For the first time in Hip-Hop, a female rapper has taken a similar path that has faced a number of male MC’s.
Lil’ Kim’s high-profile legal case penetrated through the walls of Hip-Hop and emptied into the mainstream - and she was declared guilty.
Lil’ Kim’s fate on perjury charges was deliberated over a mere two days by a Manhattan jury who decided that she blatantly lied about the now notorious 2001 shooting outside Hot 97 radio station.
Kimberly Jones now faces up to 20 years in prison and females inside the rap game are speaking out.
“I would really lobby the Hip-Hop community to examine this verdict. It's quite telling [of] the harsh contrast of her verdict versus the other verdicts that go against persons who are not in the Hip-Hop community,” Shemia Miller, a marketing executive with The Game’s Blackwallstreet, told AllHipHop.com. “Lil Kim is our Black Madonna and we should respect her contribution to the Hip-Hop community.”
Kim, never a stranger to the spotlight, has appeared in various media circuits since her trial began—from music outlets to newspapers and news channels nationwide. But when her 20-minute long verdict was read, the Brooklyn native seemed to shun the spotlight she so avidly absorbed and pursued. She showed no visible emotion, while her supporters wept silently and her mother, Ruby Mae, crumbled in her seat.
"I am disappointed in the verdict. However I was acquitted of the most serious charge, obstruction of justice," Kim said in a statement following the verdict. "Throughout my life, I have always lived with adversity and will continue to have faith and do good for my family, friends and fans."
Kim may be the first publicly known female rap figure in her predicament, but she’s only the latest rap victim of the American legal system. While some, like Death Row CEO Suge Knight, have been in and out of prison, others had short stints and vowed never to go back. G-Unit member Tony Yayo was introduced to hip-hop as the incarcerated member of 50 Cent’s rap crew, who frequently bore “Free Yayo” T-shirts. Shyne, Styles P, Beanie Sigel, and the list goes on. But never a female MC.
Furthermore, she was prosecuted in New York, a town that has a “rap task force” and an apparent longing to take legal action against rappers.
“This is even more telling of how no matter how we assimilate to mainstream, the government is very insistent on reminding us that we are still Black,” said Miller. “I think because we are not as connected to the movement and we've allowed other rappers to down play one another, that we're disconnected to each other.”
1st Lady EL, CEO of the New Jersey-based Murda Mamis had encouraging words for Kim. "I believe Lil’ Kim got caught in a wrong place, wrong time situation. We pray for her and wish her the best. She needs to just move forward with her career,” said 1st Lady EL. “And all the snakes in the grass that are trying to bring her down will get theirs."
Like the male rappers before her who attempted to maintain their careers while incarcerated, Kim will have a hard time recording if she spends time in jail. Tupac managed a number No. 1 during his stint after a conviction on sexual assault charges. Mystikal and C-Murder are both planning releases but have had far less impact while imprisoned. The question is whether Kim will recuperate from her circumstances—length jail sentence or not—and return to the rap game stronger and ready to take on her naysayers.
Rapper Jean Grae said that if the sentencing isn’t too harsh, Kim may return a renewed person with a better connection to her audience.
“In the entertainment industry, no press is bad press,” Grae told AllHipHop.com. “Controversy sells; the media takes everything to new heights, to new fan bases. Even if it’s a negative situation, it doesn’t always have to play out that way in the end.”
Miller offered and alternative point of view.
“No Black person ever fully recovers because White America tends to state, ‘We are giving you a chance to be in our society, and you have proven to us that you can't get along,’” said Miller. “Hip-Hop is given a pass in America. I think they will not be so harsh with the verdict if the Hip-Hop community puts a glaring eye on what's going on. We need another movement, and realize that this is an attack on one of our own.”
While Miller seeks some form of protection for Kim, the BK lyricist’s only defense seemed to be her stoic exterior.
Whether Kim lied about the shooting or not, she elected not to single out members of her entourage, Damion Butler and Suif Jackson, who themselves admitted their participation in the incident. Throughout Kim’s trial, music industry faces turned into witnesses. All the while, a tight-lipped Kim insisted that she never lied and simultaneously refused to point fingers.
From the outside, the whole ordeal can be confusing, some maintain.
“I don’t know the position she was really in. Loyalty takes different sides at different times,” rapper Grae stated.
Most times when dealing with Hip-Hop personas in legal trouble, media tend to focus more attention on the rapper aspect than the human element (Tupac, P.Diddy). When pop stars are publicly incriminated, they seem to be granted leniency like Justin Timberlake in the Super Bowl incident with Janet Jackson. Jackson was vilified for revealing her bare breast, but her alleged co-conspirator went on to win numerous awards.
“Madonna can do something outrageous [but] when Janet Jackson has a ‘[wardrobe] malfunction,’ she gets the plug pulled on her,” said Miller. “I think that it's two different rules, and from the crack down on Murder Inc, Foxy Brown, Game, and Lil’ Kim that the government still believes that they need to censor our movement.”
Right now, there is no effective movement for Lil’ Kim. The outcry is minimal and the comparisons to Martha Stewart are clearly flawed.
And though the Associated Press often referred to her as the rapper “known for her revealing outfits and raunchy raps” in their reports, to hip-hop Lil’ Kim represents much more; a pioneer of feminism in rap and someone who rose to fame alongside one of the greatest rappers of all time, Notorious B.I.G.
More importantly, under all the layers of Lil’ Kim, lives Kimberly Jones. And she is a human with a blind date with destiny.