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Lil' Kim

Naked Truth  Hear it Now

RS: 3of 5 Stars Average User Rating: 4of 5 Stars

2005

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Lil' Kim could be excused were she to sound knocked back on her stiletto heels: During this annus horribilis, the rapper born Kimberly Jones has been stalked by the tabloids and Newsweek, dissed mercilessly by her former crew Junior M.A.F.I.A. and finally, last month, imprisoned on a perjury charge. But Kim neither wants your sympathy nor, from the sound of her ferocious, unflinching new album, does she need it.

Kim's fourth album, The Naked Truth, comes out of the box with pristine pop-rap production and doesn't let up. "Lighters Up" has Kim shouting out Brooklyn as Scott Storch sets up a conga-line confection for the track. "Durty" celebrates her home borough's strong Jamaican presence, as Kim spits convincing patois over producer Terrance "Hot Runner" Lovelace's sizzling dancehall beat. "Quiet" finds Kim lifting Eminem's "Lose Yourself" rhyme cadence and his trademark spooky synthesizers for an all-out assault on the dudes she once rolled with who are now "chump motherfuckas . . . confessing like Usher." "Shut Up Bitch" meanwhile, catalogs a litany of gossip ("I heard she sniffin' coke"; "Biggie wrote her shit") from Kim-haters. She dismisses the allegations with the middle finger of her manicured hand while pointing out, "Your mouth's a cage for your tongue if you just close your teeth." Even when she gets in a comedic zinger -- like the "no more Mrs. Nice Bitch" greeting that begins "Slippin" -- Kim sounds positively poisonous.

Still, The Naked Truth may be a convincing act of bravado, but it isn't the whole story. On some level, Kim has never fully recovered from the murder eight years ago of her boyfriend and rhyme mentor, the Notorious B.I.G. That tragedy is the hidden current of pathos on the album (she constantly references B.I.G., a.k.a. "the late Frank"), and, if you're feeling like doing some armchair psychoanalysis, it might explain her well-documented psychic transformation into a junior female version of Michael Jackson. The vulnerability behind that mask is what's missing here; if she could articulate it, she might have a true classic.

PETER RELIC

(Posted: Oct 20, 2005)

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