Lil’ Kim and Ebony Photographer Squabble Over Controversial Magazine Cover

Lil Kim arrives for the 2021 BET Awards on June 27, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Lil’ Kim put Ebony magazine on blast for her heavily retouched “50 Years of Hip-Hop” cover, but the magazine’s director of photography says the rapper personally picked the photo.

The “How Many Licks?” rapper is featured on one of five fall 2023 covers celebrating hip-hop music’s milestone anniversary. But she says the publication tried to “sabotage” her by using a nearly unrecognizable image.

Taking to her Instagram Stories on Tuesday, Sept. 19, the “Crush On You” performer shared the cover with a caption claiming it wasn’t the picture she and her team selected.

“Who is this? Because that’s not the photo I approved or any other content they’ve put out,” she wrote.

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Meanwhile, Keith Major — who’s listed on the magazine’s website as photo director — is countering her claim, alleging the legendary MC exercised creative control over the image and that the AI-enhanced picture was her idea.

“Man, she wanted to be in control of the retouching so this is what we got,” Major wrote in an Instagram reply under the comments section of Ebony‘s post featuring Lil Kim’s cover.

Queen Bee, however, disputed the claim.

“I always told Ebony it looked like a painting, but they didn’t want to listen,” Lil Kim added in her Instagram Story.

“They said they love it. It’s the sabotage for me. The funny sh-t about this is that this is THEIR retoucher!” she added, taking a clear shot at Keith Major’s retouching allegations.

She went on to share a message from one of her team members, who presented a side-by-side comparison of her “approved” photo and the magazine cover.

“Me & @LikKimTheQueenBee stayed up for hours with the team & chose this one… we have the receipts, fool!” wrote Lil’ Kim’s team member, alongside the photo they intended for the cover.

While Lil’ Kim and her team stood by their claims, some fans online are struggling to see the difference between the two photos.

“It looks the exact same, but with a different filter,” one Instagram user wrote in the comments section of The Shade Room‘s repost of the cover.

Flo Ngala, a photographer and photojournalist, also chimed in.

“No disrespect to the Legend but I’m shocked her and her team violated the photographer like that just for the ‘approved’ photo to virtually look the same,” Ngala wrote. “They owe Keith an apology trying to humiliate him!!”

The series of Ebony covers celebrating 50 years of hip-hop also feature 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes, Rick Ross, and Swizz Beatz.

While the male rap icons were presumably content with their final cover looks, it’s clear that Lil’ Kim and her team are not.