A Blond Has Less Fun

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Lil' Kim is a trailer for herself. Like the ads for a summer action flick, her public persona promises slick, sweaty thrills: At the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards she wore a tiny purple pastie over her otherwise exposed left breast; in the latest Vibe she poses like a plastic blow-up doll, her lips parted suggestively to form a moist pink oval. Unfortunately, behind the getups and the come-ons, the reality is grim: Lil' Kim's new rap album, Notorious KIM (Queen Bee/Undeas/Atlantic), is a bomb. It's the Battlefield Earth of this summer's rap albums.

Although the song quality on Lil' Kim's debut, Hard Core (1996), was inconsistent, her central purpose was captivating. She was asserting the right of female rappers to be as rough and randy as their male counterparts. And while Kim's lyrics offered up her body for male sexual gratification, they came with a threat: she was, she rapped, "Queen Bee." There might be many men in her hive, but she was ultimately in control.

Notorious KIM is less controlled and less melodic. It has two good tracks: No Matter What They Say, which deftly samples guitarist Jose Feliciano, and the mournful Hold On, a tribute to the late rapper Notorious B.I.G. that features singer Mary J. Blige. As for the rest, the music is raucous without being forceful, and Lil' Kim's lyrics are graphic without being erotic. Instead of feeling the rapper's persona come through, one feels the grip of her many producers. Kim may be lil', but she's bigger than this CD.