Back with new material, the rapper talks Biggie Smalls, sexuality, Kanye West, and what's ahead in 2016.
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Notorious B.I.G. was killed on March 9, 1997 in Los Angeles, and to mark the 19th anniversary on Wednesday, rapper Lil’ Kim released a new track with Maino called “I Did It For Brooklyn.” She chose to debut the song to honor Biggie Smalls’ legacy. (She’ll also play a tribute concert Wednesday night.)

“He became my friend, my lover, my everything,” Kim tells EW of B.I.G., whose real name was Christopher Wallace. “I was his biggest fan.”

Their relationship is well-documented and began when Kim joined Biggie’s Junior Mafia Crew in 1995. “He knew I would be the number one female artist,” she says. “He knew I would be the biggest female rapper. I think I inspired him to want to do different things and be different. We were a match made in heaven, like Sonny and Cher or Ashford and Simpson.”

“I Did It For Brookyln” is expected to be one of Kim’s many new projects this year, though she won’t promise a release schedule for a full-length collection. Last month, Lil’ Kim released a remix of Desiigner’s “Panda” and her own new track “#Mine,” a raunchy, Future-mentioning collaboration with rapper Kevin Gates, who she tells EW is currently the Clyde to her Bonnie. Below, Kim teases more collaborations with Gates and her Bad Boy pal Puff Daddy, with whom she appears in the new “Auction” music video, and what’s ahead this year.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you end up working with Kevin Gates on “#Mine”?

I called him up one day and I was like, “I love you, I’m a huge fan.” From Instagram you can tell he’s a cool person. I think we had a lot in common when we vibed on the phone. I was like, “I want gansta love,” and he was like I got you. From the first lines he sent me, from the way he rapped and sang it, it was exactly what I pictured. It was picture perfect.

Were you looking for a specific song to record or just feeling him out?

When I make music, I never know what song is going to be that one. Sometime when you’re making music, you get to a point in your career when it’s not fun, maybe you’re going through a tough time. When I did Naked Truth it was a serious time in my life. I had gone to prison, I had all that stuff. My music was really serious at that time. But even during the serious times, being sexy is always a must. I have a song on that album called “Kitty Box” and even during that serious time in my life, that was something I wanted to get out.

That’s the Lil’ Kim brand of owning your own sexuality.

All of my albums have never, never, never not had a sexy song on there. No matter what. I could be cracking jokes on one of my verses then out of no where you’re going to hear a sexy line. That’s just me. That’s how I talk in real life. But “#Mine” to me has that sexy feel even though it’s still gangsta. It’s gangtsta love.

Is that the kind of music you’re going to put out this year?

That’s it: Gangsta love, sexy club fun. This record with Kevin was a blessing and we just took it and went with it. He was just so awesome about the whole process. It was produced by these awesome new producers Millz for Millz Production and Taz Taylor.

So are you in the studio?

I’m in the studio every other day. Whenever I can find a break from the little one [daughter Royal Reign].

Who else are you working with?

I have a couple people but I really don’t want to say. I want to leave a little mystique.

Are you aiming to put out an album this year?

I never “aim” to put out an album. When I was with my record company, they would aim to put out an album but I’ll be honest with you, I’d aim for certain days to drop an album and it would never happen. We’d get so caught up in making good singles and good music where we would just be vibing. When the time was right we’d drop an album. Honestly I’m just having fun making music right now.

Credit: Evan Agostini/Liaison

Was there a time when you weren’t having fun?

It came to a point when life got serious. Sometimes the music won’t always be the focus but it’s always there in the back. Music is what I am. It’s what I’m made of. When I had my baby, music definitely wasn’t my focus. When I was pregnant, music wasn’t my focus. My focus was making sure I had a beautiful healthy baby and raising her, to be the best mother I can be.

Has being a mother influenced the way you want to make music? [Lil’ Kim gave birth in 2014.]

No. Not at all, because it’s like watching a good movie. It’s all entertainment. Entertainment is what I do. When she gets older I’ll make sure I show her the difference. If anything it makes me a better artist.

You’re working on a fashion line too. How’s that going?

When people set out to do fashion — and I know this from talking to my friends Marc Jacobs and Donatella [Versace] — you never know who your core base of fashion is going to be. You have some girls who are a little bigger and cant’t fit into certain things and you got some girls who are very slim and they feel like certain clothes don’t make them feel great. Sometimes I’m representing for the juicy girls and sometimes I’m representing for the slim girls.

Which artists are you interested in today?

I listen to a little bit of everyone — Future, Rihanna, Drake. I like J Cole. I love Adele. I could be listening to Taylor Swift then change over to Kevin Gates.

What did you think of the Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 3 show? Your photo with Kim Kardashian was a hit.

Kanye’s a super creative artist and I had the pleasure to be one of the first artists he worked with. When no one knew who he was, he and I were just working. I knew he was different.

Different from other rappers?

He was different from the music at the time. I didn’t realize he was such a fan of mine. If I had the authority back then I would have done everything to get his music out there when he was trying. I was on the Kanye wave before everyone was.

How has rap music changed since then?

Honestly, when you’re a real artist you don’t ever separate the genres. If you’re a good artist, you’re going to be reinventing your musical style every single time. When we were in our prime back in the day when Bad Boy were moving around, we were changing music. I don’t feel one person is one way all the time. If you are one way all the time then you need to get an enema out of your butt.