After several pushbacks since its initial announcement in July 2013, Lil Kim is back with her third mixtape, Hard Core 2k14. Sharing the same title as her unapologetic debut album and with both intros similar in concept, it’s hard not to make comparisons as this mixtape plays like a direct sequel. While her debut shook up the rap industry with raw and hardcore, sexually explicit rhymes that would make 2 Live Crew's parental advisory sticker a misprint, Hard Core 2k14 is considerably moderate in lyrics and vibes.

With the original Hard Core ranking with the best in the mafioso genre, Hard Core 2k14 plays more of a reminder of who Lil Kim once was. Known for her raw and unapologetic, taboo rhymes, she still proves she can work the pole when she "suck ya dick then fuck some more, get on top then ride it slow" ("Work The Pole"). We're also introduced to Kimmie Blanco, an alter ego with "so much money that the bills pay themselves/so much honey, killer bees in the shelves/extra gunpowder, cocaine in these shelves" ("Kimmie Blanco"). The mixtape jumps off proper with "Real Sick" featuring Jadakiss and samples of Biggie, taking us back to early joints like "Notorious K.I.M.".

With that said, Hard Core 2k14 feels like an experiment with Kim testing waters to see how she stands in today's rap scene. The project plays through like a full-length album in the works, only for things to lose steam along the way. While Kim's solo career began 18 years ago, where she was shameless with her taboo rhymes and showed an unusual knack of courage, the same formula today doesn't quite connect. While her previous albums told hood tales that made her life all too real leading up to her prison sentence, times have changed and it seems Queen Bee has eased up on that life (at least through her music). The mixtape uniquely switches it up on "Dead Gal Walking," as Kim takes on a Jamaican accent and sings the life of a made bitch, which is absolutely fitting considering her stature.

The beats on the mixtape are split as they range from the classic New York sound to what's hot today. Tracks like "Stadium Music" and "Whenever You See," is a throwback to 1990s hip-hop Lil Kim does all too well. Perhaps, we've been accustomed to hearing Kimmy on such hardcore tracks in the past because her risks are often don't yield great results. It's not so much that certain beats don't fit Kim. It's her style has been strictly built for a New York aesthetic, so hearing her jack the Migos flow ("Suicide") or throwing jabs at Nicki Minaj (again) isn't very appealing.

While her first four solo albums made her a rap icon, Lil Kim sounds more like she's hanging on for dear pride and doesn't want anyone else to steal her spot, as well as her reputation. Hard Core 2k14 is an accurate picture of Kim struggling to rediscover who she still is, even though her legacy is clearly in the hip-hop history books. Fans know that she's the perfect protege of the late, great Biggie Smalls, and influenced just about every female rapper in the game. But Lil Kim in 2014 is not the same as Lil Kim in 1996. Whether she plans to put out new music in the future, let's hope its on par to when she was on top again.—Andrew Lee