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How Many Licks?

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"How Many Licks?"
An image of a woman wearing a pink swimsuit and swimming cap while sitting on a pink circle. The names of the single and the artist are superimposed over the image.
Single by Lil' Kim featuring Sisqó
from the album The Notorious K.I.M.
  • Kimberly Jones
  • Mario Winans
  • Mark Andrews
  • Sean Combs
  • Mario Winans
  • Sean Combs
Lil' Kim singles chronology
"No Matter What They Say"
"How Many Licks?"
"Wait a Minute"
Sisqó singles chronology
"What These Bitches Want"
"How Many Licks?"

"How Many Licks?" is a song by American rapper Lil' Kim featuring vocals by American musician Sisqó from her second studio album, The Notorious K.I.M. (2000). It was released as the record's second single in 2000. Mario Winans and Sean Combs produced "How Many Licks?", and wrote it with Lil' Kim and Sisqó. The hip hop song samples the Knight Rider theme song, with lyrics expressing a woman's desire for oral sex and her sexual relationships with a variety of men. The chorus is a reference to the advertising slogan for Tootsie Pops. A remix by The Neptunes has additional vocals from American artists Kelis, Lil' Cease, and Snoop Dogg.

"How Many Licks?" was praised by music critics after its release and in retrospective reviews; the Neptunes remix also received positive reviews. However, African-American studies professor Mark Anthony Neal criticized the song's treatment of black female sexuality. Commentators compared its content to Trinidadian-American rapper Nicki Minaj's 2014 single, "Anaconda". "How Many Licks?" peaked at number 75 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and charted in several other countries, but was not as commercially successful as Lil' Kim's previous releases.

The song's music video was directed by Francis Lawrence and features the singer as a sex doll in three sexual fantasies. Sisqó did not appear in the video due to conflicts with his record label, Def Jam. Although music critics praised the visual, its treatment of sexuality elicited varied opinions from academics. It was also compared to music videos by other artists, including Minaj's 2011 single "Stupid Hoe" and American rapper Missy Elliott's 1997 single "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)". In addition to the clip, Lil' Kim promoted "How Many Licks?" with live performances.

Recording and releases[edit]

Mario Winans and Sean Combs produced "How Many Licks?" and wrote it with Lil' Kim and Sisqó, who are credited under their legal names (Kimberly Jones and Mark Andrews).[1] Sisqó wrote the song's hook[2][3] and contributed verses.[4] The vocals were recorded by Dave Wade and Stephen Dent at Daddy's House Recording Studios in New York City and Trans Continental Studios in Orlando, with Ed Raso mixing the audio.[1]

"How Many Licks?" was released as the second single from Lil' Kim's second album, The Notorious K.I.M. (2000),[5] as a 12-inch single and CD single by Atlantic Records and Queen Bee Entertainment.[6][7][8] A remix by American production duo the Neptunes was also made available,[9] with vocals by American singer Kelis and verses by American rappers Lil' Cease and Snoop Dogg.[10] The song's original version was included on several compilations, including the 2001 albums The Source Hip Hop Music Awards 2001,[11] Pure Dance 2001,[12] Hip Hop Soul Party: Episode V,[13] and 2008's 15 of the Best Urban Classics.[14]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

"How Many Licks?" is a three-minute and 52-second hip hop song[4][17] that uses a sample from the theme song of the television series Knight Rider.[9] Music critic Simon Reynolds described its composition as "full of Daft Punk-like noises",[15] and an NME writer called it "pornographic funk".[16] Michael Arceneaux of VH1 wrote that the single and other tracks from The Notorious K.I.M. have a "glossier and far more commercial" sound than the rapper's previous releases.[9]

The lyrics of "How Many Licks?" are part of a movement in 1990s hip hop music to express sexuality positively. Sexuality studies professor Thomas A. Foster wrote that Lil' Kim reverses a trend in hip hop music which objectifies women for the male gaze and celebrates male sexuality.[17] Gender studies scholar Aine McGlynn described "How Many Licks?" as one of the most sexually-explicit songs to receive airplay.[18]

