Ladies First: 31 Female Rappers Who Changed Hip-Hop
In celebration of women's history month, we're spotlighting 31 great female MCs over 31 days.
Hip-hop is a tough game in which only the best survive. From the early days of the male-dominated genre, female rappers have proved that women, though few in numbers, are fearless, strong especially when unified and are not only capable of standing as tall as the next man but also of outshining them.
Day 26: Lil' Kim Lil' Kim is undeniably one of the best do it. She's been ahead of the game as a musician and fashion icon, since being introduced to the world by the late Notorious B.I.G in the mid-90s. Currently pregnant with her first child, Lil' Kim is balancing impending motherhood with time in the studio, making sure to continue on the creative path she's been on since day one.
Beginnings "Since I was a little girl, I used to always be the only girl in my group. My family was full of boys. When they needed an extra man to play football, it'd be me filling that space. They didn't treat me like a sister. They would play with me like I was one of the guys. I was always one of the guys."
Style Evolution "I tend to be dubbed as a trendsetter. My style was always different. Before I got into the industry, I was super sexy. I've always been super sexy and feminine. Biggie's partner from the label, Un (Lance 'Un' Rivera) knew the essence of being fly. He said, 'I don't want to change her image.' He wanted to make me more sexy and put me in mink coats. They'd spend their own money. My record company didn't understand a female rapper being sexy. They thought I needed to look like MC Lyte, wear sweat suits and all that."
The Making of "Hard Core" "There were a lot of things going on during the making of the album that it became stressful at times: Some personal [and] some business. But it was mostly fun. I got to see something that I created. And I was young, people don't get it. I came into the industry as a baby. I was 17-years-old. By the time we were signing our contract for Junior M.A.F.I.A., I was barely turning 18. My mom wasn't really feeling me doing the music thing, and I thought I had to bring her in to sign for me but I literally just turned 18 so I didn't need her to. I was able to sign my own contract."
The Making of "The Notorious K.I.M." "No, I absolutely didn't know it leaked. Me and Puffy had our own ideas for the album. At that time, Puff was my manager; He was everything actually. Bad Boy was my label cause Puffy was my manager but you can basically say that Bad Boy and Atlantic [Records] shared me. Atlantic didn't really want to live up to their part of the deal because they didn't understand the direction that me and Puffy wanted to go. Me and Puffy had to get creative with a lot of the music. We gave them the first three tracks we wanted to be singles and they said, 'We don't want to support our half of it with this.' Puffy was very credible so I said, 'Why don't you think he knows what he's doing?' I totally trusted him. But, they kept saying no. We ended up going with 'No Matter What They Say.' That definitely wasn't me and Puff's choice as the first single. But Puffy is a business man, so we compromised. We knew we had singles but Atlantic didn't see our vision. I think our word should have meant more but we wanted their support."
"We met up with Grace Jones in the Bahamas. Puff had this studio home, and he took everyone down there who was working on an album: Mase, me [and] Black Rob. We saw her down there. She knew about me and I couldn't believe it. She was reciting my raps to me. She was on it. Me and Puffy were like, 'Let's put her on something.'"
"Some changes were cause of Atlantic. We didn't have a lot of clearance issues but we did have some. Puffy did what he was supposed to."
"The RuPaul song didn't make it. It was a great song, I loved it. I always represent for my rainbow kids. I think the issues came in at the last minute; It got cleared but it happened last minute. Puff said we should save it for another album. 'Til this day RuPaul and I are best friends. I'm actually supposed to do his show soon. I was supposed to do it before the bundle of joy came so we decided to wait. Hopefully we can do the song up and use it on his show."
"Magic Stick" (Song) "That was one of my favorite records I ever made. That song has a now and then feel. You can play that five or ten years from now. A lot of songs don't have that. I was blessed to have and be a part of those type of songs. Some people I have great chemistry [with]. I have great chemistry with 50 Cent. I also have great chemistry Missy Elliott and Mary J. Blige."
The Making of "The Naked Truth" "That album was a bit more personal because of what I was going through. I was a bit more angry. I felt betrayed by so many people at the time. I wanted to get so much aggression out. My record label decided that's how I should go that route and have it be hard core. But I didn't totally agree."
"There's a song called 'Kitty Box,' which was big among my immediate fans and my gay fans but my record label didn't get it. Me, personally, [thought] that should have been one of my singles. They didn't get how music was going. 'Kitty Box' sounds like a lot of the stuff that's out now. I was ahead of my time. But again, my record label didn't get it."
"We were are all for 'Lighters Up.' 'Lighters Up,' to me, was so nice. I think if they would've pushed more we could have been further. But the record label got comfortable with the name Lil' Kim selling itself. But I get it, they're not going to gamble on things they don't understand."
"There was pressure, but I breezed through this album faster than other albums cause I had to. I didn't have time. Puff says I work better under pressure. I guess it's me taking over when I know I have to. Going into the studio was my relief for everything else that I was going through; I was getting ready to go away."
"I had discrepancies. I had a couple of other choices for the second single. 'Kitty Box' would have been a single when I came home or… It would have been a single. No matter what I was going through, there was no doubt that I was still a sex symbol. 'Kitty Box' was a sexy record."
Incarceration (2005) "I don't regret anything in my life. There's things I wish I would have done differently but I don't regret how I handled the situation. I don't regret it. Being who I am, is who I am. At the end of the day, my character is my character. I'm not going to change that for nobody."
Female Rappers vs. The Industry "I think females make really great music and they need to be acknowledged. We don't get the acknowledgement that men get. Sometimes we don't get the acknowledgment that men get and we sell more records. Sometimes we don't get the same push as male artists."
Advice from Notorious B.I.G. "B.I.G. was sure I was good long-term. He wanted me to be the top bitch in the game. He named me Queen Bitch. In the studio he'd show me things about rapping and music. He knew that I idolized him and he's who I wanted to be. I would watch him in awe. He was so amazing to me to watch: His energy and they way he moved as a big guy. He was very smart; His mom being a teacher probably had something to do with that. B.I.G. is B.I.G."
What's Next? "The baby dictates what days I go to the studio. I did work in the earlier stages of [my pregnancy]. My belly is pretty out there right now, but, I'm still working."
"Some of my fans want me to make one type of music. I love them, and will always give them what they want but I'm just not going to go back to what's not going to work right now. Even the way I used to dress, the Lil' Kim now can't do that. It's about reinventing and evolving."
"One of the best lines from Jay Z, that made me feel him even more is: '… Want my old shit, buy my old albums.' I'm smart enough to know to not fuck with a classic."
"My new music is not going to be 'Hard Core.' It's going to be sexy, of course. But you can't do the same beautiful thing twice, the same exact way. Lightning [can] strike twice but it's not going to be the same design or come at the same place. I just want to be creative."