In the Hip Hop industry there are a number of talented female rappers, but it hasn’t always been that way. In the past, being female often meant that you couldn’t even get your foot through the door.

While it’s hardly easy now, it was definitely considered unattainable when some of the most sucessful female 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 my 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 with 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 survived by staying at friend’s 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, Hardcore. The album turned her into a sex symbol thanks to the cover art 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, 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 desired 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 female Hip Hop artists before her had played a part in fashion, it was refreshing for an artist to embrace her femininity so openly. In the past, sweet smiles were replaced 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, she boasts, “The only female in my crew, then I kicks you,” proving she cherishes her role as queen 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 powerful for them.

Published by WAH

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