The lyrics describe a woman's interest in oral sex, with Preezy of The Boombox calling the song a "sexual anthem".[19] Lyrics include: "Roll some weed with some tissue and close your eyes/ Then imagine your tongue in between my thighs."[20] Lil' Kim raps about having sex with men of various nationalities,[21] spanking one from "down South" and "com[ing] in his mouth".[22] The rapper notes that people masturbate or have sex to her music: "goes out to my niggaz in jail / Beating they dicks to the double X-L."[23] She re-imagines herself as "an image in a magazine, a poster, a character in a gangsta narrative, a luxury item and a bling accessary". Lil' Kim and Sisqó also exchange pick-up lines during the song.[4] The chorus refers to the advertising slogan for Tootsie Pops ("How many licks does it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll centre of a Tootsie Pop?"), and ties sexuality to consumerism according to media studies professor Scott Wilson.[21]

For the track's remix, Lil' Kim associates her rapping abilities with oral sex: "Ya neva seen this stroke of genius / [I] put tha cleanest, meanest lips on ya penis!"[24] She is also noted to popularize the word "gangstress" which she had previously used in "Spend a Little Doe", a track from her 1996 album Hard Core, and a remix of the American trio Intro's 1995 single "Funny How Time Flies".[25] The rapper further introduces herself as "the female Mack".[26]

Critical reception[edit]

A tan-skinned woman in a blonde wig is posing in front of a pink background while smiling towards the camera. She has Mandarin characters tattooed on her right arm.
Some critics compared "How Many Licks?" to the 2014 single "Anaconda", recorded by Nicki Minaj (pictured in 2012).[27][28]

"How Many Licks?" received primarily positive reviews from music critics following its release and during retrospective reviews. Commentators praised the single for its sexual content.[3][29][30] Michelle Goldberg of Salon wrote that Lil' Kim maintained a focus on her "playfully ripe side" from Hard Core.[29] Noisey's Adria Young referred to its lyrics in 2015 as "some of the rap diva’s most raunchy verses to date", citing the song as an example of how Sisqó pushed the envelope of sexuality in popular culture.[3] Brittany Vincent of Billboard noted it as an example of how the rapper was unafraid of exploring sex in her music.[30] An editor for Apple Music included the song on its "Lil' Kim Essentials" playlist, writing that Lil Kim' "more than held her own as an agile and self-possessed MC who pushed hip-hop toward its unalloyed id".[31] However, African-American studies professor Mark Anthony Neal criticized the single for perpetuating the sexual objectification of women. Comparing "How Many Licks?" with American singer Tweet's 2002 song "Oops (Oh My)", Neal wrote that Tweet's focus on masturbation was a better expression of black female sexuality.[32]

The remix of "How Many Licks?" was also praised in retrospective reviews.[9][33] In a 2015 article, Michael Arceneaux of VH1 called it "an under-appreciated gem" and suggested that Lil' Kim record another collaboration with Neptunes member Pharrell Williams in the future.[33] According to Arceneaux, the remix is treated with "great reverence" by fans.[9] Mark Anthony Neal was more critical of the remix due to Fabolous' lyrics ("Oops, there goes my kids on your face"), saying that the addition changed the song's message from "a celebration of autonomous female sexuality" to a "vulgar, demeaning moment of black female objectification".[32]

Some critics compared "How Many Licks?" to Trinidadian-American rapper Nicki Minaj's 2014 single, "Anaconda".[27][28] Alex Kristelis of Bustle noted that both songs focused on men's appreciation of the singer's body.[27] A Khaleej Times writer called "Anaconda" a "blatant copy" of "How Many Licks?", with Minaj's song sharing "the lyrical blue print and theme" of Lil' Kim's.[28] Westword's Cory Lamz wrote that Minaj parodied "How Many Licks?" and its associated visuals in the music video for her 2011 single "Stupid Hoe".[34]

Commercial performance[edit]

