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Meaning of ‘How Many Licks?’ by ‘Lil’ Kim’ feat. Sisqo

Released: 2000 • Features: Sisqo

Kicking off this lyrical deep dive, let’s set the record straight with Lil’ Kim’s “How Many Licks?” featuring Sisqo – a wild and provocative anthem from the queen of female empowerment in the late ’90s and early 2000s rap scene. This ain’t your traditional hip-hop tale of grind and hustle, nah. Instead, Lil’ Kim gets straight to celebrating her own sexuality, her power, and throwing a few etiquette rules out the window while doing it. Your average Joe might miss the defiance and audacity hidden amidst the risqué wordplay; that’s where I come in to decode the rhyme and reason.

Kim kicks off the song by introducing listeners to her sexual conquests – a bold move, flipping the script on a genre often dominated by male perspectives and bragging. She name-drops John, a white man with a Lil’ Kim tattoo, displaying her cross-cultural appeal. She paints a picture of a Southern man named Dan who’s into more adventurous sexual practices, indicated by the line ‘used to like me to spank him and cum in his mouth’. Then, there’s Tony, an Italian man who isn’t afraid to admit his relationship with Kim. The verse finally ends with a Puerto Rican man who used to be a deacon, but now spends his weekends with Kim, along with a black man she calls King Kong for his, well, more impressive attributes.

The iconic chorus references the famous Tootsie Pop commercial, asking “how many licks does it take ’til you get to the center?” Here, Kim brings innuendo to the forefront, referencing the sexual act without directly naming it. This mainstream exposure of explicit sexuality – especially from a woman in the late-90s rap scene – is both groundbreaking and controversial.

Men in prison take center stage in the second verse. Lil’ Kim claims her allure is so powerful that prisoners are fantasizing about her, fighting over her posters, and doing “anything for a Lil’ Kim poster”. She’s a hot commodity, building an army of followers even behind bars.

The third verse focuses on her high-flying lifestyle and her high demands in relationships – whether it be expensive jewelry or certain sexual practices. Kim is no shy, retiring wallflower – she’s a center stage diva, demanding her worth and giving no quarter. Don’t mistake the explicitness for gratuitous vulgarity – these are bars of power, agency, and independence, penned by a woman who refused to be boxed in by societal norms.

“How Many Licks?” is a raunchy, up-front embrace of sexuality, with Kim taking control of her desires and not being afraid to voice them. It’s a statement of women’s sexual power in a genre that often reduces women to objects of male desire. Love it or hate it, this track absolutely knocked the doors off the hip-hop norms and left a Lil’ Kim-shaped hole in its wake.

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