Lil’ Kim gets her flowers from fans, fellow stars at Apollo Theater concert

Review: "The Jump Off: Lil' Kim and Friends," a Harlem Festival of Culture event, was as much a communal rap-along night as a full-fledged rap show, illustrating how much the Brooklyn MC has meant to the culture for nearly three decades.

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Lil’ Kim headlined her first Apollo Theater concert Thursday night, nearly 30 years since dropping her debut album, “Hard Core.” Flanked by a contingent of her rap and R&B contemporaries and a few up-and-comers, the Brooklyn MC was treated to a two-hour love fest from her faithful followers.

“The Jump Off: Lil’ Kim and Friends” helped kick off the Harlem Festival of Culture’s relaunch. As a reboot of the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969, chronicled in the 2021 Oscar-winning documentary “Summer of Soul,” the show is the first of a forthcoming run of events leading up to the big festival in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park this July.

Fans packed the world-famous Apollo Theater, ready to pay respects to the Queen Bee. What was scheduled as a night for the legendary rapper to perform hits alongside guests like Ashanti, Remy Ma and Fivio Foreign, morphed into a community sing-along. For most of the night, over 1,000 audience members served as Kim’s hype men.

2022 BET Awards
Lil’ Kim performs onstage during the 2022 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater on June 26, 2022, in Los Angeles. Photo: Leon Bennett/Getty Images for BET

This display of communal involvement was the demonstration of Kim’s enduring legacy.

Kim emerged from the top of a staged staircase, engulfed in mist and smoke, launching into “The Jump Off,” flanked by the Lost Boyz’s Mr. Cheeks. From the start, Kim, dressed in black with fishnet stockings, exerted her energy on the mic while participating in light choreography with several backup dancers who periodically emerged on stage all night.

Leaving their seats to crowd the front of the Apollo stage, Kim allowed the attendees to finish her rhymes for the rest of the night. It was obvious she was feeling the love from her fans, making for some touching moments throughout the evening.

As Kim played her solo songs throughout the more than two-hour concert, including “No Time,” “Big Momma Thang,” and “Queen B***h,” she barely spit lyrics. Although she seemed focused and engaged, she extended her mic out to the audience once she realized how invested the crowd was during her songs.

Cheeks stayed on stage to perform two Lost Boyz classics, “Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz,” and “Rene,” before ending his portion with his solo hit, “Lights, Camera, Action!” And that was the format for the evening: a guest would join Kim for a song or two before she vacated the stage allowing the guest to perform their hits.

One of the most hyped moments for the special guests came when Remy Ma joined Kim for their song “Wake Me Up.” Remy, dressed in an all-red sweatsuit showing her midriff, sent the Apollo into a frenzy as she launched into her verse on M.O.P.’s “Ante Up Remix.”

Lil Kim
Lil’ Kim performs onstage at the 2019 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater on June 23, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

Just when you thought the crowd couldn’t get any louder, Fat Joe, adorned in a green fur coat, joined his longtime Terror Squad collaborator Remy Ma for their smash hits “Lean Back” and “All the Way Up.”

Remy, like Ashanti, Fivio, and King Combs, were previously announced guests, so the fans knew she was coming. But the unannounced guests helped make the night even more special.

Dru Hill frontman Sisqo joined Kim for their hit “How Many Licks” and his iconic single, “The Thong Song.”

Mobb Deep’s Havoc came out to rap his, and his late partner Prodigy’s verses for the Kim collaboration, “Quiet Storm,” as well as Mobb Deep hits like “Outta Control” and “Shook One’s Pt. 2.”

The best section of surprise guests came when Kim’s Junior M.A.F.I.A. brethren Lil’ Cease came out to assist with “Crush On You,” “Player’s Anthem,” “Get Money” and its remix. It was a family reunion of sorts, with those being among their first big hits, and memorable collaborations with the late Notorious B.I.G., who received musical tributes all night long.

Rounding out the night was a mini-set by Ashanti. The Long Island songstress came out in sexy Black attire and sunglasses, with her own video projections displayed behind her. As the penultimate attraction of the night, she blessed the audience with eight of her songs, including “Happy,” “Mesmerize,” “Rock Wit U (Awww Baby),” and “Foolish.”

The lights were cut in the house to end the show with Kim’s verse on “It’s All About the Benjamins” before sending fans home. Overall, the evening was less of a concert and more of a celebration of Kim’s influence on hip-hop.

With so many female rappers resembling her image and rehashing her provocative subject matter long after she burst onto the music scene, hearing her fans loudly and lovingly repeat her rhymes back to the rapper all night was validation of her importance to the culture.

Matthew Allen is an entertainment writer of music and culture for theGrio. He is an award-winning music journalist, TV producer and director based in Brooklyn, NY. He’s interviewed the likes of Quincy Jones, Jill Scott, Smokey Robinson and more for publications such as Ebony, Jet, The Root, Village Voice, Wax Poetics, Revive Music, Okayplayer, and Soulhead. His video work can be seen on PBS/All Arts, Brooklyn Free Speech TV and BRIC TV.

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