The death of Notorious BIG hit hip-hopper Lil' Kim very hard. But now she's back, joining Puff Daddy at Wembley
It was the foolhardy and the particularly lustful who braved the dangerous crush in front of the Radio One stage at this year's Notting Hill Carnival. The hordes awaited someone very special; a 4ft 7ins-tall stick of Brooklyn dynamite called Lil' Kim. Twenty-two-year-old hip-hopper Kim notched up the highest ever debut rap album by a female in the US Billboard charts with Hardcore last year - and she didn't do it by being another Mariah Carey, that's for sure.

Hardcore by name and nature, the album begins with a man settling into a seat in a porn cinema, then groaning ecstatically as Kim, up on the big screen, gets spanked. Hardcore, which documents Kim's life as a ghetto wild child, is definitely one for the heavy groaners.

Smutty rhymes are so contentious that it's no wonder opinion is totally divided about her. A close pal and supporter is Mary J Blige, but C Delores Tucker, chairwoman of the National Political Congress of Black Women, sees her as dangerous. It's all simple, really. Mary J and Kim are working- class women who like getting paid; they think the analytical stuff about black women in the context of 1990s America can be left to those who weren't born and bred in the projects. Lil' Kim loves sex, but it's true she is man-made - that man being the late Notorious BIG, who guided her career as part of Junior MAFIA. He was her best friend, her father figure and her lover, even though he was hitched to Faith Evans, who warbles on Puff Daddy's Biggie tribute, "I'll Be Missing You". It was Mary J Blige who forced a distraught Kim to eat in the days following Biggie Smalls' shooting.

However, to judge by one of the strongest tracks on Hardcore, "Spend A Little Doe", it isn't the first time Kim's had man trouble. It is the tale of a female drug courier - which Kim was as a teenager - who is abandoned to a jail term by her boyfriend: "When the cops came, you gave them my name, said if I didn't snitch, you would make the shorty rich." The dark poignancy of the semi-autobiography shows there's more to Kim than some bikini-and-furs strumpet - albeit one who has strutted her way to platinum sales status in the US.

"I'm gonna keep doin' what I'm doin' cuz it's workin'," she has declared. But that was last year, and since Biggie died she has hinted at ditching the sexploitation thing. One hopes Puff Daddy will stick around to guide her new direction when the time comes. Out of respect for Biggie, maybe?

Lil' Kim supports Puff Daddy at Wembley Arena (0181-900 1234) 2 Oct