by Brooklyn White
Lil’ Kim, the 4-foot-11-inch tall musician and model, is a force. She started out as the first lady of Junior Mafia in 1994, and over the span of her 25-year career has reinvented herself a healthy number of times. Her resume is long, reconfiguring the content women could present in Hip-Hop, setting new trends with her fashion, and remaining largely herself. Ever aware of her legacy as a fixture in rap music, one needs to look no further than Trina and The City Girls’ “fuck niggas, get money” or the style choices of Rihanna for affirmation. She is a legend who deserves it all and then some.
Who can forget the commanding opening line, “[h]ot damn ho, here we go again”? The way she is able to guide her vocals over winding soul samples and Latin pop, without getting lost, is a talent. “Musically, her cadence is one that other women in rap still have yet to emulate,”writes historian Karen Garcia. “Her transition to pop, [while] still being very Hip-Hop is also amazing. No one ever doubted Lil Kim’s ability to rap and make gritty music.” She has worked with ghostwriters, sure, but some of Kim’s most fun verses (“Lady Marmalade” and the “Not Tonight” [Remix],” were written without assistance. If it’s murder, you know she wrote it.
Men have always proudly shared their stretched exploits with anyone who would listen. Barbershops, game nights and break rooms become cringe-worthy hot beds for this kind of information sharing. “Boys will be boys”, chimes the decrepit patriarchy. They are encouraged to kiss and tell, circumventing the “hoe” label. Women however aren't given the same privilege. Those who are pro-hoe have moved past puritancal views and the gender binary is fading, but many cis-het men still cling to both as a way to exert control over women and the LGBTQ community. Thankfully, they remain unsuccessful.
“Lil’ Kim made me feel comfortable with my sexuality,..saying what I want to say, how I wanna say it and not feeling sorry if people are offended. Also that there’s nothing wrong talking about sex or openly expressing my sexuality as a Black woman.” -C. Alexis, Tarot reader
“Got buffoons eating my pussy while I watch cartoons.” Imagine, for just a brief moment, the leisure surrounding this line. Not only was Lil’ Kim saying that she doesn’t take men seriously, but she was so used to sex that she can focus on other activities while being pleasured. She wasn’t the first woman in rap to discuss it - Salt N’ Pepa quite literally “talked about sex” in 1991. But what Lil’ Kim did differently was paint vivid pictures of her liaisons and consistently consider her own pleasure (even though she was unafraid to please her partner, too). “That's how many times I wanna cum, twenty-one, and another one, and another one, and another one”. In 2016, a study conducted by the Archives of Sexual Behavior revealed that heterosexual women are 30% less likely to orgasm during sex than heterosexual men, which is unacceptable. Lil’ Kim was not interested in sexual encounters that didn’t end with an orgasm and asserted the right for heterosexual women to have them too.
“Her approach to fashion and beauty was, and is, sexy, expensive and over the top.”
Of course, Lil’ Kim is also a fashion and beauty trailblazer. 20 years ago this year, she attended the MTV Video Music Awards in a custom, Misa Hylton designed jumpsuit that showed off one breast. The Brooklyn-born hustler also debuted two banged wigs with the Chanel and Versace logos spray painted on them in 2001. Her approach to fashion and beauty was, and is, sexy, expensive and over the top. Kim sometimes personifies camp - the bad-yet-good taste that was the theme of 2019’s Met Gala. No one else would dare step out in a blonde, Bo Peep-style wig, a bedazzled anti-mask or boots lined with red weave. The other girls just don’t have the guts, and that’s okay. Kim also walked for Baby Phat (recently revived in collaboration with Forever 21) and was featured in a campaign for Iceberg Jeans, erasing the lines between hip hop/pop culture and mainstream fashion. Luxury brands were leery of rappers for years, but Lil’ Kim was able to create meaningful relationships with multiple luxury brand designers, and quickly became a fashion darling.
So here we are. Two and a half decades into Lil’ Kim’s career and she’s still doing it. Still making art and inspiring rappers. Still speaking directly to women and showing them how to move through a world that doesn’t want them to believe it is for them. Dripping in Chanel and jewels on the regular. We know that she’s imperfect, we know about the beefs. We know that she’s imperfect, we know about the beefs. And we know about her struggles with colorism, abuse and body dysmorphia. She’s a fighter who deserves honor, and you better believe we’re giving it to her. It’s clear that Lil’ Kim is the Queen Bee and a trendsetter, and she’s still going awff.