Playing The Game

Lil Mama

Have you ever heard something that stayed in you thoughts for a while? Well, it has been that kind of week for me as I prepared for the post you are reading right now. Actually, in my head was an old wise statement that I heard many times from different people. “You play the game with the cards you’re dealt”. Very simple and self-explanatory. Whatever we do in life we start with whatever our parents or other family members give to us. I find the statement interesting because some of the time, you can tell it to someone and it can be encouraging. The statement seems to make you want to get up and make something happen regardless of your place in life. Other times it might seem cruel because it suggests a person faces an insurmountable climb to achieve any level of success.

The more I thought about the statement the more I wanted to know its origins. I could imagine some professional gambler mentioning it first in some illegal establishment, streetwise from all the years of winning and losing. As I searched, I found that the statement was mentioned several times. Novelist C.S. Lewis was credited with the quote one time and before him, baseball manager Miller Huggins said it. The latter makes sense as it was mentioned in the context of competitive sports. However, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said, “Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will”. Nehru’s quote was very clear and helps us understand that it not only takes a monumental “push” to achieve excellence, but the person also must choose to make the effort to succeed. The reason this particular quote was on my mind is because I chose to feature rapper, singer/songwriter, dancer and now actress Lil’ Mama.

Naitia Kirkland was born in Harlem in 1989. She was raised in Brooklyn, New York where she attended Edward R. Murrow High School. Kirkland is the third child and eldest daughter of eight kids. Being the eldest daughter of eight is how she got her nickname “lil mama”. In 2006, Lil Mama signed a recording contract with Jive Records. Her first studio album VYP (Voice of the Young People) was released in late April 2008. The song for which she is best known is one of the singles from the VYP album called “Lip Gloss”. However, as she was enjoying musical success she would endure tragedy as her mother Tara, died on December 15, 2007 following a four-year battle with colon cancer. Many recognize Lil Mama for another incident at the 2009 VMA awards. While Jay-Z and Alicia Keys performed “Empire State of Mind”, Lil Mama left her seat in the audience, got onto the stage, and started bobbing her head to the beat.  At the end of the performance, Lil Mama came to foreground and posed alongside Jay-Z and Keys. She later clarified that she “would never … try to disrespect Jay-Z or take a moment that someone has created it and try to relive it. I’m too original for that and I respect him too much for that.”

Lil Mama has been in the studio recording new music, which would be included on her follow up album Voice Of The Young People: I Am That. In 2009 her label Jive Records, along with J Records and Arista Records were disbanded by RCA Music Group, which left the album to be released on RCA Records. The album still has not been released. This development did not stop Lil Mama from finding other entertainment projects. She served as a judge on the competitive dance contest television series America’s Best Dance Crew. Lil Mama joined the judges’ circle in 2008 at the age of nineteen.

With Lil Mama enduring the death of her mom and a music career on hold, it would seem that she was playing the game with a difficult hand. However, after being cast as Lisa “Left eye” Lopes in the TLC biographical film Crazysexycool: The TLC Story, maybe she has been dealt some better cards in her young life. The twenty-four year old has received major accolades for her performance in the movie, which aired on VH1 October 21, 2013, that has put her name back in the light. She has really worked the talk show circuit, both television and radio, which has brought her great notice from a much larger audience.

I really like Lil Mama because she speaks honestly about her experiences, both good and bad. As a performer, she is extremely talented. My only hope now is that with the newfound notoriety she will be able to get more music released. Perhaps at that point she can begin playing the game with a much better hand.

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