In 2007 Niatia Jessica Kirkland, aka Lil Mama, almost single-handedly held down the female voice in mainstream hip-hop. Her catchy, chap-repelling lead single, “Lip Gloss,” peaked at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and made Rollingstone’s list of the 100 Best Songs of 2007. Her debut CD Voice of The Young People is in stores now so The Urban Daily spoke with the young star about her rise to success and what it means to be a PYT.
UD: The beat to “Lip Gloss” sounds like a H.S. step team routine. Did you do any of that in school?
Lil Mama: When I was in elementary school, I was a part of a cheerleading squad, after that it was basketball, but I never stopped wanting to dance. My best experience with dancing was with the Harlem Dance Leadership Program. It was the best because I got a chance to learn ballet, tap, jazz, South African and coming from where I come from that’s big because it made me more creative. It helped me learn how to put shows together that made sense to everyone and not just one audience. That was one of the biggest influences I had growing up.
In your CD packaging there is a quote about a pacifier next to a glittery milk bottle. What is that about?
It’s a big transition to go from being a young girl to a teenager to officially an adult and you have to let the people know about those transitions. I was trying to get people to understand that it’s time for me to grow up. I don’t have to wait for someone to crawl around or change my diapers or change me, I can change me, and I am my own person! The one thing that I could tell anyone else growing up is to always be true to your self and be honest with yourself. A man doesn’t make you a star; your boss doesn’t make you a star. Just work with these people to make sure that you’re pulling through with your dreams. If you understand that, you’ll never lose yourself.
Why make a song called “One Hit Wonder” on your debut project?
I’m not a one-hit wonder and a lot of people may have thought that about me. If I saw a young girl who came out with “Lip Gloss,” I would think that she’s a one-hit wonder too [laughs]! All people would be able to see is the outside and they’ll judge her as a bubble gum rapper. It’s something that I know that I’m not. Appearing on America’s Best Dance Crew [on MTV] allowed people to understand that I can go from doing music to handling business on a TV show and do it well! It was fun to do that show. It was definitely a powerful experience, especially seeing a whole ‘nother coast, it was great.
“G-Slide” is a hot record. Is your Tour Bus rocking a Playstation 3 or an Xbox 360?
Xbox 360. I don’t know. It’s what we all play when we get the chance to be in the tour bus for a while. Grand Theft Auto IV will be the next thing to get…
As the voice of the young people do you think the presidential candidates are speaking to your generation?
Well, yes and no, because they’re being very typical. You can tell they’re [Obama, Clinton, McCain] not coming into the communities. I also believe it’s hard for them because once you’re so high up you lose your down-to-earth grounding. It’s sad. Unless things are written down in law, you can only take what they say for face value. [About Obama] Race and sex doesn’t really matter to me. Whoever wins the election, if it’s Obama or Hillary, you have to understand that promises can be made by either party, but it’s about what you get in the end.
You seem civic-minded. Do you have any special community service programs?
Definitely, I have a high school graduation program that takes place in my hometown in five schools. I go around to George Gershwin Junior High, I.S. 292, 150 Sackman between Sutter and Belmount. Basically, I go around and tell the kids that it doesn’t matter what you become, you can be your own person. You may not have the money to come out and be fresh, but I want to help boost the self-esteem within my communities.
What do you feel has been your greatest achievement thus far?
I think that it would have to have been making it out of New York City. I know people who’ve never seen outside of their own neighborhood. So to just step out of that battlefield is my greatest achievement. Only God knows what’s next.
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