Also Credited As:Kimberly Jones, Kimberly Denise Jones, Lil' Kim, Queen Bee
|Kimberly Denise Jones on July 11, 1975 in Brooklyn, New York, USA|
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Kimberly Denise Jones was born on July 11, 1975 in Brooklyn, NY to Linwood Jones and Ruby Mae. Her parents separated when Kim was nine years old, and she lived with her father and older brother Christopher. Her tormented relationship with her father was fueled by arguments and the teenager's rebellion, causing her to run away from home. Kim spent time living on the streets of Brooklyn, where she was introduced to the world of crime, drugs and violence. It was also where she met a budding rapper named Christopher Wallace, who went by the aliases Notorious B.I.G. and/or Biggie Smalls. Wallace saw huge potential in the 4'11'' tall runaway and decided to become her mentor. Her tiny frame earned her the nickname Lil' Kim when they formed the rap group Junior M.A.F.I.A. Even though she was the sole female member, Kim's ferocious rapping in tracks such as "Player's Anthem" and "Get Money" helped the group's debut album Conspiracy (1995) reach No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The success of Junior M.A.F.I.A. paved the way for Kim to pursue a solo career. In 1996, a year after the group's debut, she released Hard Core, an album chock full of sexual innuendo, riot girl attitude, and hardcore beats. The image of the artist straddling a bear skin rug on the cover set the tone for the music and also for the marketing power backing her up. If it was true that sex sold well, then Kim was already a millionaire by the time her record hit shelves. Rumors that she was having a secret affair with Wallace - married at the time to R&B singer Faith Evans - circulated among the hip-hop community, yet it kept her star on the rise. Kim's first single "No Time," a duet with Wallace's best friend and producer Sean "Puffy" Combs, reached the top of the rap charts, followed by another hit "Not Tonight," which reached No. 6. There were also rumors Kim had a feud with other female MCs, including Foxy Brown and Remy Ma, yet she made it known who was on top. "You will hear a lot of female albums that have the same feel as mine, the same sound, the same look as me," she said. "I don't worry about anybody taking my style anymore, because I know what I have."
When it seemed everything was well in place for the Brooklyn star, her entire world came crashing down. On the night of March 9, 1997, her friend, lover and lifesaver Wallace was shot to death in a drive-by outside a party in Los Angeles. His murder remained unsolved and became one of the biggest mysteries in music history. The rapper's death - the result of an East Coast/West Coast rap rivalry - dealt a heavy blow to Kim at the time, forcing her to take a break from her solo career. However, she remained a fixture in hip-hop, appearing in Combs' 1998 Bad Boy Tour and collaborating with artists such as Missy Elliott and TLC's Left Eye. She also took a liking to show business, making her acting debut with a small role in the teen romantic comedy "She's All That" in 1999. Three years later, Kim costarred with Vivica A. Fox and Kevin Pollak in the comedy "Juwanna Mann" (2002).
Kim, who embraced the "ghetto fabulous" style, also dabbled in fashion, modeling for designers such as Versace, Baby Phat, and Candies. Her most notorious fashion moment came in 1999 when Kim presented an award with Diana Ross at the MTV Video Music Awards. Wearing nothing but a purple wig, bedazzled pants, and a pair of pasties covering her nipples, the rapper edged out everyone from Madonna to Britney Spears as sporting the most memorable ensemble in the award show's history. Even Ross could not fight temptation when she proceeded to grab and shake Kim's breasts onstage, to everyone's delight.
Fans waited patiently for Kim to make a rap comeback. Her glorious return began with the release of The Notorious K.I.M. in the summer of 2000 under her own record label, Queen Bee Entertainment. The album title was a tribute to the late Wallace, as well as the group they formed early on in their careers. The Notorious K.I.M. spawned the hit "Lady Marmalade," where singers Pink, Mya, and Christina Aguilera joined her in the remake of the Patti Labelle classic. The track was also included in the soundtrack for the film "Moulin Rouge!" (2001), and earned the four female artists a 2002 Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration.
By the time Kim released her third album La Bella Mafia in 2003, she was recognized as one of the premiere female rappers in the country. Her lyrics and vocal delivery remained gritty, yet her exposure to Hollywood and the world of high fashion added a seductive sophistication to her image. Tracks such as "The Jump Off" and her duet with 50 Cent "Magic Stick" charted high. She was also animated for a cameo appearance in the 2004 video game "Def Jam: Fight for NY," joining other rap luminaries such as Snoop Dogg, Ice-T and Method Man.
A dark cloud cast a huge shadow on Kim's life in 2005 when she was found guilty of conspiracy and perjury for lying to a grand jury. A 2001 shooting outside the Hot 97 studios in Manhattan resulted in the arrest of her manager Damion "D-Roc" Butler and friend Suif Jackson. Kim claimed her friends were not involved in the shooting, however, surveillance footage showed the three of them exiting the building at the time of the incident. Both men pleaded guilty to gun charges, while the rapper was sentenced to spend 366 days at the Philadelphia Detention Center. She was released for good behavior on July 3, 2006 - almost a month earlier than scheduled.
Not even jail time could keep the rap star away from music. She wrote over 200 songs and released her fourth album The Naked Truth (2005) while she was behind bars. It debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200, although it was also the lowest-selling album of her career, primarily because she was unable to promote the record. The Naked Truth spawned the hit "Lighters Up" while the second single "Whoa" received regular radio airplay. BET's "Lil' Kim: Countdown to Lockdown" (2006) followed the rapper on the days before she went to jail, and became the network's highest rated premiere. Kim's conviction also inspired music legend Debbie Harry to pen the tribute song "Dirty and Deep," which the rock legend made available to the public on her personal web site.
With her court trials and sentencing behind her, Kim moved on and reestablished her presence in Hollywood. She added "reality TV judge" to her resume in 2007 with a guest appearance on "The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll" (The CW, 2007) and as a regular judge on its spin-off "Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious" (The CW, 2008). She returned to the big screen in the comedy "Superhero Movie" in 2008 as Xavier's Daughter. In 2009, Kim joined the celebrity ballroom competition "Dancing with the Stars," where she was paired up with season seven champ Derek Hough. She also started working on an autobiographical film and Vintage, her fifth studio album.