A surprising mix of different types of music fans, club-goers and curious Austinites gathered on East Riverside Tuesday night at Emo’s for Lil Kim’s arrival (rescheduled from May 11). The “Return Of The Queen Tour” showed up in a massive (and noticeably late) tour bus plastered with a larger-than-life photo of Kim seductively crawling and painted with animal print. And the Austin faction of Team Queen Bee was more than ready to greet the legendary hip hop diva.
Phranchyze seemed extremely comfortable laying down the welcome mat for one of the best (and best-selling) female MCs ever to grace the mic. He and his hype man sprinted back and forth across the big stage with evident purpose and enthusiasm, the weight of the city’s hip hop reputation on their shoulders. The Austin-bred performer prepared an anxious crowd for the Queen with chants of city pride and support for the local weed man.
After a long intermission, Brooklyn native Lil’ Kim finally graced us with her presence. Decked out in a metallic, green leotard and jewelry that would make any rapper blush, Kim’s long blonde curls framed a permanent look of surprise – and not because of her meticulously sculpted face. From Kim’s interactions with the crowd, she seemed genuinely pleased by and grateful for Austin’s unique brand of Southern hospitality.
Kim’s most ardent fans pushed and shoved their way to the front – an eclectic mix of hip-hop heads and drag queens; Mexican hipsters and white dudes with cornrows; music fans and pop-culture aficionados. Her fan base is undeniably diverse and in love with her celebrity as much as her sound.
The performance spent a good portion of the first 15 minutes on Biggie covers, which – of course – played well and left us wanting more. Two backup dancers added to the scenery, as we were reminded that the “Dancing With The Stars” alum can still move like she always has – in heels, no less.
The set list covered the nearly two decades of Kim’s career, ranging from underground and Junior M.A.F.I.A. classics to her forays into pop radio (“Lady Marmalade,” “Magic Stick”). If she did play any new shit, she made sure to do it subtly. Besides recording a mass-blogged mixtape diss track aimed at Young Money’s Nicki Minaj and releasing one fresh single featuring Atlanta’s Young Jeezy, Lil’ Kim hasn’t released much new music.
Still, “Fuck Nicki” was routinely spouted from audience members in any given pause. Kim’s proclamations in, “Fuck Bitches Get Money,” “Eat My Pussy Right” and “Queen Bitch” had us shamelessly singing along – mostly because such things are fun to say. And Kim seemed less imposing than you would expect from someone who spits such edgy lyrics. Instead, she put forth a kind demeanor and sort of humble confidence. You would never have known her march to a year-long stint in jail was chronicled in the BET mini-documentary, Lil Kim: Countdown To Lockdown.
Tuesday night’s show gave us the opportunity to see a performance from one of the best female rappers ever. Lil’ Kim is a former broadcast-television star, a strong woman who would rather go to jail than snitch on her homeboy, a cultural meme and ultimately, an entertainment-industry success. This tiny woman speaks her mind and has been turning heads throughout her life. She’ll have that forever.