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Plattencover von Lil Kims "Hard Core"

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Queens of Rap

Lil’ Kim’s „Hard Core“ and The History of Women in Hip Hop.

The story of women in hip hop, in many ways, can be told as the story of two eras. The BKE (Before Kim Era) and the AKE (After Kim Era). It’s the story of almost any woman who has ever risen through the ranks of any industry dominated by and marketed towards men.

By Adia Trischler

In the year 1996, around the time Monika Lewinsky was bending more than the proverbial knee within The White House walls, during the months that Princess Diana and her not so beloved Prince Charles endured a highly publicized divorce, and while former prostitute and porn star turned sex activist, Annie Sprinkle (Annie Sprinkle refers to herself as a former prostitute, and not as a sex worker) was completing her groundbreaking Post Porn Modernist performance anthology, as well as wrapping up multiple guest appearances on HBO’s run away late night docu-series hit, „Real Sex“, rapper Lil’ Kim unleashed her debut album, titled „Hard Core“ upon the world.

Turn of eras

The story of women in Hip Hop, in many ways, can be told as the story of two eras. The BKE (Before Kim Era) and the AKE (After Kim Era). It’s the story of almost any woman who has ever risen through the ranks of any industry dominated by and marketed towards men.

FM4 Queens of Rap: The Women Who Changed Hip Hop History

Hosted by Adia Trischler, and airing on Sunday March 8th, from 17:00 to 19:00. The show will give a more complete overall view of the pioneering women in hip hop from the 1970s and up through today, and does not just focus on Lil’ Kim, as this article does.

Kimberly Jones (Lil’ Kim’s „government name“) has been bullied, vilified, desired, and called a whore. She has made the world love her, laugh with her, dress like her, pity her, and feel scandalized by her. And at the same time she has chosen to become a mother, but never a wife. Now, during our contemporary AKE existence, she alternates between being treated like a child, a saint, and a forgotten ancestor all at once; although she is very much alive and a perpetually hustling fully adult woman.

Perhaps, referring to Lil’ Kim as an unintentional prophet and marker would be more accurate. (One has to wonder if Jesus was aware that his life would eventually be used to measure the timeline of existence with BC and AD)

Conflicting Times

But again this was 1996. A monumental year for pop culture and societal rifts in hindsight. People danced the Macarena at weddings, went to the cinema to watch „Independence Day“ but still listened to Stereolab’s surreal pop dream, „Emperor Tomato Ketchup“ enough to make the album go platinum. Conflicting? Yes. Surprising? No. The universe was 4 years away from whatever cyber horror the Y2K problem might bring, so generally rules of taste and conduct were rapidly being tossed aside. Superstar rapper Tupac Shakur was murdered in what would be an unsolved hail of bullets on a balmy Los Angeles night and MC Hammer was forced to file for bankruptcy (It turns out that, in reality, Hammer was not, “2 Legit 2 Quit”).

Enter Lil’ Kim: a woman standing 1.5 meters tall, all candy colored wigs and Swarovski bikinis with a tongue that could spit fire. And with lyrics so dirty that she probably made the originators of porn rap, the all male group 2 Live Crew, turn cold inside of their overheated Miami cadillacs.

Who knew that women actually enjoyed sex before 1996? Certainly not men in Hip Hop. Up until then a woman’s role in Rap music, and perhaps in every misogynistic fantasy, was that as a sort of background tapestry; all baroque embroidery and faceless naked skin. If a woman was satisfied, it was only because her moans were thought to be rising alongside the pace of her (male) partners orgasm. And if a female rapper rhymed sexually explicit verses, it was only in the form of a dramatized response to whatever the guy before her said on the same song. Outside of that, if a woman in hip hop could not mold into this fantasy, then her persona was that of a desexualized sister/mother figure. These were the spaces allowed.

