Lil Kim’s ‘La Bella Mafia’ Turns 10
By the time Lil’ Kim released her third album, she already had two successful LPs under her belt. ‘Hard Core,’ though it didn’t break the top 10 on the Billboard 200 chart in 1996, landed in the No. 11 spot — the highest debut for a female rapper at that time. Meanwhile, the 2000 release of ‘The Notorious K.I.M.’ entered the No. 4 spot on that same chart during the first week of its release. While these are great achievements for the Queen Bee, she recently hit yet another milestone — the 10-year anniversary of her third album, ‘La Bella Mafia.’
Released on March 4, 2003, this effort marked Kim’s departure from Junior M.A.F.I.A. and breaking ties with her longtime friend and collaborator Diddy. Originally named ‘Hollyhood,’ Kim decided to title the album ‘La Bella Mafia’ after watching the 1997 film of the same name. “Any girl who’s strong and very dedicated to what they do and don’t take no mess, they can be a part of La Bella Mafia,” she told MTV.
‘La Bella Mafia’ reunited Kim with Shaft and Kanye West as producers, who both lent a hand on her sophomore LP. She also started working partnerships with Timbaland and Swizz Beatz. The album isn’t just full of tracks that showcase Kim’s talents as a lyricists; it’s laden with samples from many big hip-hop and R&B artists.
For example, ‘This Is a Warning,’ which was solely produced by Kim herself, used R. Kelly‘s ‘A Woman’s Threat.’ She also mixed in samples from Beastie Boys‘ ‘Paul Revere,’ Biggie‘s ‘Juicy’ and ‘A Prayer’ by the O’Jays.
With all the work Kim put into this record, she seemed to save herself with mediocre reviews from ‘The Notorious K.I.M.’ Not only did ‘La Bella Mafia’ make the top 5 on Billboard’s Top Hip-hop/R&B Albums and Billboard 200 charts, it also spawned two major hits — ‘The Jump Off’ and ‘Magic Stick.’
‘The Jump Off’ made it to the top 20 on Billboard’s Hot 100 list, making it her first hit since 1997’s ‘Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix),’ which she did with Da Brat, Missy Elliott, Angie Martinez and the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. ‘Magic Stick’ brought Kim and 50 Cent together to make it her highest-charting and biggest hit.
Critics gave ‘La Bella Mafia’ positive reviews, pointing out that despite her previous flop, that this album put her on the map as a class act and a potential “industry icon.” Spin critic Nick Catucci summed up the praise best by writing, “The King is dead — long live the Queen”.
‘La Bella Mafia’ was an album that further defined Lil’ Kim as an artist and became one of the big reasons why we view her as hip-hop royalty today.
Watch Lil’ Kim’s ‘The Jump Off’ Feat. Mr. Cheeks