10 years ago, Lil’ Kim sat in a very different place than she does now. After a trial for a perjury charge stemming from a 2001 shooting found the Queen Bee watching her former Junior M.A.F.I.A. affiliates testify against her, she was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison. The wounds cut deep, and to put it bluntly, she was pissed. With just months to tidy up her affairs, she channeled this energy into a body of work as controversial and transcendent as her debut: The Naked Truth. This album resonates unlike any other body of work she has released to date, with its raw anger, brash lyrical assaults and, of course, an essential dash of sex.
Kim is known to be a perfectionist and take years to create albums, but she concocted this body of work in less than a year. Her creative process was sparked and constrained by her trial and sentencing, leaving her mere months to gather her thoughts and put them on paper and wax. She also took the opportunity to insert some irony into the album’s presentation by juxtaposing the revealing title with her most conservative album cover to date.
She opens with a brief intro, being gawked at by the paparazzi and leads into “Spell Check,” where she incorporates a piece of Biggie’s iconic “Mo Money, Mo Problems” verse. Kim has come a long way from fighting to prove herself on Hard Core and The Notorious K.I.M.. Here she sounds more secure in her position on the throne than ever before. She takes an obligatory moment to honor her Brooklyn roots and remind that she is the “biggest sex symbol since Janet” as she and Scott Storch reunite to flip Damian Marley’s “Welcome To Jamrock” into the sing-rapped “Lighters Up.” The faux-Carribean accent isn’t for everyone, but Kim makes it work for her on “Lighters,” and also later on “Durty.” Kim’s no Mary J. Blige vocally (who makes a nostalgic cameo in “Lighters” the video), but she can carry a tune surprisingly well.
Kim has always been known for having a sharp tongue, but on this album, her sharpness in lyrical assaults exceed and surpass her trademark sexuality. From the album’s toned down cover, to the lyrical content, Kim focuses on speaking her mind in a new way and vents her frustrations against former friends, the justice system, and haters.
She launched this album with a perfect example of this lyrical venting. Her ultimate “fuck you” was the album’s street single, “Shut Up Bitch.” The song takes aim at gossipers (name checking Star Jones and Wendy Williams) and names her classic controversies throughout the hook, from her changing physical appearance, ghostwriting, and her wealth, to which she eloquently responds ‘Shut up, bitch!’ Second single “Whoa” finds Kim flowing effortlessly over a fire beat, referring to herself as Ms. White, reminding that she’s “the same bitch from the escalator,” and asserting that she’s “back with a classic (so give her) 6 mics”.
On “Slippin” she takes focuses her attention on the snakes in the grass (her former Junior M.A.F.I.A. clique) and the persistence of the media and justice system to take down figures in the spotlight. As she bluntly spits “see you could be a rapper, athlete, or an actor, believe me these devils find a way to get at cha. All it takes is some green and your face on a screen- Fuck it, just say I took one for the team.” Later she flips a sample of Biggie’s “Juicy” for “All Good” a drop-the-top moment of positivity and boasting between the venting session that captivates much of the album.
The album’s crowning moment comes when Kim adopts an Eminem flow over “Quiet”‘s menacing beat and lyrically unloads. She aims at fraudulence in hip hop while simultaneously taking almost-direct shots at Foxy Brown, referencing an alleged nail salon incident (“but hoes wanna go to court for not payin’ for their nails”) and altercation with Jacki-O (“Jacki-O proved you far from a fighter”), and rumors that Foxy doesn’t write her own lyrics (“I ain’t gon come back at you, I’m comin at your ghostwriter”). Later she aims her pen again at Lil’ Cease (“It’s the ones that befriend you that turn up against you, in the court of law and drop a dime like Sprint do… I cut you off cause I knew I couldn’t trust ya.”). You can hear the anger and pain in her voice (“you can run top speed but you can’t dodge the bee!”). Kim’s pissed, and she’s dealing death blows while The Game provides a menacing hook.
She recruits the king of chronic Snoop Dogg for the aptly titled “Kronik” where she compares herself to… take a guess. The metaphors are on point (“I’m more potent than a bag of sour diesel”) and she seizes the opportunity to quote Biggie’s hook from Hard Core‘s classic “Drugs.” Sex-fueled Kim takes full form as she layers whisper-raps over each other and 7 Aurelius’ Middle Eastern instrumentation to deliver the slinky, inviting “Kitty Box.”
Like every Kim album, there are interludes, but these are some of the best. This time around Katt Williams adds a welcomed level of humor while also giving credit to Kim and her title. On the intro to “Shut Up Bitch” he clarifies her position “not pawn, not rook, not knight. Queen!” There are also two posse cuts here, the stronger of the two being the inciting “We Don’t Give A Fuck”, which boasts guest verses from both Bun B and Twista. The trio ride out over hard drums and organs in take-down fashion. Kim lightly emulates a Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony flow as she searingly states “You don’t want no problems man, none if you get outta lane We comin’ like the Taliban, poppin’ like a collar man.” Bun B takes it down to the dirty south, and Twista flying through at light speed and unloading lyrics like bullets in a drive-by to close things out.
Kim closes the album on the notably somber “Last Day.” She reassures listeners that regardless of what happens, she has made her mark, entranced the crowds, and influenced a generation. And not a single lie was told. There was one song that was omitted from the album (but included in The Source’s reviews), most likely for sample clearance issues that needs mentioning: “The Game’s In Trouble.” Over a smoldering sample of The Jacksons’ “This Place Hotel” that would have sat comfortably on Hard Core, she emulates a smooth Snoop Doog-esque flow.
Upon its release, The Naked Truth was met with the typical mixed critical reactions Kim’s music always receives. Most notably was her reception from hip hop magazine The Source. Kim was awarded the coveted 5-Mic rating for The Naked Truth, a first for a female emcee, and a feat that no other woman has achieved. The rating has been controversial and questioned since being awarded, but has never been rescinded. Let’s be honest though, what would Lil’ Kim be without a lil’ bit of controversy?