Lil’ people take music by storm

It’s no lil’ list.

Lil’ Nino. Lil’ Nique. Lil O. Lil’ Pigg Penn. Lil Rascal. Lil’ Raw. Lil Ric. Lil’ Rob. Lil’ Romeo. Lil Sin. Lil Soldiers. Lil Spade. Lil Suzy. Lil’ Troy. Lil Wayne. Lil Will’. Li’l Willie Johnson. Lil’ Zane. Lil D. Lil’ E. Lil Dead. Lil Benny & Masters and the list goes on.

Lil’ rappers and singers. Big record sales and concerts.

To understand the fascination with lil’, you have to start with big.

“It’s weird, because there are two sides to the issue. There’s the lils’ and then there’s the bigs. And they both exist with each other,” said George Martinez, a leading hip-hop activist in New York.

“If we think about the big first, that’s Biggie Smalls (Notorious B.I.G.), Big Daddy Kane … it’s a way to increase one’s stature. Especially in the `hood.”

A hip handle helps sell hip hop.

Artists such as Big Daddy Kane, Big Tymers, Big Mike, the late Big Pun and the late Notorious B.I.G. drew their names from their actual size or how large they were in their neighborhoods.

Other handles such as Prince (Prince Paul or Prince Markie Dee) or Cool and Fresh (LL Cool J, Cool C, Count Coolout, Kool Moe Dee, Doug E. Fresh), did much the same thing.

As the popularity of hip-hop grew, it was all about the big boys.

But now hip-hop is dominated by lil’ people _ in stature and in age.

“It’s a youth movement. The market is dominated by 13- to 18-year-olds,” Martinez said.

“They’re buying the records, the advertising and the material. Plus, everybody knows a Lil’ John-John or somebody from their neighborhood.”

Most hip-hop names come from nicknames that people get from their friends.

Rappers are also named for identifying characteristics _ some hitting too close to home.

No Limit Record’s C-Murder (Lil’ Romeo’s uncle) said he got his nickname because he used to see a lot of murders while growing up in a New Orleans housing project In January, he was charged with second-degree murder.

Big Pun was so named because of his size – he weighed 698 pounds. He died two years ago at 28 because of extreme obesity.

There’s no great tale behind all nicknames. Some are simply created by record execs who think a catchy name would be a better sell.

The most important lil’ lesson: Don’t pronounce the T’s. It’s lil’, not little.

Hip to be little

Here’s a li’l bit more about some hot-selling Lil’s.

Lil’ Kim _ She started it all. Her name comes from her petite stature and directly paralleled Notorious B.I.G., her mentor. (FYI: There’s nothing li’l about the 26-year-old’s content. She’s noted for being sexually explicit.)

Lil’ Bow Wow _ A product of super-producer Jermaine Dupri and rapper Snoop Dogg, this 15-year-old’s headlining concert tour sold out in very li’l time in most locations.

Lil’ Romeo _ The 12-year-old son of hip-hop mogul Master P. His first single, “My Baby.” samples the Jackson 5 classic “I Want You Back.” The single was No. 1 on the charts for eight weeks.

Lil’ D _ Cousin of Lil’ Romeo, who rapped with him on the single “That’s Kool.”

Lil’ Tykes _ Four brothers from Dayton, Ohio _ Jay, 12; Lil’ D, 11; Coolie-e, 9; and Lil’ Shea, 7. Their debut album, “Tykes on the Rise,” is due in the fall.

Lil’ Cease _ The youngest member (he’s 24 now, 15 when he started) of the Junior M.A.F.I.A rap super group that also features Lil’ Kim.

Lil Wayne _ The youngest member of the Hot Boys rap group.

The 19-year-old also is one of the most popular. When his debut album, “Tha Block Is Hot,” hit the streets in 1999, the video for the album’s title track was the most played video in the country.

Lil’ Zane _ He got his big break after being discovered at a talent show by Kevin Wales, owner of World Wide Entertainment. Wales also discovered Monica and the R&B group 112. Lil’ Zane, who stands 5-feet-3-inches and is 19 years old, first hit it big with a remix on 112’s single “Anywhere.”

Lil’ Mo _ The 24-year-old singer made it big in a duet with rapper Ja Rule. Together they made hits of “Put It on Me” and “I Cry.”