According to Michael Arceneaux, "How Many Licks?" and fellow songs from The Notorious K.I.M. did not fare well on radio.[9] Although media outlets considered it a "hit",[19][35][36] the song was less commercially successful than Lil' Kim's previous releases.[19] It reached several Billboard charts in the United States,[37][38][39] peaking at number 75 on the Billboard Hot 100 on December 2, 2000 and remaining on the chart for nine weeks.[37] The song also reached number 11 on the Hot Rap Songs chart on December 9, 2000, similarly remaining on that chart for nine weeks.[38] It peaked at number 36 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart that day, remaining on the chart for 20 weeks.[39]

"How Many Licks?" also charted in several other countries.[40][41][42] It peaked at number six on the Dutch Top 40 chart, and remained on the chart for 13 weeks.[40][42] The single reached number seven on the Ultratop chart in the Flanders region of Belgium, also remaining on that chart for 13 weeks.[41][42] It further peaked at number 58 on the German Singles Chart, remaining for eight editions.[42]

Music video[edit]

Production and release[edit]

The song's music video, directed by Francis Lawrence, was shot in the Sylmar, Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Angeles on October 3 and 4, 2000,[5][43] and premiered the following month. Discussing the video with MTV News, Lil' Kim said: "This is where I get to get freaky". The rapper described her performance as different personas as "something the whole world has been waiting for".[43] The video was re-uploaded to Atlantic's YouTube channel on October 26, 2009.[44] It was also featured on the 2005 release Lil' Kim: Queen Bee Video Collection.[45]

During the video, the rapper plays a candy sex doll in three sexual fantasies.[43][46] In her first incarnation, Lil' Kim wears an outfit made out of lollipops and struts down a runway. She described her look as reminiscent of British model Naomi Campbell. For the second, pin-up model-inspired fantasy, Lil' Kim evokes American actress Marilyn Monroe and cartoon character Betty Boop by wearing only gold chains and pasties. In the video's final fantasy, she wears an outfit made of liquid latex.[43] In other scenes, parts of the rapper's body are molded on a production line.[46] Brad Wete of Billboard wrote that the idea of the rapper as a sex toy was an expansion of her image as a black Barbie.[47]

Sisqó does not appear in the video,[2][43] explaining that his absence was due to a conflict with his record label, Def Jam, caused by the releases of the remix of his 2000 single "Thong Song" (with American rapper Foxy Brown) and his verse on American rapper DMX's 2000 single, "What These Bitches Want". In a 2017 interview with Complex, Sisqó said that he had been blacklisted by the label because of the aforementioned releases.[2]

Reception and analysis[edit]

An image of a dark-skinned woman wearing a blonde/orange wig with the words "Candy Kim" in a pink font at the bottom of the screen
Women's studies academics Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez criticized Lil Kim for her adherence to white female beauty standards, particularly blonde hair and blue eyes (pictured above).[48]

The music video received positive reviews in media outlets;[19][43] according to Preezy of The Boombox, it was "a staple on video countdowns" after its release. The reviewer praised "its eye-popping imagery and Kim's assets on display".[19] An MTV News writer lauded the video's concept: "The doll personas give Kim a handful of fresh, new ways to wear a whole lot of nothing as she leaves even less to the imagination than usual".[43] Jess Harvell of Pitchfork criticized the video, writing that it "is enough to make you join your local Andrea Dworkin fan club".[49]

Scholars had differing opinions on the video's representation of sexuality.[46][48][50] According to the CERCL Writing Collective, it showcases Lil' Kim's technique of "us[ing] the male body as an object of her own sexual desires and pleasures" and exemplifies a theme in the rapper's releases in which men are submissive to her sexuality.[50] Feminist scholar Leslie Heywood interpreted the video as a "playful" way to address Lil' Kim as a celebrity and "a marketed ideal", writing that the rapper's "appeal to popular fantasy" and her "tough, sexy attitude" helped expand her artistic success.[46] Alternatively, women's studies academics Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez criticized the video as "an apt metaphor for her self-commodification and use of white female beauty ideals". Even though they described the visual as "a tongue-in-cheek criticism of image making or white female beauty standards", they criticized the rapper for adhering to male fantasy through the emphasis on her blonde hair and blue eyes. They wrote that Lil' Kim would be remembered by "her participation in codes of pornographic descriptions of women" rather than her commentary on sexuality.[48]

