In 1996, the diminutive Kimberly Denise Jones, better known as Lil' Kim or the Queen Bee, came blasting out from under the wing of her mentor and hip-hop heavyweight Notorious B.I.G., proving that it's not just men who can brag about the finer things in life.
Before branching off as a solo MC, Kim's early beginnings came at the age of 19, after being introduced and promoted through the Brooklyn-based group Junior M.A.F.I.A., which included The Notorious B.I.G., Lil' Cease, Trife and Larceny, Nino Brown, Chico Del Vec, Kleptomaniac, Capone, and Bugsy. The rap collective's first and only album Conspiracy, was released in August of 1995, and debuted at number 8 on the US Billboard 200, selling 69,000 copies in its first week.
After a year, Kim released her bracing, ribald and funky debut album Hardcore , which took a femme fatale and placed her in the heart of the neo-gangster movement. Oozing slick sexuality and punchy, reckless man-eating musings, Hard Core was an X-rated experience that not only was a pivotal contribution to the state of hip-hop, but it permitted a lasting impression of grit and sense of erotica for female rappers to echo in suit. Five years later, she became the first female rapper ever to have a U.S. No. 1, teaming up with Christina Aguilera, Pink and Mya on a version of "Lady Marmalade."
However, aside from her salacious rhymes, Kim pioneered a side of edgy boldness that vibrated in her relentless sense of style and grace. From the imagery on the album inserts to her chameleon characters of multi-colored wigs and furs, hip-hop had its sexy back. She struck a balance between self-empowerment and unrelenting sexuality that removed women from simply accessories in a male-driven industry.
Lil' Kim is undeniably one of the best to ever do it. She's been ahead of the game as a musician and fashion icon since her early days associating with Bad Boy, and has re-mastered the definition of what a female rapper could be.
One B.I.G. Moment: Lil' Kim made a splash at the 1999 MTV VMA's ceremony with an electric purple wig that matched her much-chattered about nearly-there-jumpsuit that dipped below her left breast, allowing it to roam free with only a pastie encumbering it and when Diana Ross came out to present Best Hip-Hop Video with Kim and Mary J. Blige, she skipped the customary introduction hug and went straight for her co-presenter's cleavage, giving it a much-talked about jiggle that created a buzz for years on end.