I find it hard to believe no one else has noticed this, but no other writer seems to want to bring it up, so I guess it’s up to me. Here it goes: is it just me, or does Lil Mama look like she’s 34? You know those tv shows that are supposedly about high school kids, but all the actors are in their mid 20’s? (Saved By the Bell comes to mind, but I’m just old school like that.) That’s basically how I feel about Lil Mama. She says she’s only 18, and I …
DJBooth Album Review
Believe it or not, that last paragraph was about more than age-related paranoia. See, Lil Mama has named her debut album Voice Of The Young People, a title that perfectly encompasses the dangerous demographic line she’s trying to walk. As a rule, young people are a constantly shifting group ready to discard the old for the new at a moments notice. For an 18-year-old to claim she’s their voice is only barely believable now, and certainly won’t be for much longer. Voice Of The Young People reveals that Lil Mama is a much more complex artist than I expected, but by trying so hard to represent everyone from the pre-teens to the college set, she only ends up representing herself. If only the album was titled Voice Of Niatia Kirkland.
If you really wanted to entrench yourself in the world of teen pop, I would recommend writing a song with a catchy chorus about some consumer product, like shoes, or shoelaces, or lip gloss! What’s that? Lil Mama already did it? Damnit, I can’t think of anything original. In fact, Lip Gloss is the reason we’re talking about Lil Mama today. With a hammering beat and glossy production (excuse the pun), the track is the kind of guilty pleasure single that takes hold of America every summer, and also the reason I assumed Lil Mama was 16. But with rare exception, once summers’ heat has faded into fall, so have those artists careers. To that end Lil Mama dropped G Slide, a track that combines a kid’s song chorus, grinding production and Lil Mama proving she has some legitimate flow. G Slide is a track that lives in a musical never never land, simultaneously refusing to grow up while aspiring to adult credibility, just like its artist.
Lil Mama spends just as much time trying to distance herself from the pop appeal of Lip Gloss and G Slide as she does embracing it, lacing the album with tracks that showcase her inspirational and insightful side. While Lip Gloss pounded with southern style, L.I.F.E. is a distinctly gritty east coast track featuring Lil Mama spitting harder than half the boys out there: “I wake up everyday to the same ol foster mother, I ain’t got no pictures of my mother, she was a crack fiend…” After sitting through the first half of the album’s relentlessly cheerful tone, there’s no way I saw that kind of lyrical brutality coming. But L.I.F.E. is far from the only track to show Lil Mama as a young Missy in the making. Broken Pieces pulses with a blues-tinged sound while Lil Mama breaks down the emotional minefield young women walk daily with a metaphorically heavy flow (and some questionable attempts at singing). Broken Pieces is mature enough to play in a smoky underground blues club full of men sipping on whiskey and smoking cigars. Only those men also happen to be wearing lip gloss. Confused? So is Voice Of The Young People.
Then there’s Shawty Get Loose, a track featuring Lil Mama trying to squeeze a little more life out of the successful Chris Brown and T-Pain combination, with only decent results, mostly because it’s hard to figure out just which of her many personalities Lil Mama is inhabiting on Shawty. It’s not just that she’s 18, it’s that she schizophrenically oscillates between age groups, wearing the pigtails and overalls of a 10-year-old-girl one minute, speaking with the pain and wisdom of a woman the next. Instead of emphasizing her versatility, the effect is unsettling, making Voice Of The Young People an album that’s ultimately confused and uncertain of where it’s headed…exactly like a teenager. Damn, maybe she is the voice of the young people.
Listen to More: Lil' Mama Written by Nathan S.
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"Lip Gloss" (2007)
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