Lil Mama, real nameーNiatia Jessica Kirkland, is a well known hip-hop singer from New York. In addition to being an established musician, the dark skinned beauty is also an entrepreneur and dancer. One of Lil Mama’s best known appearances on television is probably that of a judge on the competitive dancing series, America’s Best Dance Crew, in which she was part of the judging panel for seven seasons from 2008 until 2012. She also ventured into the acting industry when she was cast in the TV film, CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story in 2013 as the American rapper, Lisa Lopes also better known as “Left Eye”ーa movie which centred around the R&B, hip-hop duel known as TLC.
In terms of music, the hip hop artist has released a number of singles and albums since her debut back in the early 2000’s. Lil Mama released her first studio album entitled “VYP (Voice of the Young People)” on April 29, 2008; it sold over 19,000 units during its first week and had debuted at the number 25 spot on the Billboard 200 Chart. The lead single from her debut albumー”Lip Gloss”, was a commercial hit upon its release and has since been certified gold by the RIAA in 2008; it has also garnered her the 2007 Teen Choice Awards for Choice Summer Song as well as nominations for a MTV Video Music Award for Music Single of the Year and a Vibe Award for Ringtone of the Year in 2007.
Throughout her music career, Lil Mama has also made a handful of guest appearances with other singers in various albums, including collaborations with Vanessa Hudgens, MC Lyt, Lisa Lopes, Clyde McKnight and the College Boyys. In 2007, Lil Mama was also featured in a number of remixes of Rihanna’s hit song “Umbrella”. However perhaps her most well known collaborative works was that with, Canadian singerーAvril Lavigne; together, the two had worked together on a remix version of the singer’s hit single, “Girlfriend”. For her contributions to R&B and hip hop music, Lil Mama has also garnered a number of awards and nominations including two Teen Choice Awards in 2007 and 2008.
But what has the music artist been up to recently? What endeavours has she ventured off on? Recording? Acting? What happened to Lil Mama? Where is she now in 2018?
Lil Mama’s Early Life
Born on October 4, 1989 in Harlem, New York City, Lil Mama (real name: Niatia Jessica Kirkland) is the daughter of Tara Kirkland and Allen Brunner. She is the third oldest daughter out of a group of eight siblings. Mainly raised in Brooklyn, New York, Lil Mama is from a musical backgroundーboth her mother and grandfather were involved in the music industry as singers and her father had managed his own recording label called “Familiar Faces”. As a young girl growing up surrounded by music, she often expressed herself with songs, as well as dance and poetry; she was also known for running around, taking charge around the family homeーa feat which later earned her the nickname, “Mama” from her mother and aunt.
However having said that, everything wasn’t all that ideal. Growing up, Lil Mama and her large family of ten often experienced financial difficulties; the family found themselves at the receiving end of welfare and had moved countless times between apartments and shelters. While her mother lived at her birthplace of Harlem, her father had stayed in Eastern New Yorkーtogether with her seven siblings, they would frequently bounce between the two places during her childhood.
Despite the hardships, Lil Mama still had a passion for performing even at a young age; although she was initially focused on dance, she eventually began to take drama classes at a local school. Having always been a writer of poetry, Lil Mama began to add a touch of music to her works of text under the guidance of her father when she was 10 years oldーshe wanted to add a beat to her poetry. It wasn’t long before her talents were noticed by her father, who then eventually took her to his studio in which she would later record her first song. As a teen, she went to Edward R. Murrow High School.
However her teenage years were stressful; faced with ongoing financial difficulties and other personal issues, the young aspiring hip hop artist often turned to music as a means of expressing herself. When she was 14, things took a turn for the worst when her mother, someone whom she was very close to, was diagnosed with colon cancer; sadly, after a four year long battle, she eventually passed away on December 15, 2007, leaving behind Lil Mama and her seven siblings.
Lil Mama’s Early Music Career
Lil Mama’s career as a hip hop music artist began in 2006; at the age of 17, the aspiring singer relocated from her sometime of Brooklyn, New York to the city of Atlanta in order to work with James “Groove” Chambersーthe music producer of the rap quartet, Nappy Roots. With his help, she recorded seven songs, including “Lip Gloss”, which would soon be a hit later on. Later that same year, Lil Mama ran into DJ Enuff, an American DJ and radio personality at a Hot 97 concert; wanting to promote her own hits, she approached him about her music. However to her request, DJ Enuff politely declined stating that he wouldn’t be able to put on a tape from someone else due to already established rules. Pushing through his words, the dark skinned beauty continued to press for him to at least, hear her songs; he eventually took the record with him after the event ended and played it in his carーdumbstruck by its quality, he quickly put it on air the following day.
