What Happened To Lil' Kim?

Kimberly Jones, better known as Lil' Kim, is celebrated for her influence on rap music. Since she first came onto the scene in the '90s, she has experienced both professional and personal highs and lows. As Kim told XXL in May 2023, "There's a few highlights in my career, but it's funny 'cause I never had that 'Oh my God' moment. Even to this day, I feel like that moment is still coming for me." But she's not going to force it. "I'm living life, enjoying myself, just doing me," she later told the magazine. "Just enjoying what the next level could be, what it's gonna be, whatever."

While many fans may have lost track of Lil' Kim in the mid-aughts, when her last Billboard hit, "Let It Go," peaked at No. 7 in 2007, she's still very much a force to be reckoned with. This is what's happened to her since her early brushes with fame.

The star went to prison for lying to a grand jury

During the height of her career, Lil' Kim was sentenced to prison. The rapper was found guilty of lying to a grand jury to protect her friends, Damion Butler and Suif Jackson, claiming she did not see them at the scene of a shooting in 2001. Although the prosecution was seeking a three-year sentence, U.S. District Judge Gerard Lynch sentenced Kim to one year and one day in prison and ordered her to pay a fine of $50,000.

"At the time, I thought [lying] was the right thing to do, but I now know it was wrong," Lil' Kim addressed the court prior to receiving her sentence. "I have worked hard my entire life for everything I have, everything I have accomplished." Kim further petitioned the judge, saying, "I ask you to consider my entire life's work and not just the days in the grand jury and on the witness stand in the courtroom. I'm a godfearing good person."

Lil' Kim released an album while in prison

Despite being incarcerated, Lil' Kim released her fourth studio album, "The Naked Truth." The album was released on September 27, 2005 – just a week into her sentence.

While the release caught major publications' attention and enjoyed some success, the reviews were mixed. There was also a downside to releasing music while serving time — Kim was unable to promote it, which is typically vital to an album's success. However, Kim told Vibe that she "met some of [her] best friends inside." She continued, saying, "I learned a lot. It was like going to a very, very, very, very bad boarding school."

In an interview with MTV News, Kim also revealed just how much rest she got when she arrived. "When I first got to prison, I slept so good for the first three weeks. I was working that whole two months before, nonstop, trying to finish an album, doing promo, doing the TV show ['Lil' Kim: Countdown to Lockdown'], doing shows, doing all types of things. So I never slept, never [rested] at all for two months straight. ... When I got there, I kind of just collapsed."

Kim left Atlantic Records to do her own thing

Lil' Kim was released from the Philadelphia Federal Detention Center in July 2006. She issued a statement at the time, saying, "I am thrilled to be coming home. I thank all my fans for all their letters, as well as my family and friends for all their support throughout the past ten months."

Following the completion of her sentence, Lil' Kim admitted to struggling to readapt to life outside of prison.  "I had to go through some really really dark, deep things," she told Vibe of returning home.

Before prison, she was one of the most respected female rappers, but her later work would receive less and less attention. In 2008, Kim decided to leave her record label. "I left Atlantic Records because of the simple fact I wanted to venture out and become my own boss, my own businesswoman and move units on my own and figure out how to do that on my own so I can finally start making some real money," she said at the time. "My record company didn't understand the direction I wanted to go and who I really was as an artist." Later that year, Kim would go on to release a mixtape, "Ms. G.O.A.T." Kim also returned to TV in 2008, serving as a judge on "Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious."

She started feuding with Nicki Minaj

There's no love lost between Lil' Kim and Nicki Minaj, with their feud potentially dating all the way to 2008. That year, Minaj released promo photos for her "Sucka Free" mixtape, which pictured her posing in a way similar to the promo photos for Lil' Kim's "Hard Core" studio album, which was released back in 1996.

Although the start of the feud is speculative, the women would later confirm their dislike for each other, with Minaj taking aim at Kim in her 2012 song, "Tragedy." The hard-hitting lyrics include: "It must hurt to sell your album off PayPal/Especially when you in the game 15 to 20." It was clear she was referencing Kim, as Kim released her mixtape exclusively through PayPal. A year earlier, Kim dissed Minaj with "Black Friday," referencing Minaj's "Pink Friday" album: "I'm turning Pink Friday to Friday the 13th."

The two continued to feud over the years, and in 2015, Lil' Kim suggested that Minaj does not respect her. In a 2012 interview with iHeartRadio's "The Breakfast Club," Lil' Kim revealed part of the problem, saying, "[Minaj] started releasing all these records doing her vocals the way I did my vocals." The "Can't Hold Us Down" rapper continued, saying, "She was a very obnoxious person but I was always nice with her."

She gave a memorable performance on Dancing with the Stars

Lil' Kim proved she is more than a musician when she teamed up with professional dancer Derek Hough on "Dancing with the Stars" in 2009. Many of her performances were met with praise, including a jive performed to the track "Jailhouse Rock." Kim had great things to say about Hough, telling MTV News in March 2009, "He's the perfect person for me. And I think that he's such a great teacher that he's going to make my dancing talent shine through." Despite her and Hough's best efforts, though, Kim was eliminated just before the semifinals.

The star's television appearance may have surprised some, but it was something she was passionate about. "I always wanted to do it. I just felt like, when opportunity knocks twice, you have to say, 'Wait a minute ... I have to do this.' Dancing is in my heart," she told MTV News. However, Kim didn't just take the role to prove herself — she also did it for her mother.

"My mom loves the show, and with me going to prison and everything, I feel like my mom has been through so much," Kim told Today. "So I look at her now," Kim added, "and if she has tears of joy, that makes me happy."

