Earlier this year, when a list of the top 50 greatest rappers of all time circulated, it created various firestorms. One of the issues at hand with that list— which was then followed up by personalized ones from rap heads — is that it omitted women from the rankings completely.
Kimberly Denise Jones — who staked a claim to the throne in the ’90s as Lil’ Kim — deserved to be on anyone’s list. BET believes so; the network has given the 4’ 11” MC the “I Am Hip Hop” honor at the 2019 BET Hip-Hop Awards. Lil’ Kim is a revered gamechanger, known for how she dominates wax with hard-hitting, flossy Mafioso bravado, in addition to sheer sex appeal and equally cunning wit. As she claims in 2003’s “This Is Who I Am,” Kim is a multidimensional rap personality, with the ability to “Switch up flows like I switch up my clothes, more than Wilt Chamberlain switched up his hoes.”
To be called something as prestigious as “Hip-Hop” not only means you are most skilled at the genre, you have to be able to shift the culture forward while embodying it for the public at large. Throughout Lil’ Kim’s immaculate discography and decorated career, her lyrics and thematic content remained prescient of the future for hip-hop.
Not only was she commentating on her present— inserting what she had learned from the greats who preceded her— she was setting a blueprint for the new school. What Lil’ Kim was rapping about more than a decade, or two ago, is what the culture of hip-hop is experiencing now. Legends who are hip-hop have the ability to do that.
Here is a list of nine influential songs from Lil’ Kim that successfully gave insight to the issues that matter in today’s hip-hop.
Junior M.A.F.I.A. “Get Money” (1995)
Topic: Scam Rap
When City Girls first arrived on the mainstream tip with “Act Up,” conversations arose about the duo, JT and Yung Miami, leading a subgenre of “scammer rap.” Most men protested about the mere thought of being taken advantage of financially by the opposite sex; while women who admired the audacity of JT and Yung Miami shouted the song’s iconic opening line at brunch mixers across the nation. This 2018 club banger became a leading soundtrack force for summer 2019’s Hot Girls and City Girls versus Hot Boys and City Boys culture war.
In the winter of 1996, a similar battle had taken place within Junior M.A.F.I.A., at the hands of The Notorious B.I.G. leading the men and Lil’ Kim leading the ladies. As one of the hit singles from the hip-hop posse’s 1995 album, Conspiracy, the song rang true to both sexes. The men roared “fuck bitches, get money,” while the women answered back “fuck niggas, get money”.
However, Lil’ Kim steals the show scoring a W for the ladies with her feisty closing verse. She not only forces her man to give her “Hallmark cards sayin’ ‘I apologize’,” he also has to add “diamonds and Armani suits/Adrienne Vittadini and Chanel 9 boots” to the care package. Following up her debut moment in the M.A.F.I.A’s “Player’s Anthem,” Kim made her mark as a witty scammer not taking BS from any man on “Get Money” and eventually ’97’s Bad Boy anthem “It’s All About The Benjamins.” Eventually, the mother of it all would link up with the City Girls to deliver 2019’s “Found You”.
Lil’ Kim, Lil Cease & The Notorious B.I.G “Crush On You [Remix]” (1997)
Topic: The Blueprint Image of a “Queen Bee” Rapper
During 2017’s Halloween season, Beyoncé decided to recreate Lil’ Kim’s iconic looks for the holiday. On her official website, the Queen Bey noted “HIP HOP WOULD NOT BE THE SAME WITHOUT OUR ORIGINAL QUEEN B.” The game has proven this statement accurate, judging by other talent who have dominated the industry, drawing a bit of inspiration from Lil’ Kim’s “Crush On You” video.
Dreamdoll paid homage to the original Queen Bee, by recreating her blue wig and fur look in lieu of their 2018 collab, “Funeral.” Megan Thee Stallion has donned a signature red wig in the “Big Ole Freak” music video. Rihanna — a singer who has taken up rap on occasion — sported a green fur coat during her 2015 performance of “Bitch Better Have My Money” at the iHeartRadio Music Awards, which works as a slight nod at the “Crush On You” line “Ima throw shade if I can’t get paid!”
On “Crush on You,” which comes as a remix from her ‘96 debut album Hard Core, the rapstress shouts out “Lil’ Kim the Queen Bee, so you best take heed/Shall I proceed (yes indeed!).” Taking a moniker she’s given herself on other Hard Core classics, “Big Momma Thang” and “Queen Bitch,” Kim lays forth a blueprint amongst future female rappers — Remy Ma sampling the latter on 2017’s “Wake Me Up.” One of those pupils would be Nicki Minaj, who matches her lightning yellow wig look in 2018’s “Barbie Dreams” which models after Kim’s Hard Core answer song “Dreams” (which is a remake of Biggie’s “Just Playing” (Dreams).”)
