Lil Mama — “Lip Gloss”

Released: 3.6.07

Peak: #5

Serious art form that it is, hip-hop would prefer that you trace its lineage to Jamaican toasting, the Last Poets, something weighty and cultural and footnotable in an undergrad research paper. But rap owes its vitality no less to double-dutch rhyming than to its manlier antecedents, a fact the music’s vexed relations with teenpop only augments–plenty of rappers hit big in their teens, but most, understandably, want to appear older.

Lil Mama was among the exceptions, sounding every bit her seventeen-year-old self. And that hand-clap beat by Nappy Roots producer James “Groove” Chambers was custom-made for an era of new teen dance crazes. “Lip Gloss” is even better than that dog’s song of the same name (“I keep putting on lip gloss/ And you won’t kiss me”), and though she’s angling for the boys’ attention, she also offers instruction to the jealous girls about how to “upgrade” as well.

Lil Mama wasn’t strictly a one-hit-wonder. “Shawty Get Loose,” which depended too heavily on the always engaging T-Pain and the always unnecessary Chris Brown, cracked top-ten U.S.. though I prefer the kid-friendly “G Slide (Tour Bus)” (#8 in New Zealand!).  Maybe her skills didn’t quite earn her the “Voice of the Young People” title her album touted, but hers was among the better of the forty-some “A Milli” freestyles, and her guest spot on the remix of Avril’s “Girlfriend” was fun. If only her debut album had been a touch stronger, or we lived in a world where “College” could have been a hit. Instead, she’s a ridiculously somber judge for America’s Best Dance Crew, bouncing out uninvited on the VMA stage to “join” Jay and Alicia for “Empire State of Mind.” Teen-hop is a cruel mistress.

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