Selected scholars compared the video to those released by other rappers.[51][52] In his essay "Supa Dupa Fly: Black Women as Cyborgs in Hiphop Videos", cultural critic Steven Shaviro wrote that the videos for "How Many Licks?" and American rapper Missy Elliott's 1997 single "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" contain “stories of black female empowerment, in the face of deeply engrained racism and sexism".[51] Feminist scholars M. L. Williams and T. C. M. Tyree wrote that the focus on beauty standards in the video continued with Nicki Minaj's video for "Stupid Hoe".[52]

Live performances and covers[edit]

Lil' Kim rapped the first verses of "How Many Licks?" during a 2010 event at Irving Plaza. During the performance, she had a wardrobe malfunction and her top almost fell down.[53] She also performed the song in 2012 as part of her Return of the Queen Tour,[36] as well as during a one-night show at the Gramercy Theatre the following year, wearing a red bodysuit and long black hair.[35][54] In 2013, American drag queen Alaska Thunderfuck sang a cover version of "How Many Licks?", which Josh Middleton of the Philadelphia praised as "outstanding".[55]

Track listing[edit]

CD single[6]
1."How Many Licks (Feat Sisqo) (Soul Society Remix (Clean))"3:48
2."How Many Licks (Feat Sisqo) (Sicknote 2 Step Remix (Clean))"4:13
3."How Many Licks (Feat Sisqo) (Simon Vegas Remix (Clean))"3:53
4."How Many Licks (Feat Sisqo) (Radio Edit (Clean))"3:57
5."Enhanced Video"3:53
LP single[7]
1."How Many Licks (Clean Album Version)"3:53
2."How Many Licks (Instrumental)"3:57
3."How Many Licks (Dirty Album Version)"3:53
4."How Many Licks (Acapella)"3:59
Neptunes Remix[56]
1."How Many Licks (Neptunes Remix) (Explicit Version)"4:44
2."How Many Licks (Neptunes Remix) (Clean Version)"4:43

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of The Notorious K.I.M..[1]

Recording locations
  • Daddy's House Recording Studios (New York City)
  • Trans Continental Studios (Orlando)
  • Mixed By – Ed Raso
  • Producer – Mario "Yellowman" Winans, Sean "Puffy" Combs
  • Recorded By – Dave Wade, Stephen Dent
  • Written By – Kimberly Jones, Mario Winans, Sean Combs


Chart (2000) Peak
Belgium (Ultratop Flanders)[41] 7
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)[41] 11
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[40] 6
Germany (Official German Charts)[42] 58
US Billboard Hot 100[37] 75
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[39] 36
US Hot Rap Songs (Billboard)[38] 11



