It's been said sex and death are the only subjects worthy of a serious mind. If that's true, then Lil' Kim is halfway to becoming one of our era's deepest thinkers. Here's a female artist dedicated to boldly chronicling erotic exploits, real and imagined, with unflinching candor and a blunt carnality. ''When it comes to sex, call me Dr. Ruth/I ain't a prostitute, I just speak the truth,'' the randy rapper proclaims on her sophomore CD, The Notorious KIM, a cornucopia of prurient, pottymouthed jams that more than earns its ''Parental Advisory'' sticker.
To fully appreciate Lil' Kim's, er, charms, it helps to have a dirty mind. But those in search of purely musical thrills won't feel cheated. The Notorious KIM's barrage of aural sex is complemented by strong, often lush production (by Sean ''Puffy'' Combs, ''Shaft,'' and Mario ''Yellowman'' Winans, among others) and surprising, witty samples and interpolations (Pat Benatar's ''Heartbreaker,'' Suzanne Vega's ''Tom's Diner''). The net effect is like steamy sex in air-conditioned, satin-sheeted comfort, a combo as hard to resist as the symphonic hedonism of ''Do What You Like,'' the album's best track.
While Lil' Kim is undoubtedly a very liberated woman, one wonders what more trad feminists would make of her. She seems to see little distinction between reveling in her sexuality and exploiting it, delighting in her ability to inspire onanistic devotion in her male fans and giving a sisterly shout-out to strippers (''[Shake] that a-- /...make that cash!''). Still, her commitment to sybaritism is impressive. It's certainly more fun than her meditation on death: ''Hold On,'' an elegy to the Notorious B.I.G. Really, Kim: Kinky sex is one thing; necrophilia is something else entirely. B+