When we think about the influence of Hip Hop and the people who have benefited from the 50-year-old music genre, we envision the many artists who participated in creating that impact. However, one person, in particular, who hails from the streets of Brooklyn, is still talked about until this day. The Hip Hop world did not know what they were up against when Lil’ Kim, born Kimberly Denise Jones, stepped onto the scene. She was the only woman in the Junior M.A.F.I.A. group, alongside mentor and founder The Notorious B.I.G., which was a significant role to fill. With lines like, “​​Only female in my crew and I kick s**t like a n**ga do / Pull the trigger too,” Lil’ Kim upended female rap and is arguably one of the best to ever do it.

Not only has Lil’ Kim broken barriers in Hip Hop; how she carries herself, her fashion statements and advocacy for sexual positivity have been incorporated into today’s female rap. It is without a doubt that Lil’ Kim paved the way for many women to have a space in the male-dominated industry. She has proven to all the skeptics that women lyricists are here to stay, and they can be sexy and confident while doing it.

Here are 11 reasons Lil’ Kim became both a living legend and the blueprint for female emcees.

1. Her lyrics

Whether you know the lyrics to the songs “Queen B**ch,” “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix)” or “The Jump Off,” each time Lil’ Kim hopped on the mic, she knew how to deliver. In the rap world, artists must prove they can stand alone no matter what other lyricists throw at them. When female emcees exude more confidence in their rap flow, their listeners follow suit. Lil’ Kim understood the assignment every time.

When Lil’ Kim started in the Hip Hop industry, her lyrics were raw and gritty. Lil’ Kim knew that to make a name for herself, she should use the opportunity to do something different that could change the trajectory of rap forever. She challenged the status quo and talked about sex, women empowerment and self-confidence. Her lyrics made it known that rap is not just a man’s game and that she could also succeed.

Many lyricists after her adopted this mindset. You see rappers like Megan Thee Stallion, City Girls, and Kash Doll who own their sexuality and advocate for women’s empowerment in their lyrics instead of depending on men to get them to the top.

2. Her fashion

In the ’90s, when female rappers started to take their place in Hip Hop, you would see artists like Queen Latifah and Da Brat dressed in oversized clothes. However, Lil’ Kim chose a more feminine, bold fashion identity. This made Kim the ultimate trendsetter in Hip Hop.

By popularizing designer brands through her Chanel double “C” logo wigs and monogram looks, Lil’ Kim brought something new to the world. Instead of trying to fit in with the guys, she went in the opposite direction to stand out. Working with fashion stylists like Misa Hylton, Nygel Simons and Marc Jacobs, Lil’ Kim’s looks have been nothing but iconic. Artists like Beyoncé, GloRilla, Teyana Taylor, Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus and more have replicated these fashion statements. From the one-sleeve purple pastie jumpsuit at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards to stylish fur coats, Lil’ Kim inspired the female rappers after her to take fashion risks. Without a doubt, she is a fashion icon and a staple in Hip Hop.

3. The Hard Core album photos

In 1996, Lil’ Kim released her debut studio album, Hard Core. The LP had 15 songs with featured artists such as JAY-Z, Diddy and Lil’ Cease. The visuals were jaw-dropping and started her reputation of being a female artist who owned her sexuality. The status quo was for women to be conservative about their bodies, creating a double standard between the ladies and men. Lil’ Kim decided to rebel against what society expected of her. With photos like the image of the music legend straddling a bear skin rug in a leopard bikini, Lil’ Kim made a statement that women are free to express themselves however they see fit.

This decision shifted the view of what a female rapper should be limited to and challenged the image of women lyricists in mainstream media. Over decades, women’s empowerment has changed from being humble to unapologetic about how they break the glass ceiling. Whether it made some people uncomfortable, Lil’ Kim affirmed that she would not play it small with her rap persona. She was going to make big moves.

With the Hard Core album, she had the highest debut in the United States for a female rapper at the time and pushed the boundaries of what was expected of women in the industry. It’s safe to say she was a pioneer in the liberation of female expression in Hip Hop.

4. Three consecutive platinum albums

It can go either way when a new artist drops their first album. They either sell millions of records or they don’t sell enough to be recognized. It is truly regarded as a success when an artist can see the impact of their lyrics and how their songs resonate with a global audience. Early in her career, Lil’ Kim saw just how much influence she had in Hip Hop.

After Hard Core dropped, it went double platinum. In 2000, she put out her second album, The Notorious K.I.M., which went platinum. After Lil’ Kim’s third album, La Bella Mafia, also achieved that same recognition, she became the first female rapper to have three consecutive platinum LPs. The Hip Hop mogul created her own lane, consistently sold millions of albums and proved to naysayers that she deserved a spot in the industry.

