In Hip Hop today there are many talented female rappers, but it hasn’t always been that way. In the past, being female meant that you couldn’t even get your foot through the door. While it’s hardly easy as pie now, it was definitely considered unattainable when some of our favourite MCs began their careers. There are many women that could be credited with the increasing acceptance of women in Hip Hop. But there is one in particular that holds a special place in our hearts. Give it up for the Queen Bee: Lil’ Kim.
Kim began her career as a member of Junior M.A.F.I.A, a group closely affiliated to the Notorious BIG and Bad Boy Records. A long time friend of Biggy and Lil’ Cease, she had grown up alongside them in Brooklyn. Kim had to learn to protect herself from a young age after her father kicked her out of the family home. She managed to survive by staying at friends houses and occasionally sleeping on the streets. Things changed pretty quickly after Junior M.A.F.I.A were signed to Bad Boy and released their first album, ‘Conspiracy’ in 1995. One year later, Kim released her first solo album titled ‘Hardcore’. The album turned her into a sex symbol due to the cover artwork on which she posed provocatively on top of a fur rug.
From early on in her career, Kim showed an interest in fashion, her style has always been fun and experimental. Her music videos and lyrics feature an emphasis on designer labels, most likely to have been influenced by the logo-heavy fashion of the early 90s. Brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Versace and Christian Lacroix are frequently name checked in lyrics. Clothing is intended to display her wealth and sexuality: fur coats over bikinis, diamonds and crop tops. She was very rarely seen without her Versace sunglasses and rainbow coloured wigs.
While previous female Hip Hop artists had all played a part in fashion, it was refreshing for an artist to embrace her femininity so openly. In the past, sweet smiles were exchanged with mean grimaces, dresses rejected in favour of shell suits. The legends, such as MC Lyte who dominated Hip Hop before Kim were forced to establish themselves as deserving candidates through power and determination, stereotypically considered masculine characteristics. For this reason they styled themselves more appropriately to male fashion at the time. During the 1990s there was a rise in successful female rappers, including Lauryn Hill, Da Brat, and Missy Elliot. Lil’ Kim separated herself from these peers through her tactical use of femininity; she used her body in order to be noticed, then her lyrics to be heard.
Being the only female in a man’s world has never seemed to bother Kim. In her verse on, ‘It’s All About The Benjamins’, Kim boasts, “The only female in my crew, then I kicks you”, she cherishes her role as female of the pack. In the same video, she appears on screen pushing aside the other Bad Boy rappers, fighting for her place in front of the camera. The reason Lil’ Kim stands alone in the industry because she can hold her own against the men all the while looking too hot for them.