Mr. Cheeks Credit: David Goodson photo

If a new artist is honest and transparent when they enter the game, they’ll admit that at most, they’d like to have a good solid run of a year or two where they have star-level impact and influence in the music industry. The special ones, however, don’t just attain, but maintain star-level impact and influence over multiple industries for decades. That’s been the journey of the still-thriving career of one Kimberley “Lil Kim’” Jones. 

In one lyric in 1998 from her debut album “Hard Core,” she name-dropped two particular actresses and boom, positive notoriety of the exploits of African American adult entertainers was under the spotlight. Thus in 2023, we see artist the likes of Kehlani and Shenseea joining the ranks of Lil Wayne, Doja Kat, Cardi B, and the Ying Yang twins as artists who have performed at the AVN Awards. In fact, for the 2023 addition of the ceremony, actress Kira Noir becoming the first African American actress to win Female Performer of the year can be attributed to the bridge forged by the work of Lil’ Kim. 

On the other end of the spectrum, her presence as a fashionista was celebrated when the Harlem Festival of Culture (HFC) concert, the modern-day reimagining of the groundbreaking Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969, kicked off with “The Jump Off with Lil’ Kim and Friends.” In addition to performing the biggest hits from her legendary catalog, the hip-hop and fashion icon curated an unforgettable evening of moments with a few of the most notable names in hip-hop and R&B in celebration of the culture. 

Presented by INFINITI, the kick-off was held live at the legendary Apollo on Thursday, Jan. 26, commemorating the institution’s 89th anniversary since its inception on the same day in 1934. The evening also launched HFC’s partnership with the Apollo, which will extend to programming at the theater during the festival weekend in July. 

Marking her first time headlining a show at the Apollo in her 30-year career. Kim promised before taking the stage, Lil’ Kim said, “It’s going to be a night to remember to help kick off the Harlem Festival of Culture’s road to the festival with some of my special friends. The Apollo was like my backyard, and I played there so much and every time, it was always love. The crowd is always amazing!”

She ain’t lie at all. The Jump Off featured Grammy Award-winning R& B singer/songwriter Ashanti, with special guest appearances by hip-hop powerhouses Remy Ma, who brought along Terror Squadian Fat Joe, Mr. Cheeks, King Combs (son of one of her mentors, P Diddy), chart-topping rap star Fivio Foreign, Sisqo, Mobb Deep’s Havoc, and a family reunion with Jr Mafia brethren Lil Cease. 

Delivering the goods and laying the groundwork for what the festival has in store later in the year was accomplished in spades. “As we prepared to start on this road to the launch of the festival, we realized that this was also a milestone year for hip-hop and knew that our first major event out of the gate had to be special and center around hip-hop and R&B,” said Yvonne McNair, HFC co-founder and technical & talent producer. “One of the tenets of HFC’s mission is to celebrate and preserve the cultural contributions of the Black Diaspora in music, media, art, fashion, and entertainment. Hip-hop culture has touched every single part of society and there is no artist that better represents its far-reaching impact than Lil’ Kim.”

During the week leading up to the Grammy Awards, Mastercard launched a variety of “Priceless” engagements and shoppable activities to support Black women small business owners (SBOs), empower their communities, and inspire consumers to shop and support their businesses.

Under the title “She Runs This: Celebrating Entrepreneurship in Business and Hip-Hop,” Black women-owned small businesses in Los Angeles hosted invited guests for dynamic discussions about entrepreneurship for women in business and hip-hop. Lil’ Kim was a participant with fellow icons such as MC Lyte, Salt-N-Pepa, and Yo-Yo, along with emerging artists such as Jozzy, Baby Tate, and Coi Leray, and a special appearance by Mastercard ambassador Jennifer Hudson. 

That’s how you move in the game! Salute. Holla next week. ’Til then, enjoy the nightlife.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *