Lil’ Kim – La Bella Mafia (Review)

Grade: B

At this point, Lil’ Kim, the most glamorous rapper in hip-hop history, faces the problem of any other diva: finding songs that showcase her bouffant-wig-size persona without seeming inaccessible and out of touch with everyday life. Her new album, “La Bella Mafia,” out today, strikes the right balance. Just as Jennifer Lopez proclaims that she’s still “Jenny From the Block,” Kim tries to convince us that beneath the couture clothes, bling-bling jewelry and surgically remixed body, she’s like everyone else. “Don’t be mad,” she raps on one song. “I can’t put this money in a casket. . . . / I can’t take these diamonds with me when I die.” The music fits Kim’s more humble ambitions. Her last album, 2000’s “The Notorious K.I.M.,” was a multigenre mess that overreached for crossover success. But the new set consists largely of spare hip-hop tracks highlighting Kim’s saucy rhyme flow. The best tracks — the shimmying first single, “The Jump Off,” and the flirty “Shake Ya Bum Bum” — are musical block parties. And Kim is the rap princess next door.

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