Lil’ Kim “No Matter What They Say” (2000)
Topic: Hip-Hop Fashion Moguls
In the last few years, fashion designer Dapper Dan has been esteemed by the industry at large for his innovative trendsetting. Responsible for recreating high fashion looks for rappers in the ’80s into the ’90s, the Dapper fellow inspired a wave of hip-hop artists extending their music brand into fashion endorsements. As a freshly-sought after creative designer for Gucci, he’s received features in GQ, New York Times, and most importantly, Vogue in recent years, extending his legacy.
Joining his elite influencing ranks is Lil’ Kim, who marvels in being a muse and trophy for the fashion world. Her 9 song “Go Awff” celebrates that “turn your sidewalk into a runway” triumph. Since her Junior M.A.F.I.A. days, Kim has always been rapping about her flossy style, but The Notorious K.I.M.’s staple single “No Matter What They Say” embodies the mainstream crossover on a larger, lavish scale.
The video is quite glamorous, with the raptress portraying hip-hop’s version of Marie Antoinette looks that capitalize off her “Crush On You” high fashion. This time around, she’s name-dropping the labels she’s stunting with during New York and Paris Fashion Week— from “Louis Vuitton shoes” to “dripped in Cascade.” Her throughline for high luxury snobbery would continue, as 2005’s “I Know You See Me” would have the “cover girl” Kim bragging about “On the red carpet in Marc Jacobs clothes/You see me fashion week, front row at all the shows.”
Lil’ Kim “Single Black Female” (2000)
On her 2018 single, “Hard White,” Nicki Minaj declares “I’m who they wishin’ to be/These hoes is on the ‘Gram, Nicki pitchin’ a ki.’” That same year, Tierra Whack dropped “Clones” where she raps “Everybody walkin’ like me now/Everybody talkin’ like me now/Heard I’m who they wanna be now.” The game of copying is nothing brand new in hip-hop. Eventually every MC is going to encounter that beef when they rise up the mainstream totem pole and newbies follow a similar path.
Lil’ Kim is direct with this narrative on The Notorious K.I.M. deep cut, “Single Black Female,” a rip off the 1992 psychological thriller, Single White Female, starring Bridget Fonda. The original Queen Bee spits “She rap but stay bangin’ Lil’ Kim tracks/Your career is on the rocks again.” This is an apparent dig at her sworn enemy, Foxy Brown, who she felt was modeling her music and image after hers. Kim would also take more jabs, reciting The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1997 classic “My Downfall” with “bitches have the gaul/To be writin’ my rhymes,” and requesting royalties as a result.
These issues would carry on not only with Foxy, but other female rappers she felt slighted by. Ten years after the release of “Single Black Female,” there would be 2010’s “Black Friday” fiasco with Nicki Minaj where she’d label her new-age rival as a “Lil’ Kim clone clown” and follow that up with 2014’s “Identity Theft.”
Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya, Pink “Lady Marmalade” (2001)
Topic: Pop-Rap Crossovers
In 2019, Lizzo reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for her rap-singing pop effort, “Truth Hurts.” She is one of the select few female rappers to receive the coveted position. The Queen Bee also reached the summit with an all-star collab alongside Christina Aguilera, P!nk, and her Girls Cruise reality TV co-star, Mýa.
Debates have raged recently about pop’s influence in rap music. Lil’ Kim took some heat during the release of “Lady Marmalade” as she became one of the pioneers for collabing with pop stars as a hip-hop artist. From her defining verse, she’d venture further into sing-rapping (notably on The Naked Truth’s “Durty” in 2005).
Featured as the main single from the soundtrack of the Nicole Kidman starring Moulin Rouge, “Lady Marmalade” accomplished Kim’s “Billboard bound” manifestation, going No. 1 on the Hot 100. The cover of LaBelle’s 1974 classic had been foreshadowed on “Crush On You” with Kim rapping “and itchy-gitchy-yaya with the marmalade.”
The song won Video of the Year at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards and the 2002 Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals. That same year, Eve would receive a Best Rap/Sung Collaboration Grammy for “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” alongside pop singer Gwen Stefani. Lil’ Kim shifted further into pop by joining Christina Aguilera on “Can’t Hold Us Down.” More than a decade later Iggy Azalea would receive a No. 1 Hot 100 single with 2014’s pop-skewing “Fancy” alongside Charli XCX, as Nicki Minaj offered “Bang Bang” with Ariana Grande and Jessie J.
Lil’ Kim, Reeks, Bunky S.A., Vee and Saint from The Advakids “Tha Beehive” (2003)
Topic: Stan Bases
If there is a stan base feared most by critics — or even poor individuals that receive a misread look— Beyoncé’s Beyhive would make the top two. And we’re not talking No. 2. But before Beyoncé’s base would adopt the term, there would be another more menacing group buzzing around in hip-hop.
Internet culture has taught that when the wrong person messes with a celebrity, their crew of loyal fans will come after them. After all, Eminem birthed the term “Stan” in 2000 to describe these quasi-obsessive individuals who go hard in the paint for their leader. Now, it’s gotten to the point where certain rappers not only seek their stan bases for validation in hard times, but also feel emboldened to sic their followers onto their sworn enemies after blasting them.
