As the world was riding high with the amazing live production of The Wiz this week, social media was full of hilarious, fun and enjoyable memes celebrating the show. But in those moments, I couldn’t get past one meme in particular, featuring Lil Mama in tears.
Now, while we’re all guilty of laughing at memes without knowing the story of the photo behind it, I still found myself haunted by the photo and the way we’ve treated her ever since the infamous Jay-Z and Alicia Keys incident in 2009.
It was like watching a train crash in slow motion.
The air was thick with hometown pride and unity and somehow Lil Mama misinterpreted the scene to mean it was her turn too.
When she stepped on the stage, hoping to bond with the rapper and the moment, Jay-Z scoffed at her as a challenge to his authority.
He was suddenly back in Bedstuy face-to-face with someone stepping into his territory.
Lil Mama, not feeling the thick tension, kept bouncing about, painfully unaware and seemingly disrespectful.
A heartbroken Lil Mama said she played the video back while at home, and realized her innocent attempt at camaraderie was interpreted as an industry slap in the face. As genuinely apologetic as she was for what happened, the internet will not and has not forgiven her.
But let’s take it further back a second.
Lil Mama was born Niatia Jessica Kirkland in Brooklyn, NY. The rapper was catapulted into the spotlight with her break out hit, ‘Lip Gloss.’ The pounding drum beat with her quirky lyrics made us all pause for a second and get it poppin’ over something as normal as chapstick.
The spotlight quickly turned to scorching criticism as the one-hit wonder was scrutinized for her perceived cockiness and lack of hits.
It was at the peak of this criticism that the 5’3 rapper hopped on stage with Jay and Alicia. From that point on she was a meme, a joke, a punchline, instead of a rapper and most importantly, a human.
Black twitter and Instagram troll the hell out of her, with this particular meme going viral:
While everyone was out here cracking up, the actual moment captured in this meme was heavily emotional and pressing:
‘When I was 17-years-old, I put out an album, while my mother was dying of cancer. That, right there alone is a struggle. That’s hard. That’s tough for anybody. But my music will speak for myself. My actions will speak for itself. My mother will be proud. My father will be proud.’
With tears streaming down her eyes, she continued, ‘My mother was a musician. She was raw, she was real. She was official. She loved music, and I love music.’
Not so funny anymore is it?
Here’s a clip from some of the conversation:
She’s not perfect, but her comeback this year, ‘Sausage,’ was a fire creative compilation, and her dance moves in the video were flawless. How could you not be entertained by that?
And let us not forget her accurate and pointed depiction of Left Eye in the CrazySexyCool biopic.
She can dance. She can act. So maybe we are all just waiting on her to prove her rapping chops are up to par. Maybe we weren’t convinced she earned her right to jump on stage with the greats, which is why we’ve been putting her down since.
The internet trolling led the rapper to admit that she was near suicidal after being relentlessly tormented for her mistakes.
She’s young. Let her be flawed. Let her prove herself. Give her a second chance to show us there is power behind the gimmick.
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