Brooklyn rap legend and fashion icon Lil Kim started her career with The Notorious B.I.G. in the early ‘90s, and on what would’ve been the latter’s 47th birthday, Kim honored his life and reunited with her Junior M.A.F.I.A. cohorts. [Oh...is this like a dek?]
On Tuesday (May 21), Kim hosted the first annual B.I.G. Family Dinner at Nomo Kitchen, in the swanky Soho neighborhood of New York City. In a gorgeous, candle and chandelier-lit room, artists, friends, and family of Biggie laughed, ate and celebrated the career of the artist they love and who welcomed them into the music industry. Attendees included Bad Boy labelmates Styles P and Jadakiss of The LOX, Bronx lyricist and Biggie’s friend Fat Joe, fellow Brooklyn MC Fabolous, business partner and record exec Lance “Un” Rivera, Biggie’s daughter T’yanna Wallace, and all of the members of Junior M.A.F.I.A. Revered Hot 97 DJ Mister Cee, known for discovering Big, proudly hosted the evening, introducing speakers and directing traffic.
Kim and Junior M.A.F.I.A. cohort Lil Cease entered the building on the red carpet: Kim wearing a splendid, shimmering, chest-baring silver dress with a black belt on her waist, and Cease wearing a gray suit, white tee and his signature Jesus piece chain with crisp white Air Force Ones. Artist wardrobes varied: Mister Cee wore a painted Biggie tee and Styles P wore a casual linen outfit, while Jadakiss donned a white suit and Fabolous wore a black tux.
Attendees were stunned at the sight of Kim and Cease together: they were once inseparable, but Cease said that night was the first time they had seen each other in person in 13 years. But they began planning the dinner earlier this year on March 9, the anniversary of when Biggie died after being shot in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been together on his birthday or doing any event together at all. For me, it was a spiritual awakening,” Kim told VIBE. “This was his heart. So it’s sort of for me, mending Big’s broken heart. All of us were Big, head to toe. Putting him back together is putting all of us back together.”
“I’ve been waiting on this day for years. This is somebody that held me down since B.I. passed, and somebody I knew before B.I. passed,” Cease said. “She always acted in my best interests … This was God’s timing. I’ve been trying to reach out to her for years but when God was ready for us to make it happen, He made it happen. No questions asked, no old rehashing, let’s start over from here and keep it traditional.”
“...We’d see each other, but it’d be eyes, and we’d keep it moving and do our separate things,” Cease continued. “This is the first time we’re literally face to face. We’ve been speaking since March, but this is the energy of back in the 90s.
Kim and Cease had a strained relationship since the mid-2000s, when Kim served a one-year prison sentence after being convicted of perjury and conspiracy for lying to a federal grand jury about her and her fellow Junior M.A.F.I.A. members’ involvement in a shooting outside of the Hot 97 studios. Kim testified that she didn’t know that Damion “D-Roc” Butler and Suif “Gutta” Jackson were at the scene, but both of them still served prison time as a result of the shooting. Butler and Jackson were both seats away from Kim and Cease at the dinner table on Tuesday.
During Cease’s speech at the dinner table, he explained how he moved in with Kim after Biggie died and apologized for the falling out of their friendship.
“I apologize for things I may have done that may have hurt you or affected you or made you feel bad,” he said. “I genuinely apologize, and I love you from the bottom of my heart. I thank you for bringing this energy here.”
“...This lets you know God is real. Sometimes you may not expect it to come but when it does, embrace it, be ready for it, and make sure your energy is right for it,” Cease told the crowd. “My energy was right for it. She read that from me, and that’s why she spoke to me. I hit her randomly one day, and she texted me back, I’m like ‘oh sh*t.’”
Kim was mum to VIBE on the details of a potential Junior M.A.F.I.A. reunion. “Just wait and see. I’ve got some special things planned, don’t worry. I can’t tell you nothing right now,” she said. But Lance “Un” Rivera gave the members a mission when he was given the mic.
“This is the beginning. Junior M.A.F.I.A. in one room. Everybody who was a part of it,” Rivera said. “What I want you guys to do is make this the official day that you all take back. ...You guys have to claim your rightful spot.”
Kim and Cease also spoke to VIBE about a long-lasting hip-hop debate: what’s the better album, Ready To Die or Life After Death? Cease chose the former.
“I have a personal thing for Ready To Die. That was the birth. It was him at his prime, raw, still young and fresh. That’s what opened the gate. I grasp that more because aside from him being my friend, for me to be a fan and be young, I was super high and excited.
Kim chose his double disc classic.
“Life After Death is the one where we all knew it was going solidified everybody. We were so proud of that album, that was special because we knew that was going to be the one who solidified who we were because it solidified who he was. … It was a double disc, and the more music I get from him, the better.
When asked about Biggie’s most slept on verses, Kim chose “You Can’t Stop The Reign” with Shaquille O’Neal - “I feel like not too many people know about that verse,” she said - and his verse with Michael Jackson on "This Time Around." Cease chose the second verse on “Everyday Struggle” and the third verse on “Niggas Bleed” as his favs.
The event also included a live painting, dueling violinists and a flutist playing over Biggie instrumentals, and comments by the aforementioned artists. The night ended with a reveal of the cover of 9, Lil Kim’s long-awaited upcoming solo album and her first since 2005's The Naked Truth.