Female rap pioneers

And in this comparison, history should never seek to diminish the importance of every other female rapper that came before Lil’ Kim. Pioneers such as The Sequence, MC Lyte, Monie Love, Roxanne Shante, etc. Each of these women had a strength and remarkable talent that was forged from a fire that most of us will never feel the heat of. Some of them endured physical violence; almost all of them emotional abuse. And then there was the neverending drama of legal disputes and shady contracts. And after all of that turmoil, many of them faded out of the limelight or were never given the proper respect that they deserved. Without these women, Lil’ Kim would never have dreamed to step up to a mic. But she did, and now no one is the same.

Much like the sex activist Annie Sprinkle, Lil’ Kim helped to bring forth the previously dismissed reality that women actually had sexual fantasies too. Fantasies that had nothing at all to do with what a man wanted. And these desires in no way diminished their talent, their intelligence, and their commercial appeal.

Better „eat my pussy right“

Did Lil’ Kim write her own lyrics? Most likely not. Was she even allowed to, is the question. But it doesn’t matter. She owned and transformed everything she said, and she did so while still risking violence at the hands of men (Rapper The Notorious B.I.G pulled a gun on her at some point during their love affair). She did so while being dragged through the dirts of cultural morality by activists, the media, community elders and politicians everywhere who all basically called for her to be imprisoned or worse. And still, it didn’t matter. With a smile on her lips, and acrylic on her nails and in her stiletto heels, Lil’ Kim let us know on the song “Not Tonight” that she didn’t “...want dick tonight” and that whoever came at her had better “...eat my pussy right”. Who knew that men should even eat pussy? Again, certainly not male rappers. Pleasuring a woman, purely for the sake of her enjoyment, was NOT something that men in Hip Hop did.

In 1996, the music industry also got a brief glimpse of the meteoric talent that is the rapper Missy Elliot. Her soon to be released style was imprinted (via co- production alongside the artist Timbaland) all over singer Ginuwine’s gyrate-able debut album. The case could be made that Missy changed Hip Hop for women. But Kim’s „Hard Core“ was released a year before Elliot’s equally influential first solo album. That aside, the two are incomparable. Missy’s impact of rap goes beyond whatever the context of female identity is thought to be. Perhaps, more accurately and broadly, she helped Hip Hop transition into the notion of „gender fluidity“. Missy’s type of individualism was and continues to be extremely unique and singular. No one dared to do what Missy did. No one can.

She came from an outer space called Virginia Beach which was peppered with the fragmented sea-shells of Timbaland’s futuristic bass. . She represented no one but herself. Not a gender identity, not sexuality. She’s never openly dated anyone. No one imitated her.

Imitation everywhere

But such was not the case with Lil’ Kim. Everyone imitated her. And after stealing from her, they left her for tabloid trash when they thought they had taken what they could. It should come as no surprise then, that to this day, three of the top selling female rappers of all time are Lil’ Kim, Missy Elliot, and Nicki Minaj (herself a cut out of Kim’s image and style).

Without Lil’ Kim there could be no Cardi B, no Instagram filters, and heaven forbid, no FASHIONOVA. Without Kim, we never would have gotten Kelis’ verse on the remix of „The Whisper Song“.

Lil’ Kim helped women to take back ownership of their appearance without shame. She let all women know that how we dress has nothing to do with the respect that we deserve. Our clothing is never an invitation for violence; rather it is an expression of individualism which should be afforded to everyone. You may or may not agree with her plastic surgery or her high class stripper style. But Kim doesn’t need everyone to like or agree with her. Her album „Hard Core“ entered the i-Tunes charts again in 2018 (peaking at number 1), despite having been released 22 years earlier. She is inarguably, one of the best rappers that Hip Hop has ever known, and without Lil’ Kim a lot of girls would never have grown up realizing that both sex and Hip Hop are not only only a man’s world.

FM4 Queens of Rap: The Women Who Changed Hip Hop History

Hosted by Adia Trischler, and airing on Sunday March 8th, from 17:00 to 19:00. The show will give a more complete overall view of the pioneering women in hip hop from the 1970s and up through today, and does not just focus on Lil’ Kim, as this article does.

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