Vogue: 20 Years Later, the Hard Core Style of Rapper Lil’ Kim Is Still Everything
It’s the perch that launched a hip-hop revolution. Sprawled on all fours atop a fur rug, back arched, and sheathed in a sheer lace top, was rapper Lil’ Kim, then a newcomer on the scene. A fire crackled behind her, a bottle of Champagne chilled beside her, and as the Brooklynite stared down the camera, it was clear the pint-size dynamo was just as hard core as the bold typeface of her racy debut 1996 album proclaimed.
From her ravenous sexual appetite to the insatiable pleasure she took in designer fashion, Lil’ Kim—née Kimberly Jones—brought about a wild, feminine, and intentional style to the hyper-masculine rap game, the likes of which had never been seen before. In a single breath, the MC and Notorious B.I.G. protégé rapped furiously about her love of Armani suits, “Chanel 9 boots,” and a sex-positive bed partner. She draped herself in floor-length furs, Versace logomania ensembles, and in “bra[s] all see through.” Kim’s lethal combination of style and bravado would propel Hard Core to the top of the charts, the debut album going platinum twice and becoming an instant classic.
Kim raised eyebrows, but her risk-taking and luxurious approach to fashion also made her a designer muse. Marc Jacobs, Donatella Versace, and Giorgio Armani all clamored to dress the rapper, and she reinvented their designs in a refreshing and audacious way in turn. “Ghetto fabulous” is the term that gets thrown around a lot when it comes to the way Kim mixed street culture and luxury fashion in her “Crush On You” and “No Time” videos. But it’s also a bit reductive, considering Kim was more of a harbinger, ushering a brazen look that, 20 years later, continues to dazzle on Instagram timelines, Tumblr feeds, and concert stages everywhere.
Above, on the eve of Hard Core’s 20th anniversary, a look back at Lil’ Kim’s unbridled glamour.
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Posted on 12 Nov 2016 by LilKimZone
Writers Look Back on Foxy Brown & Lil Kim's Powerful Debuts 20 Years Later
Writers Look Back on Foxy Brown & Lil Kim's Powerful Debuts 20 Years Later: They Were 'Milestones in Hip-Hop'
In 1996, Lil Kim and Foxy Brown dismantled hip-hop's hypermasculinity with their gritty, feminist and sexy debuts Hard Core and Ill Na Na, respectively. Sure, before them, TLC delivered “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” or “Creep” while Queen Latifah, MC Lyte along with Salt-N-Pepa created lanes of their own but the effect Foxy Brown and Lil Kim had on the genre with their uncensored rhymes about sex and being a bad b---h was earth-shattering,
Before their debut albums came out a week apart from each other in '96 (Hard Core came out on Nov. 12 and Ill Na Na on Nov. 19), the two Brooklyn MCs were already making waves with their respective male counterparts. Lil Kim went hard on Junior M.A.F.I.A’s “Get Money” while Brown reigned supreme on "I Shot Ya" with LL Cool J, Keith Murray, Prodigy and Fat Joe and also rapped alongside a young Jay Z.
With their raunchy, over-the-top lyrics and skimpy clothes to match, Lil Kim and Foxy Brown took complete ownership of their womanhood and had no qualms about calling out fake or small "n---as" (see: Foxy Brown's "I'll Be" and Lil Kim's "No Time"). Now, 20 years later, their influence is still tangible and sonically present in today's crop of female artists.
To commemorate their classic albums, Billboard chatted with several prominent journalists to share their personal memories and thoughts on how Lil Kim and Foxy Brown revolutionized hip-hop forever.
Kathy Iandoli, Author/Writer for XXL, VIBE, BET, Rolling Stone, among others
In seeing Foxy and Kim release these albums it was a reassurance that skills paid off; it didn’t really matter who was helping with the rhymes. It was the delivery and the content that was being said, and whose mouth it was coming out of. It was just a reassurance to me as a hip-hop head that this space might be opening up for women in a way that has never been done before. There was something about what they said and how they were saying it that was hinting that a huge change was about to come.
In 1997 around the summertime, I was in New Jersey at a T.G.I. Friday's eating dinner with two of my friends, and I was a huge Lil Kim fan. I love Foxy, but there was something about the Queen Bee aesthetic that just spoke to me. I loved her, and I even had a license plate that said “Queen Bee.” One of my friends came back from the bathroom and said, "You’re not going to believe this, but Lil Kim is here having dinner."
So I walk up to this long table in the back, and Lil Kim and Lil Cease were there. It was a long table of heads, and I walk up to the table and Kim is at the head of the table, and she has this long blonde hair; she just looked completely radiant. I walked up to her and she looks at me. And I go, "Hi, I wanted to introduce myself because you changed my life." And I showed her my license plate key chain, and I go, "I also wanted to offer my condolences on Biggie passing." And she says to me, "Sit down and have dinner with us."
They moved their chairs, and I sat down; and she was like, "I was having a really bad day, so thank you for even saying that." Then she said, "So you’re the Queen Bee, huh?" and I was like, "Well I am the other Queen Bee."
I had a planner, and I ripped a page out for her autograph, and she wrote "to the other Queen Bee." I sat down and I had dinner with her. It was crazy. It was just one of those things that when I left, I said to myself, "If someone who had just lost the love of their life can still talk to me, and even entertain my presence then I can interview artists for a living, and that was when I made the decision at that point to become a journalist."
And after, Kim had said to me, "Whenever you see me in these streets, we will always have dinner together." So fast forward like 15 years later and I have to interview Kim, and this is after everything—her albums are done; her face is different; aesthetically we thought she was a different person, and after the interview I said, "Kim, I’m not sure if you remember this, but back in 1997. I came up to you at a T.G.I Fridays in Jersey." And she looks at me, and she goes, "and we had dinner together. I’ll never forget that night. We had a great night, I told you whenever you see me, we’ll get dinner"