Lil' Kim became a mom

In 2014, Lil' Kim became a mom. Royal Reign, who is fathered by rapper Mr. Papers,has changed Kim's life in many ways. As she told HipHollywood, "After I had my baby, I was like, 'I have to get right to it ... I have to make sure that that baby has everything and doesn't want for nothing,'" she said. This is not the first time that Lil' Kim has spoken about motherhood with affection. In 2019, Kim told Access Hollywood that then-5-year-old Royal Reign was starting to understand that her mom is famous."She did a video the other day — she's like, 'I'm Lil' Kim's daughter.'"

In 2021, Royal Reign got a taste of fame herself when she joined her mom onstage. The rapper posted a clip of the two performing together on Instagram to celebrate Mother's Day. "This was one of the biggest highlights of my career," Kim wrote. "My baby performing for the first time!! This was my proud Mom moment, I wanted to cry." She continued, writing, "My baby DID THAT!!"

In 2016, Lil' Kim addressed the hate she's received

Lil' Kim is no stranger to criticism, and she's faced many challenges as one of the first women to make it as a successful rapper in an industry largely dominated by men. As Megan Thee Stallion opined in an article for The New York Times, "In every industry, women are pitted against one another, but especially in hip-hop, where it seems as if the male-dominated ecosystem can only handle one female rapper at a time." Of course, Kim knows that all too well.

"When I first got into this industry, I received a lot of hate," Kim revealed in a speech at the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network Awards in 2016. "I still receive a lot of hate." Kim continued, saying, "But every time I talk to God, he says, 'Let them keep hating.' So, I just say, 'Yeah, OK. I got God on my side. What y'all gonna do with me now?'" Despite being able to deal with the criticism that comes her way, it has not always been easy for Lil' Kim to face negative backlash, especially regarding her appearance.

Her changing appearance made headlines

Lil' Kim has always been known for her unique, expressive style. However, Kim previously admitted to struggling with low self-esteem. In an interview with Newsweek back in 2000, she revealed, "Guys always cheated on me with women who were European-looking. You know, the long-hair type. Really beautiful women that left me thinking, 'How [can I] compete with that?' Being a regular Black girl wasn't good enough."

In 2016, Kim's face became a hot topic of conversation. "It's clear that there has been some skin bleaching," plastic surgeon Dr. Jennifer Levine told Us Weekly. "She's probably used chemicals, which contain very high doses of acids, on her face, combined with high-acid creams to lighten her skin." Additionally, fans and experts alike thought Kim had gotten some extensive plastic surgery. "[Her eyes] seem elongated and completely different. Kim would have had to have surgery to remove the fat, skin and tissue to create this new eye shape." Levine added, "She could have had Botox injections under the jaw for a more chiseled look. And in case it's not obvious, Kim probably had filler injected into her cheeks."

Some fans took to social media to voice their concern for Lil' Kim's changed appearance. Opinions varied, with some people feeling anger or sadness and others showing compassion for the rapper. One fan tweeted, "Lil Kim deserves words of positivity. She needs love, support, and understanding, not shame and judgment."

She challenged Nicki Minaj to a Verzuz battle in 2021

"I'm glad to see all of us women, you know, getting our recognition, and everybody making us equal," Lil' Kim said of women in hip-hop to XXL. " I'm so glad to see women getting our recognition and, you know, everyone celebrating us. I think it's a wonderful thing." Does that include Nicki Minaj though?

Following their diss tracks, Minaj and Kim have sporadically made remarks about each other in the media. This includes the time Kim pretended to have no idea who the "Anaconda" rapper was. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight in 2018, Lil' Kim was asked about Minaj and Cardi B. "You know, Cardi is my girl! I don't know the other one," she responded. "But Cardi is my girl." 

At the BET Awards pre-show a few years later, Kim named Minaj as the female rapper she'd most want to compete against in a rap battle on the streaming platform, Verzuz. Unfortunately, this never came to be. However, Minaj did give a shoutout to Kim in a 2022 interview with Joe Budden. "When myself or Lil' Kim goes on the internet, every day we see our influence. I'm not gonna say it's about me only and not give that woman her just due about what she did." Who knows, maybe their feud is finally coming to an end.

The rapper has a memoir and documentary planned

Lil' Kim may not command the same audience as she used to, but that does not mean she is no longer influential. When asked about upcoming projects, Kim told XXL, "Professionally, I have a book coming, documentary movie, all that stuff is in the works." As of this writing, little is known about the upcoming documentary, but her memoir has been in the works for a while.

Back in 2021, Kim gushed to People about the upcoming memoir, "The Queen Bee," saying, "I'm excited to finally get to tell my story after all this time. Many people have thought they knew the story of Lil' Kim, but they have no idea." The book was slated for release in November 2021 but has been delayed until September 2025. According to Hachette Books, the memoir will cover various aspects of Kim's career and personal life, including "hidden moments of her reign." Kim has undoubtedly led an interesting life thus far, so her memoir is sure to be fascinating.

She's shifting her focus to helping new artists

Lil' Kim is beloved for her honesty and willingness to be transparent about most aspects of her life. But there's another reason she is greatly respected — her dedication to supporting other artists, including up-and-coming female rappers. "I'm looking forward to building my own empire as far as being able to have my own artists and, you know, just being able to help someone else's vision come to fruition," she told XXL.

Kim explained how and why she's shifting her focus. "I'm only working with new artists. ... That makes me feel good. So many people helped me. I'm giving it back, I have my friends, and people I love in the industry. Obviously, I'll work with them, but yeah, only new artists."

Kim was reluctant to reveal more about her upcoming plans, but she promised "something big" — which means fans are yet to see the last of Lil' Kim!