as required by Federal sentencing guidelines.
Lil' Kim recently established the "Lil' Kim Cares Foundation", a charity organization which distributed toys to less fortunate children during the 2005 Christmas season and continues to serve charitable purposes. The official website for the foundation is lilkimcares.com.
In May 2006, rock legend Debbie Harry released a Lil' Kim tribute song called "Dirty and Deep" in protest of her conviction. The song is available free from the Deborah Harry Home Page.