Times have changed, but the accomplishment of three consecutive platinum albums continues to be no easy feat to conquer. Lil’ Kim showed the world how dedicated she was to her artistry.

5. TV and movie appearances

Outside of the music scene, Lil’ Kim has appeared on multiple TV shows and movies throughout the years. You can see her in “Moesha,” She’s All That, You Got Served and more. As a female rapper, it is essential to show people that your influence in music can expand into different arenas. With Lil’ Kim able to inspire and encourage people globally through Hip Hop, her relevance brought her to the film and TV industries, where she reached bigger audiences in a different light.

Female rappers are not monoliths; extending themselves to different outlets allows them to showcase their talents and skills. Today, more are stepping into various roles in the entertainment industry, which is a beautiful sight to see.

6. Lady Marmalade

In 2001, the song “Lady Marmalade” was released for the movie Moulin Rouge. The track included Christina Aguilera, P!nk, Mýa, and the one and only Lil’ Kim. Not long after, it became one of the biggest hits in music. “Lady Marmalade” made Lil’ Kim the second female rapper in history with a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

As an artist, diversifying your portfolio by working with other well-known musicians is always a smart move. Collaborations lead to more exposure across multiple music charts and audiences. Millions of people recognized this empowering song and video, and it represented the message that Lil’ Kim has been spreading since she started in Hip Hop: Women are powerful, confident, sexy and can change the world.

7. Viral dance moves

In the world of TikTok and social media, dance challenges are an important marketing strategy to promote brand projects and generally get your name out there. Dance moves can either be original or taken from other celebrities’ choreography. In 1999, the group Mobb Deep released a song called “Quiet Storm,” which featured the Queen Bee of rap herself. In the video, you see Lil’ Kim dance with her shoulders in an unforgettable way. Since that clip, people have incorporated her dance moves in countless videos that feature Lil’ Kim songs, or they even add it to their choreography.

Lil’ Kim unintentionally starting a dance craze is another reason her music and influence are relevant in modern-day culture.

8. The MAC Cosmetics VIVA GLAM campaign

We all know MAC Cosmetics and its contribution to the beauty market. In 2000, Lil’ Kim and Mary J. Blige partnered with the beauty brand to help raise funds for individuals with HIV/AIDS. The two celebrities helped raise $4 million within one year and $20 million over six years. This record-breaking campaign was the most successful for the brand. Taking into consideration the beauty standards within the United States that have historically praised lighter skin tones and Eurocentric features, the decision to bring in two Black Hip Hop and R&B celebrities, known for going against the grain, is evidence that the right people will see your value.

Lil’ Kim’s involvement in this campaign has helped other female artists expand into the beauty space, too. Breaking into this market allowed the women to make an impact on an industry that has historically rejected Black people. Not only did Lil’ Kim change how the world views Black women; she also helped show the importance of philanthropy and giving back.

9. Her resilience and advocacy for women’s empowerment

Lil’ Kim has shown resilience through scrutiny and judgment time after time. Being a Black woman in the United States already comes with its struggles, and being in the Hip Hop industry has its obstacles as well. Black women are overlooked for their skill in lyricism and storytelling. Black women usually get ridiculed for their looks and taken advantage of instead of being treated like respected artists.

While things have changed, and women are showing up and showing out as respected lyrical geniuses, Lil’ Kim led by example. She conquered her battles professionally and personally in the rap game and continues to push through for women everywhere. She consistently speaks on the importance of women being powerful, persevering and not taking “No” for an answer.

10. Her unapologetic confidence

While Lil’ Kim may be sweet, the Queen Bee knows how to sting and be unapologetic. Lil’ Kim is a trailblazer and promotes authenticity in her music and identity. Life can be discouraging sometimes, so when young women and girls listen to her lyrics, they are given a boost of reassurance that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to by being confident in who they are.

While the world may want you to be quiet, Lil’ Kim promoted being loud and shaking the table to make an imprint in life while you still can. Those who’ve made a massive difference in the world made history because they believed in themselves regardless of other people’s opinions.

11. Her captivating stage presence

Artists have to know how to engage their fan base in the music industry. Whether it’s on stage or in a music video, Lil’ Kim knows how to perform. She has always connected with her friends, entertainingly delivered her lyrics and provided a genuine experience for Hip Hop fans. Lil’ Kim uses the power of her platform to captivate and enthrall the audience.

Female artists have learned how to put on their best show from icons like Lil’ Kim. It is not enough for female rappers to have fantastic bars; they have to know how to holistically deliver their music and give people an experience that keeps them wanting more and coming back.