On 2003’s La Bella Mafia — which featured “WBUZ Queen Bitch” radio skits — Lil’ Kim, the Queen Bee, nicknames her avid stans, “Tha Beehive.” The track starts with bumbling bees buzzing as if it’s an actual beehive. In her first verse she spits,“Ms. White, that bitch with a thousand looks/Come through with a thousand crooks.” Those “thousand crooks” just so happen to be the fans that will fight her online battles for her. She’d go on to say “I got thugs in the east, thugs in the south,” who’d be vicious to protect her throne by any means necessary.
Lil’ Kim & Lil’ Shanice “Shake Ya Bum Bum” (2003)
Topic: “Kidz Bop” Hip-Hop
Many critics attribute the 2019 success of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” to its streamability amongst younger audiences. Not only does it have country vibes that would cause a raging debate about what genre to classify it as, there’s also an easy to grasp catchiness for all ages to enjoy. This year has seen music for younger audiences thrive from “Old Town Road” to “Baby Shark.”
Lil’ Kim has an extremely explicit discography, but smack dab in the middle of the raunch is “Shake Ya Bum Bum,” a light-hearted cut on 2003’s La Bella Mafia. At the time, Lil Bow Wow and Lil Romeo found commercial success from being youngsters who delivered hip-hop gems. Lil’ Kim had been building up her female protogeé Lil’ Shanice, who appeared on The Notorious K.I.M. standout “Aunt Dot”.
The lyrics are deliberately for kids, without a swear word. To make her intentions known, Kim drops the bars “Kids rock my Queen Bee logo like a PowerPuff Girl/We stay on tour from summer to winter/And we rockin’ public schools and daycare centers.” Like auntie, like niece, both rappers trade barbs, as they reference a nursery rhyme: “Jack Be Nimble (Jack better be quick)/It’s the Queen and the Princess (Jack ain’t spit)”. They also namedrop kids network, Nickelodeon. What’s most important about this track is the instruction it gives in the title; just like any kids’ oriented song it pops with a dance instruction, this one being “Shake Ya Bum Bum.”
Lil’ Kim & The Game “Quiet” (2005)
Tekashi 6ix9ine set media ablaze with his testimony about his (and other’s) involvement with the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods. Due to his words on the stand, many in the community have labeled him as a “snitch” or a “rat” who has informed the FBI about allegedly illegal activities from others.
Lil’ Kim’s 2005 studio album, The Naked Truth, delivers the perspective of a woman at the height of her fame who didn’t snitch like Tekashi. In fact, she’s convicted of perjury, as she lied on the stand in front of a federal grand jury about a shoot out that took place outside the studios of Hot 97 in 2001. Kim stands her ground, which is evident on the album and her reality TV show Countdown to Lockdown.
On “Quiet,” she enlists the help of The Game to deliver the hook— a not-so subtle dig at 50 Cent who they were both beefing with. (See: The Naked Truth opener, “Spell Check.”) Her former “Magic Stick” co-partner, 50 had been plagued with rumors of being a snitch at the start of his mainstream rise. However, Kim’s issue on “Quiet” is mainly with Foxy Brown, who she accuses of having ghostwriters and being a “fake gangsta,” and her former Junior M.A.F.I.A. crew members who testified against her. Ultimately she’d forgive the latter, reuniting with Lil’ Cease.
Lil’ Kim “Shut Up Bitch” (2005)
Topic: Tabloids & Ghostwriting
Cardi B shook the table in 2019 with two songs that directly targeted media and tabloids. “Clout” delivers the line, “I should run my whole blog at this rate, they using my name for clickbait”. Meanwhile, “Press” is a jab at the negativity surrounding her own court battle. As a student of Lil’ Kim’s school of tabloid fighting, Cardi B has engaged in war with her haters and media alike.
On The Naked Truth, Lil’ Kim is all about raging war with the media in addition to the snitches who ratted her out. “Shut Up Bitch” is her most direct diss towards the matter, even mocking the gossipers that read into the reported situations and blab away. The hook follows the lead of Missy Elliott 2002 cut “Gossip Folks,” with Kim actually involving real gossip about her.
She addresses the bankruptcy accusations with “I heard she dead broke.” She denies that “Biggie wrote her shit,” ghostwriter accusation that’s plagued her since Hard Core days. She even tackles plastic surgery discussions head on with “Why she got her nosed fixed, why she got bigger tits”.
In her first verse, Kim starts “Everybody talkin’, all these haters hawkin’/Paparazzi stalkin’ takin’ pictures while I’m walkin’” before requesting “Damn can’t a bitch breathe, gimmie room please.” She’d even go on to directly call out a media personality with “Star Jones don’t like me, she cheap and I like the best/Damn, it must feel good to Payless”.
As one of the G.O.A.T.s at the time of this release, well into 10 years of her career, Kim had had enough and didn’t feel respected as a living legend. “Shut Up Bitch” was simply a reminder that regardless of what the public said, she would remain on top with her legacy still intact.
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