Producer 9th Wonder’s God’s Stepson, a remix album featuring his beats and Nas’ rhymes, is currently burning up the underground, proving that successfully rehashing material is possible if the project is approached with enough originality. Lil’ Kim seems to have missed that memo on La Bella Mafia, a derivative record of other people’s ideas.

Todd Weiser

Kim should get credit for smartly choosing those who she emulates, interpolates, or altogether pillages; fans of the Beastie Boys, Notorious B.I.G., and R. Kelly will all enjoy hearing their favorite artists invoked on Mafia. When she isn’t using a Beastie beat, a Biggie verse, or an entire Kelly song, Kim instead joins the contemporary-hip-hop fray, exploiting obscure Indian music and teaming up with 50 Cent.

So is La Bella Mafia any good? Is there anything original on the whole LP? The answer to both questions is “yes.” Even though, and actually because, Kim’s third LP sounds like other people’s music, it is an enjoyable record, easy to put on and devoid of completely discardable tracks. The songs that liberally employ past efforts, like “Hold It Now” and “This Is a Warning,” are pleasant though inferior remakes, and other standard songs, like lead single “The Jump Off,” suffice. The discriminating fans and those engaged by the musical progression of Common won’t like La Bella Mafia, but there are plenty of “hip-hop fans” who will readily approve of this album.

The record’s limited originality comes from Kim’s rhyming. Having already established herself as an unembarrassed sex-fiend, the Queen Bee reaffirms this distinction with a bevy of graphic and laughable rhymes. The record’s first flow hears the female Too Short brag, “I even gave y’all tips for riding cock as well” while later verses provide the MC with a platform from which she boasts of her sexual talents. Unfortunately, Kim has little else to say and the record’s lyrics rarely deviate from the graphically licentious or boringly material.

The record’s best song, “Came Back for You,” comes from Kanye West, who is quickly distinguishing himself as current hip-hop’s finest, most-consistent producer. How good is the track? The beat overcomes the deficiencies of its accompanying rhyming, and reinvigorates what, by the end, is a tired record.

Rating: 2 Stars.

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