April 5, 2008 / 12:50 AM / 10 years ago

Patience pays off for teen rapper Lil Mama

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Some things are worth waiting for. Just ask Lil Mama.

Recording artist Lil Mama arrives for the 2008 MusiCares Person of the Year dinner and concert in honor of Aretha Franklin in Los Angeles February 8, 2008. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

The pint-sized teen rapper, born Niatia Kirkland, made a huge splash on the music scene early last year with her first single, “Lip Gloss.” The track peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.

But her second single, the youthful “G Slide (Tour Bus),” which samples the children’s nursery rhyme “The Wheels on the Bus,” was released in November to lukewarm reviews.

After it failed to reach any Billboard charts, Jive Records — which signed Lil Mama after hearing “Lip Gloss” on a New York radio station — pulled her debut album, “Voice of the Young People,” from the schedule.

“We were concerned with Mama being a respected artist, not just the ‘Lip Gloss’ girl. We wanted to get another song in the market to solidify her as an artist,” Jive VP of marketing Lisa Cambridge says. “Unlike most situations where you start recording and come across a single, ‘Lip Gloss’ had already been working (at) radio when we signed her. So, we basically had to play catch-up. We took the time to set her up with the right producers, to get her on the proper platform and get her music and her vision across.”

Consequently, Lil Mama went back to the lab and teamed with such A-list producers as Danja Handz, Swizz Beatz, and Scott Storch, to flesh out the basis of “Voice of the Young People,” now due April 29.

The extra time spent honing the material is paying off, with the T-Pain- and Chris Brown-assisted “Shawty Get Loose” recently hitting No. 10 on the Hot 100.

“Shawty Get Loose” is serving as the promotional track for Fox TV dance show “So You Think You Can Dance?” “It helps a lot to be on the show because people get used to it,” Lil Mama says. “When people hear something over and over again, they get familiar with it and it makes it easier to grow on them.”

The set’s other tracks includes “L.I.F.E.,” about the perils of growing up in the ‘hood, and the midtempo “College,” which documents a trip to school.

Meanwhile, Lil Mama keeps working. She just wrapped up filming MTV show “Randy Jackson Presents: America’s Best Dance Crew,” on which she was a judge alongside Shane Sparks and former ‘N Sync member JC Chasez. Fittingly, Lil Mama is currently hosting a dance contest via her MySpace page to find a dance troupe that will perform with her at an upcoming show.

Lil Mama, who is on tour with fellow teen phenom Soulja Boy, is being considered for another tour this year, but Jive declined to elaborate. She may also appear on the second season of Jackson’s show.


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