CALL IT A COMEBACK?

‘Lil Kim Season’: The Original Queen Bee Is Back—but When Is That Album Coming?

Rapper Lil’ Kim is back with another mixtape, seemingly flexing her chops before returning in a big way. But when will it really happen?

Lil’ Kim is back with a surprise mixtape. But is Lil’ Kim back?

After teasing it for days online, the Grammy-winning Brooklyn MC unveiled LilKim Season late Monday—her first mixtape in two years and a reminder that we haven’t seen an official studio album from the original Queen Bee since 2005’s The Naked Truth.

Over 10 tracks, Lil’ Kim reclaims her fiery trademark flow with verses about crippling geopolitical issues and the state of America, lyrics promoting female empowerment in the face of institutionalized misogyny in her world and ours, and makes peace with her avowed nemesis, Nicki Minaj, the target of her wrath five years ago on the twice-as-long Black Friday mixtape.

Just kidding. Lil’ Kim’s back in the game rapping yet again about her badass boss bitch self, her riches, and her “designer” pussy, aka the evergreen topics that have always stocked Kim’s lyrical arsenal and probably will until the end of time. Here on Lil Kim Season, an amuse-bouche ostensibly designed to tempt fans’ palates for an actual new studio album, she’s merely re-establishing her chops while quoting from a very current playlist of beats and chart-toppers.

If only Lil Kim Season wasn’t such a mixed bag of mostly forgettable freestyles. She sets the tone in “Fountain Bleu,” a leadoff track in which Kim talks about her Bentleys, the Ferragamo and Givenchy in her closets, and not a whole lot more.

“I need an Oscar nomination,” she declares on her “Beemix” of Drake’s “Summer Sixteen,” another otherwise unremarkable freestyle. It makes for an obvious pairing with her auto-crooning remix of Rihanna’s “Work,” in which the 41-year-old Kim celebrates her cougar status (“Fuckin’ with this pussy I can put you on the map/Fuckin’ with this pussy I can take you out the trap”).

“Everyone who knows me knows I’m a huge Drake fan,” she explained to Billboard before debuting Lil Kim Season. “Our relationship isn’t that big but I don't know him at all. I’ve always been a huge Drake fan. I just love that song. When I first heard it, I was like, ‘Oh, this song right here.’ But that’s how I feel about most of the Drake songs I hear anyways. When it comes to music, he really can’t do no wrong to me. That song was one of my favorites. I liked that a lot. Drake is in my top five right now, that’s who I listen to all the time. I love ‘Back 2 Back.’ My daughter sings ‘Back 2 Back.’ I could name Drake songs for 30 minutes straight that I like.”

Lil’ Kim spends half her mixtape tipping it to a handful of younger bucks, like on “Mine,” her track with everybody’s sworn favorite, Kevin Gates. Over “Panda” she turns Desiigner’s ode to his treasured X6 to her own minked-out Tony Montana swag with the help of Maino, TLZ, and Dash. If you never knew you needed Lil’ Kim’s take on OT Genasis’s “Cut It,” here you go.

A lot’s changed in the 10-plus years that studio Kim’s been absent, both for her and the industry she not only once dominated, but helped crossover into the mainstream. (Her sole Grammy trophy isn’t for her collabs with folks like Biggie or Missy or 50 Cent, but shared with Pink, Mya, and Christina Aguilera for their 2002 anthem “Lady Marmalade.”)

Three years ago the erstwhile Kimberly Denise Jones stepped back from the limelight to have and raise a daughter, Royal Reign. The contentious custody battle that ensued with her ex, Mr. Papers, played out in public in bursts of contentiousness and, eventually, a friendly resolution. Who had time to hit the studio?

If anything, Lil Kim Season indicates that Kim’s got her sights set on returning in a big way—and that she’s collecting collaborators who might help her achieve it. She’s already teasing Lil’ Kim Season 2, even if these days she’s floating between labels with no official announced plans to release her next full album.

Her presence at the Yeezus Season 3 spectacular in February planted the seeds for a reunion she told Billboard she’d be into (“I’d love to see what a song me and Kanye would sound like right now”), while last year’s actual Bad Boy 20th anniversary performance at the BET Awards with Puff Daddy and Ma$e prefaced her reuniting with Diddy on “Auction,” with a video directed by the onetime king of rap videos, Hype Williams.

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“We did a lot of remixes with other songs to let people know I never miss a step, even though I’ve been away from the mainstream and haven’t been in rotation with my music for so long,” she said, explaining the onus for releasing her surprise EP. “I want people to know that I have not missed a beat.”