  1. ^ a b c The Notorious K.I.M. (Media notes). Lil' Kim. Atlantic. 2000.
  2. ^ a b c Fitzgerald, Kiana (August 24, 2017). "SisQó Explains Why He Made That "Thong Song" EDM Remix". Complex. Verizon Hearst Media Partners. Archived from the original on August 25, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Young, Adria (April 7, 2015). "Sisqo: Dormant Dragon". Noisey. Archived from the original on February 11, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Birchmeier, Jason. "AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier". AllMusic. Archived from the original on September 17, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Mitchell, Gail (October 14, 2000). "Charles' Blues Foundation Tribute A Ray Of Light; Dr. Dre Joins Producers Of L.A. Confidential Crew". Billboard. Eldridge Industries. Archived from the original on February 12, 2018.
  6. ^ a b "How Many Licks". Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  7. ^ a b "Lil Kim signed How Many Licks 12" lp". Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  8. ^ Gonzales, Michael A. (October 16, 2011). "S25 Songs About Oral Sex That Don't Suck". Complex. Verizon Hearst Media Partners. Archived from the original on July 2, 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Arceneaux, Michael (June 28, 2015). "Lil' Kim Took Heat For The Notorious K.I.M., But It Blazed A Trail For Female Rappers To Come". VH1. Archived from the original on December 21, 2015.
  10. ^ "How Many Licks? Lyrics". MetroLyrics. Archived from the original on October 1, 2015.
  11. ^ Birchmeier, Jason. "AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier". AllMusic. Archived from the original on April 6, 2017.
  12. ^ "Pure dance 2001". WorldCat. Archived from the original on February 12, 2018.
  13. ^ "Hip hop soul party : Episode V". WorldCat. Archived from the original on February 12, 2018.
  14. ^ "15 of the best Urban Classics". WorldCat. Archived from the original on February 12, 2018.
  15. ^ a b Reynolds (2011): p. 332
  16. ^ a b "The Notorious KIM". NME. Time Inc. UK. September 12, 2005. Archived from the original on September 20, 2017.
  17. ^ a b Foster (2012): p. 210
  18. ^ McGlynn (2007): p. 450
  19. ^ a b c d e Preezy (June 26, 2015). "Five Best Songs from Lil' Kim's 'The Notorious K.I.M.' Album". The Boombox. Townsquare Media. Archived from the original on February 12, 2018.
  20. ^ Morrissey, Tracie Egan (May 21, 2009). "20 Songs About Cunnilingus". Jezebel. Archived from the original on July 2, 2017.
  21. ^ a b Wilson (2008): pp. 105-107
  22. ^ Thomas (2009): p. 138
  23. ^ Wilson (2008): p. 98
  24. ^ Thomas (2009): p. 30
  25. ^ Thomas (2009): p. 116
  26. ^ Thomas (2009): p. 203
  27. ^ a b c Kritselis, Alex (August 1, 2014). "Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" Leaked & It's a Strange, Problematic Choice for a Second Single". Bustle. VH1. Archived from the original on July 2, 2015.
  28. ^ a b c "We love her, we love her not! Which flower petal does Nicki Minaj get?". Khaleej Times. Galadari Printing and Publishing. March 24, 2016. Archived from the original on June 2, 2016.
  29. ^ a b Goldberg, Michelle (July 18, 2000). "The hip-hop pornographer". Salon. Salon Media Group Inc. Archived from the original on February 12, 2018.
  30. ^ a b Vincent, Brittany (January 11, 2018). "20 Female Pop Stars Who Are Unafraid to Sing About Sex". Billboard. Eldridge Industries. Archived from the original on January 12, 2018.
  31. ^ "Lil' Kim Essentials". Apple Music. Archived from the original on February 12, 2018.
  32. ^ a b Neal (2014): p. 68
  33. ^ a b Arceneaux, Michael (October 10, 2015). "2015 Is The Year Of The Comeback, So Let's Get One Happening For Lil' Kim". VH1. Archived from the original on December 21, 2015.
  34. ^ Lamz, Cory (January 23, 2012). "Nicki Minaj's "Stupid Hoe" takes aim at Gaga and other fellow pop stars". Westword. Voice Media Group. Retrieved February 11, 2018.
  35. ^ a b "Lil' Kim Takes Over Gramercy Theatre". Rap-Up. Devin Lazerine. April 27, 2013. Archived from the original on February 12, 2018.
  36. ^ a b Horowitz, Steven J. (May 19, 2012). "Lil Kim Brings Out Missy Elliott, Eve For NYC Show". Billboard. Eldridge Industries. Archived from the original on September 26, 2015.
  37. ^ a b c "Hot 100". Billboard. Eldridge Industries. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  38. ^ a b c "Hot Rap Songs". Billboard. Eldridge Industries. Archived from the original on February 12, 2018.
  39. ^ a b c "Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs". Billboard. Eldridge Industries. Archived from the original on February 12, 2018.
  40. ^ a b c "Lil' Kim". Dutch Top 40. Archived from the original on August 15, 2016.
  41. ^ a b c d "Lil' Kim". Ultratop. Archived from the original on September 6, 2017.
  42. ^ a b c d e "How Many Licks?". Archived from the original on February 12, 2018.
  43. ^ a b c d e f g "Lil' Kim Goes Plastic in New Video". MTV News. October 25, 2000. Archived from the original on February 12, 2018.
  44. ^ "Lil' Kim (Featuring Sisqo) - How Many Licks? (Video)". YouTube. October 26, 2009. Archived from the original on October 17, 2017.
  45. ^ "Lil' Kim : Queen bee video collection". WorldCat. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  46. ^ a b c d Heywood (2006): p. 194
  47. ^ Wete, Brad (March 6, 2017). "Three Other Times Nicki Minaj Looked a Bit Like Lil Kim". Billboard. Eldridge Industries. Archived from the original on July 27, 2017.
  48. ^ a b c Dines & Humez (2003): p. 141
  49. ^ Harvell, Jess (November 21, 2005). "Lil' Kim: The Naked Truth". Pitchfork. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on November 9, 2016.
  50. ^ a b The CERCL Writing Collective (2014)
  51. ^ a b Bennett, Kim Taylor (May 28, 2013). "What I Learned About Style From Missy Elliott's "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)"". Noisey. Archived from the original on February 12, 2018.
  52. ^ a b Williams & Tyree (2015): p. 51
  53. ^ Horowitz, Steven J. (June 4, 2010). "Lil' Kim Lights Up NYC's Irving Plaza". The Boombox. Townsquare Media. Archived from the original on February 12, 2018.
  54. ^ Rogulewski, Charley (April 28, 2013). "Video: Lil Kim Returns to Stage at Gramercy Theater". Vibe. Eldridge Industries. Archived from the original on February 12, 2018.
  55. ^ Middleton, Josh (April 29, 2013). "Watch: RuPaul's Drag Race's Alaska and Jinkx Perform at Voyeur". Philadelphia. Metrocorp. Archived from the original on February 12, 2018.
  56. ^ How Many Licks (Neptunes Remix) (Media notes). Lil' Kim. Atlantic. 2000.

