Lil Mama Explains God’s Role, Responds to Radio Host + More
Lil Mama is a confident woman. When critics bash her, she keeps going with the tenacity of an Energizer Bunny. The 21-year-old Brooklyn native has a clear vision for her entertainment career and she won't let babble and negative feedback derail her from its course. Some might even say she doesn't fit into the hip-hop spectrum any longer since Nicki Minaj's arrival as a platinum-selling female rapper. However, industry colleagues like Snoop Dogg don't agree. He's jumped on a track with the pint-sized MC, titled 'NY NY LA LA' and did so on his own accord. Even MC Lyte has publicly accepted her 'Scrawberry' movement, where she honors the veteran lyricist on the track and in its accompanying visuals.
Though her first album, 'Voice of the Young People,' dropped three years ago, and she's focused on her role as an 'America's Best Dance Crew' judge, Lil Mama, born Niatia Jessica Kirkland, is right where she wants to be when it comes to the rap game. Read on as the outspoken rhymer, who just finished shooting a short film centered on the Brazilian art of capoeira, discusses the role God and church play in her life, her music's message, why breast cancer awareness is crucial and the reason moving to Paris doesn't mean she can't sit on hip-hop's throne.
What inspired 'Scrawberry'?
I recorded 'Scrawberry' over a year ago. At first it was on YouTube as an audio type of thing because my brother was a big fan of the record and he was like, "This has to go up." I'm like "Whatever." It all started with me playing around and just like mimicking MC Lyte, of course honoring her because I love her so much and she is definitely one of my idols. They said I sounded just like her and were like, "You should record that right now." It was one of those things. I began to just come up with lines in my head, and one thing lead to another and I recorded the song. As far as the video, Phil Lee was like, "We have to have a concept." So we recorded it, what it is today, thanks to Phil Lee, Ice Lee and Sincere, who's my choreographer. He always likes to add dances and flair to whatever I'm doing. I want to thank all those people and God first for letting those types of opportunities come together.
So with that doll concept in the video, I know in past interviews you've said things like you're not a Barbie. Did you feel people would take that the wrong way when seeing the video or did you not even think about that?
I'm an artist. So as an artist, you leave room for people to think what they want to think and believe what they want to believe and you continue your legacy.
Are you currently working on a new album?
I'm just working on new music and living life and just creating and creating and creating and letting my legacy build to what it will be. When I decide to put out an album, it will happen and I will be able to talk about it in celebration, as opposed to "I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna." I'm definitely putting out great music for my fans. My fans are mostly 18 and under. They've followed me since 'Lip Gloss.' And they love what I do. I feel like the youth is really lacking a voice right now so I have to be the voice of the young people as opposed to claiming the voice of the young people. And lacking work. I have to claim the throne.
What is the message you're sending this time around with your music that maybe you didn't send with your first album?
I don't know. I'm just doing me this time. Those people who relate will relate. It's one of those things. When you're a young girl and you ever went through a situation, and you had a few friends that relate to what you were going through, your voice counted to them because they were going through the same thing. As opposed to if you put together a petition or a club in school and it didn't really touch you or didn't really fit your life, and you had people who were a part of it or weren't really a part of it and it wasn't from your heart, it's pointless. I feel like with my music, if I create music from my heart and create music that I love, those people will relate and can respect it. It's only a compliment to whatever I'm already doing for myself. I feel like as the voice of the young people, a lot of things that I've gone through in my life and that I go through on a day-to-day basis, there's young girls that are going through that, young males that are going through that. But mostly young women, and they'll be able to relate to my lifestyle as opposed to me creating a lifestyle for people to hop onboard with. It's more authentic.
Describe how the collaboration with Snoop Dogg for the 'NY NY LA LA' track came together.
Snoop is definitely a genius. It is very much in his genes to do music. He loves it. He pretty much just heard the beat and heard how authentic of a West Coast beat it was and he was like "Lil Mama, this s--- bangs." He went in on the record, it was done. We went from the club to the studio and the next day, the record was complete, done. We were in L.A. at Boulevard 3; it was the afterparty for 'Takers.' And then immediately after me talking about the record, we left, he heard the record and said he got to get on it. He supports so many of us young people, I've heard songs with him and Soulja Boy, so many other artists, I think he's just gonna support regardless. But this was one of those beats that he was like, "This is me."
You've been with 'America's Best Dance Crew' since Season One and now you're up to Season Seven. What's been the hardest part about continuing on with that role as a judge?
Wow. There's nothing hard about it at all. I love it. I respect it because I respect new artistry. I feel like I've grown a lot on the show, actually. When I first got on the show, I remember making certain comments like, "They don't excite me," [towards contestants] and I'm like, "Wow, that was rude," [looking back]. I'm not a puppet. I'm not a person that gets up there and says, "I'm gonna be the new girl," or "Be this kind of girl." I don't role play. I only play my role in life unless I'm in a movie. On 'America's Best Dance Crew,' I play Lil Mama, which means that is my reality. As a young person, you can get caught up in this industry with your ego, and you put God behind you, and you become the forefront. But I feel like I went through a phase of putting God behind me and becoming the forefront to being humbled again. God humbled me and put me in a phase where all the truth was coming out about me, to me, from my family and close friends, to let me know what they saw in me. Not just to judge me but to help me to find myself. Now God is first in my life again. I feel like I've grown on the show because I found myself. There's nothing better than a reality check. It's the highest payment you can receive.
You speak a lot about God. Do you attend church on a regular basis?
You know what, no. I'm not really a church-goer like that. I stay in prayer. I really stay in prayer. And when I go to church, I'm never lost. I don't feel like, "Well, what are they talking about?" I'm right there. I'm on. People who need church all the time, in my opinion, is most people who leave church on Sabbath, on Saturday or Sunday or whatever day they go, leave church or the mosque or whatever their study is of the Lord, and drop all beliefs, and all faith, and drop the study. Then you have to come back to get into it. Some people like to stay conditioned. I feel like I'm a person that I'm not perfect. I try my hardest to praise God everyday.
There's been talk about you moving to Paris. Is that something you're planning on doing?
Maybe in the future, for sure. There was also a comment made about me moving to Paris... it was Angela Yee I believe on Power 105.1, and she was saying to me, "I don't believe that you're serious about doing music if you plan on moving to Paris." My comment to her and anybody who feels that way is: Music never stops. Music is Universal. Music is in the solar system. If I move to Jupiter, I will still be a musician, you know. It doesn't matter where you go in the world or in the Universe, you will always be able to create music and people will always perceive music for what it is. So it doesn't matter where I go. I can go wherever and create music. I love Paris, it is so beautiful there. I've been received well in Paris.
I know your mother passed away from a battle with breast cancer. Are you involved with any foundations or projects to raise awareness of that?
I can't speak too soon on this but I think I will be doing something with the Cancer Foundation this year. We're gonna see how that all works out. I would love to talk to young people. That is something that is very strong in my heart. And I know that there are other young children who are affected by the loss of their parent to cancer or other young kids who are affected by their parent fighting cancer. I would love to give them inspiration. A lot of times people have questions and there are questions we can answer for each other. Even if I have a question, if someone else can give me the answer and help me through, I can be the answer and help someone else. I would love to lend my voice because that's what God's given it to me for.