One of the worst trends in hip-hop that just won’t die is the usage of either “Young” or “Lil” before a rapper’s name. While “Lil” was once a title for youngins in the game- or specifically a crew such as Bad Boy or Cash Money- it has now become a tired cliche for one-hit wonders. Still, there have been those under the “Lil'” moniker that are noteworthy, for better or for worse. Inspired by the Denver Westword’s brilliant tribute to Young rappers, we compiled a list of Lils.
This New Orleans rapper is best known for his rap sheet, which is anything but small-time. His criminal record includes marijuana possession and possession with the intent to distribute narcotics, both of which are dwarfed by the murder charge he was indicted on in June 2010. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
(Lil’) Bow Wow
Although he is now known as “Bow Wow,” hip-hop heads will most likely remember him as rapper-actor Lil’ Bow Wow, playing Calvin, the orphan baller from Like Mike. Getting past his kiddie image of his earlier days has been a struggle for Bow Wow, who signed with Cash Money Records in 2009. Maybe after his first album with the label, Underrated, drops in November, will he finally get the respect he feels he deserves. Still, I can’t help but wonder, now that he’s gotten taller, if 50 Cent still has guns the size of Lil’ Bow Wow.
Cease a Leo was that kid who hung around the older dudes and earned his keep running errands and doing favors for them. His tag-along lifestyle earned him entourage-status with his older cousin, The Notorious B.I.G. A member of Junior M.A.F.I.A., Cease’s fame was short-lived, putting out one solo album with a, er, flamboyant cover. Since then, he’s been pretty quiet. I personally think of him every time I hear the ‘Pac and the Outlaws order him to be deceased on “Hit ‘Em Up.” Poor guy.
This guy’s odd fascination with Leprechauns made you wonder if he was part-Irish. Flip himself insisted he was raised in the mean streets of Houston, though some thought otherwise, including T.I. The Rubberband Man went as far as to travel to the hood Flip repped in an attempt to expose Flip as a phony via a videotape. While there, Flip’s and Tip’s respective crews crossed paths, and an altercation ensued. The beef was eventually squashed, but not before T.I. put Flip on blast on his mixtape, Down With the King. Since the resolution, Flip has barely made a peep in the rap game. The fact that beef gave him his 15 minutes of fame is telling of how little his stature was as an emcee.
This little man (celebheights.com lists him at 5 feet, 6 1/2 inches) had a big voice. Although he was never much of an artist, he made up for his shortcomings with humorous ad-libs and an ear for hot club beats. Leading the crunk fad of the mid-aughties, Lil’ Jon was on fire. His ad-libs.. WHAT?.. his ad-libs… WHAT?… I said, his ad-libs… OKAY!, on Usher’s “Yeah!” were so popular that they led to multiple skits on Chappelle’s Show.
For someone who owes her career to a rapper who has been deceased for over 14 years, Lil’ Kim has remarkably managed to keep herself in the news throughout her career. The sad part is, it’s been mostly negative press. Her album, The Naked Truth, received a 5-mic rating in The Source, though many attribute it’s rating to her manager’s alleged relationship with The Source founder David Mays. Add that to legal issues and her attention-seeking beef with Nicki Minaj, and you have a femcee who can’t seem to keep it on the straight and narrow. Maybe she needs a wave of the magic stick to conjure up some good publicity.
What were you thinking? That is undoubtedly what people said to one hit wonder (“Lip Gloss”) Lil’ Mama after the infamous 2009 VMA’s incident. No, not that incident. Because it happened on the same night as the most infamous stage crash of all time (OF ALL TIME!), some people may forget that Lil’ Mama crashed the stage when Jay-Z and Alicia Keys were performing their smash hit, “Empire State of Mind.” Here’s a tip, Lil’ Mama: when Jay-Z crashes a Lil Mama performance, the crowd goes nuts. When Lil’ Mama crashes a Jay-Z performance, the crowd goes, “what?”
Literally raised in the No Limit family, the son of Master P started rapping early. At age 12, he had already put out his first album. Unfortunately, just like Jeffrey Jordan, Romeo never garnered the respect his father commanded in his profession. Still, Romeo continues to rap, recently releasing a new mixtape entitled I Am No Limit.
The youngest dude doing it for Cash Money Records, Wayne got his start as a prepubescent rhymer under the tutelage of Birdman. Wayne eventually struck gold on his own, and is now one of the most popular artists in music. He is also the leader of Young Money, which includes on its roster rising stars Drake and Nicki Minaj. Lil’ Wayne’s latest album, Tha Carter IV, drops at the end of his month. His previous album in his “Tha Carter” series, Tha Carter III, sold over one million copies in one week. In the digital age, that is no small feat.
This super-fast rhyming, Three 6 Mafia affiliate may just be the best white emcee south of Detroit. Hailing from Memphis, Tennessee, Patrick Lanshaw became Lil’ Wyte when he started rapping with his friend, Lil Black. Although he has never broken into the mainstream, Lil’ Wyte continues to do it big, with I Ain’t Dead, his mixtape with Lex Luger, reportedly dropping soon.
There you have it: the lil’s of the rap world.
Honorable Mention: Lil’ Zane
Elsewhere on the Web: A Complete Guide to Young Rappers