Book sources[edit]

  • The CERCL Writing Collective (2014). Breaking Bread, Breaking Beats: Churches and Hip-Hop—A Basic Guide to Key Issues. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. ISBN 978-0-8006-9926-0.
  • Heywood, Leslie (2006). The women's movement today: an encyclopedia of third-wave feminism, Volume 1. Westport: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-33133-2.
  • Dines, Gail; Humez, Jean M. (2003). Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Text-Reader. Thousand Oaks: Sage. ISBN 0-7619-2260-1.
  • Foster, Thomas A., ed. (2012). "Lil' Kim, 'How Many Licks?' (2000)". Documenting Intimate Matters: Primary Sources for a History of Sexuality in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 210-212. ISBN 978-0-226-25746-4.
  • McGlynn, Aine (2007). "Lil' Kim". In Hess, Mickey. Icons of Hip Hop: An Encyclopedia of the Movement, Music, and Culture, Volume 2. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 439-457. ISBN 978-0-313-33902-8.
  • Neal, Mark Anthony (2014). Songs in the Key of Black Life: A Rhythm and Blues Nation. Milton Park: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-96570-5.
  • Reynolds, Scott (2011). Bring the Noise: 20 Years of Writing About Hip Rock and Hip Hop. Berkeley: Soft Skull Press. ISBN 978-1-59376-286-5.
  • Thomas, Greg (2009). Hip-Hop Revolution in the Flesh: Power, Knowledge, and Pleasure in Lil’ Kim’s Lyricism. New York: Springer. ISBN 978-1-349-37682-7.
  • Williams, M. L.; Tyree, T. C. M. (2015). "The 'Un-Quiet Queen'". In Trier-Bieniek, Adrienne. Feminist Theory and Pop Culture. Chicago: Springer. p. 49-64. ISBN 978-94-6300-059-8.
  • Wilson, Scott (2008). Great Satan's Rage: American Negativity and Rap/Metal in the Age of Supercapitalism. Manchester: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-7463-9.

External links[edit]