With her third album, La Bella Mafia, Lil’ Kim continues to de-caricaturize her sex-goddess image. She balances her horny little lewd references (“I [can] make a Sprite can disappear in my mouth”) with her desires for a man who has, and I quote, “spirituality.” She can barely hold a tune, but her rawness, authenticity and soul are palpable on “This Is A Warning.” While her debut, Hard Core, found Kim boasting mostly about her sexual prowess, La Bella Mafia plays like one giant bravado about everything: fame, money, power, sex, clothes, rhymes. The album’s stand-out track is the Timbaland-produced first single, “The Jump Off,” a “sex, drugs and cash” anthem that almost rivals 2000’s “How Many Licks.” There’s a little something for the kids, too: “Hollywood Skit” drops a timely rendition of Mister Rogers’ theme song, while “Shake Ya Bum Bum,” featuring Lil’ Shanice, purports to rock “public schools and daycare centers.” “Can’t Fuck with Queen Bee” teams the rapper with old-school producers Full Force; the track has a smooth R&B hook but one might expect more from the team who brought us Samantha Fox’s “Naughty Girls (Need Love Too).” As always, humor plays a vital role in keeping Kim’s game afloat (a virtue that seems foreign to followers like Trina), and La Bella Mafia is easily her most consistent effort to date.
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