Lil Mama got her first break as a R&B artist when her song, “Lip Gloss” (one of which was recorded with James “Groove” Chambers) was put on air. Later released on June 19, 2007, the song was a huge hit and had mainly received positive reviews from critics. As one of her first singles as a professional recording artist, “Lip Gloss” was a success and had debuted at the number ninety five spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. Despite having slipped off the charts during its second week, it later re-entered the chart at the number twelve spot due to its release on iTunes; the song then peaked at the number 10 spot. In February 2008, Lil Mama’s “Lip Gloss” was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.
The accompanying music video was later released following the single. Directed by music video director, R. Malcolm Jones, the MV featured the artist showing off her dance moves and rapping at a school. Praised by many fans, the videos was nominated in 2007 for an MTV Video Music Award for Monster Single of the Year. The “Lip Gloss” music video has also garnered over 21 million views since it was first uploaded onto the artist’s official Youtube channel, making it Lil Mama’s most watched video online.
Following the release of “Lip Gloss”, Lil Mama soon gained wide recognition as a R&B artist. Impressed with the talents of the young hip-hop singer, Dave Lightyーthe executive director of recording label, Jive Recocrds, offered Lil Mama a recording contract in January 2007. Under the new label, she began to record new songs some in which she collaborated with various music producers such as Scott torch, Swizz Beatz and Dr. Luke, amongst others.
The next year, Lil Mama released her first studio album entitled, “VYP (Voice of the Young People” on April 29, 2008. With her previous hit single, “Lip Gloss” included as one of the tracks, the album debuted at the number 25 spot on the Billboard 200 Chart upon its release and sold over 19,000 units during the first week. It has since sold over 66,200 copies throughout the United States.
Lil Mama on Television
Since 2008, Lil Mama has been a talent judge on the dancing competition series, America’s Best Dance Crewーa reality show in which contestants get show off their dance skills for a chance to win a grand prize of $100,000 and a trophy. Alongside JC Chasez and Shane Sparks, Lil Mama was one of the show’s three original judges since the series’ premiere in February 2008ーit was also the artist’s first major appearance on national television. The R&B singer was a part of the show’s judging panel for seven seasons, from early 2008 until June of 2012.
Besides her appearance on the reality show, Lil Mama also ventured off into the acting world in 2013 when she was cast in the biographical film, CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story. In it, she portrayed the role of rapper, Lisa Lopes otherwise known as “Left Eye”. Having first aired on VH1 in late October 2013, the film centred told the story about the musical hip hop trio, TLCーa R&B girl group which consisted of members, Tionne Watkins (aka “T-Boz”), Lisa Lopes (aka “Left Eye”) and Rozonda Thomas (aka “Chilli”). The film was a huge success upon its release, having garnered over 4.5 million viewers during its premiere; it has since become one of VH1’s most top rated original films.
What’s Lil Mama Doing in 2016- Recent Updates
Recently this March, Lil Mama made the headlines when she had a small run in with the lawーshe was found to be speeding, and driving without a driver’s license. According to sources, the hip hop music artist was driving 38mph in a 25mph zone and was unable to show officers a valid license upon being pulled over. Since the incident, Lil Mama has released a statement and has apologized for her actions and arrest.
While Lil mama hasn’t released any recent albums or singles this year (her last one was in 2015), she did share a cover of her performing Drake’s “4PM in Calabasas” with her fans this June. She has also shared a remake video which she had made of Rihanna’s song “Work” earlier in March. Similar to the original, the remix video featured Lil Mama in a basement party, but with different song lyrics; since its release, it has garnered mix reviews from fans.
In terms of performances, Lil Mama recently appeared at the 2016 VH1 Hip Hop Honorsーan event which paid tribute to many female artists who have contributed to the hip hop and rap industry such as Queen Latifah, Missy Elliott and Salt-n-Pepa. Despite it originally having been an annual ceremony, the last one was held back in 2010. Spotted in an all pink attire, the singer performed the song “Crush On You” alongside rapper, DeJ Loaf during the opening performance.
If you’d like to stay connected with Lil Mama, you can do so by following her on social media. You can find the hip hop artist both on twitter (@LilMama) and Instagram (@lilmama).