Nicki Minaj may be topping the charts right now and Beyoncé has a Bey Hive all of her own, but neither can hold a candle (or a lighter) to the original Queen Bee, Lil’ Kim. Those who know the Brooklyn rhymer best as Biggie’s squeeze or “that rapper” from “Lady Marmalade” are missing out on an entire legacy of work that positioned Lil’ Kim as the hottest female rapper in the game.
While others have since gone on to emulate the Queen Bee’s style, few can match Lil’ Kim’s fierce rhymes or her honest stance on female sexuality. To celebrate her return on comeback anthem “Took Us A Break,” we here at Highsnobiety have cherry-picked 10 tracks to remind readers that Lil’ Kim will always be the original Queen Bee, so grab your magic stick and get ready to say “Whoa” as we go Hard Core into Lil’ Kim’s best songs.
Long before Nicki Minaj rapped about being a Barbie, Lil’ Kim played an edible sex doll in the promo for “How Many Licks,” proving to the haters that she could remain raunchy as fuck even while enjoying commercial success. As far as sexual anthems for women go, “How Many Licks” is certainly one of the most provocative out there, encouraging listeners to find a man with a hurricane tongue. Unfortunately, neither Lil’ Kim nor Sisqó ever did give us a straight answer to that all-important question, but what we did get was an unforgettable single from the ‘Knight Rider’ that pushed discussion of oral sex headfirst into the mainstream.
Lil’ Kim’s debut album changed the game in more ways than one, heralding the official arrival of the Queen Bee while influencing every female rap album that’s been recorded since. Hard Core is full of deep cuts that should have been released as singles, but none hit harder than “Queen Bitch,” a rousing battle cry that showcases how nimble Lil’ Kim’s delivery really is. The Notorious B.I.G. drops a few bars too, but neither he nor the Roberta Flack sample outshine the Queen of Rap spitting at her best.
This deep cut lifted from The Notorious K.I.M. is one of the rap star’s most sexually explicit tracks that she’s ever recorded, and that’s saying something. All Lil’ Kim wants to do here is enjoy some oral pleasure, but as she reveals in the chorus, she instead has to contend with toxic male aggression. Of course, Lil’ Kim refuses to back down. Instead, she turns the tables on this guy by flipping traditional gender roles, boasting her desires and reminding men everywhere that no one fucks with Kim… unless she wants them to.
“No Matter What They Say” was derided by haters for being too commercial upon release, and even Lil’ Kim herself originally opposed the label when they decided to release it as The Notorious K.I.M.‘s first single. However, everything from the star-studded video and brazen label-dropping to that dance break ensure that “No Matter What They Say” remains one of the Queen’s definitive songs. While her debut album Hard Core heralded the arrival of a female rap pioneer, “No Matter What They Say” went on to establish Lil’ Kim as a genuine star, one who gets paid for laying in the shade to take pictures while drinking a glass of lemonade.
Originally written for 50 Cent’s album Get Rich or Die Tryin’, “Magic Stick” ended up appearing on Lil’ Kim’s La Bella Mafia instead, eventually serving as the album’s second single. Scheduling problems prevented a promo from being shot, but the duet became a huge hit regardless. Massive radio airplay helped the song become Lil’ Kim’s highest charting single behind “Lady Marmalade,” and a lot of that success is down to the sexual chemistry that both rappers share on the track, proudly boasting about their magic stick’s clits.
Kanye West samples the Pat Benatar song “Heartbreaker” to glorious effect here in one of his earliest production credits. Lil’ Kim immediately sets the mood with a reference to Left Eye’s vengeful arson charges and the beat hits just as hard as the Queen spits. Detractors who argue that the Brooklyn star lacks depth need look no further than this ferocious revenge cut. Sure, Lil’ Kim may knowingly play around with her trashy image at times, but here she is at her most raw.
To this day, The Naked Truth remains the only female rap album to earn the coveted ‘five mic’ review from hip-hop bible The Source. It’s no wonder then that the lead single from Lil’ Kim’s fourth album is also one of her best, paying respect to her old stomping grounds of Brooklyn with an anthem that resonated worldwide. Lauryn Hill hoped to feature on the song at one point, but this ultimately fell through, leaving the “hottest bitch on the planet” to ride the track solo.
Produced by Timbaland, “The Jump Off” featured rap star Mr. Cheeks and sampled an early hit from his group Lost Boyz for the hook. The club-ready single served as the literal jump-off for La Belle Mafia and featured an unforgettable line about Sprite cans disappearing in Lil’ Kim’s mouth. Impressed? The Queen took things a step further for the remix, hinting that she could do even more “with a two-liter.” Nicki Minaj was clearly impressed too, as she covered the song before her own career took off back in 2007.
“No Time” may have technically introduced the world to Lil Kim as a solo artist, but the opening track of Hard Core is arguably the most, well, hardcore entrance made yet by a hip-hop star. In the first line alone, Lil’ Kim declares that she “used to be scared of the dick,” before going on to explain how she now handles it “like a real bitch.” Whatever else you may think of the Queen Bee, it’s impossible to deny that she always speaks her mind, and never has that been made more clear than in the opening bars of “Big Momma Thang.”
Aside from a few mixtapes, it’s been 12 years since Lil’ Kim last dropped a full-length album, although it’s clear from her latest track that the Queen Bee still hasn’t dropped a beat. “Took Us a Break” is hard as nails, showcasing Lil’ Kim’s talents over a skittering backdrop that takes aim at her imitators with both menace and restraint. Each word mesmerizes thanks to a newfound hunger in the star’s delivery that takes us back to Lil’ Kim’s Hard Core days.
No shade to Bey though, check out our ranking of the Top 25 Beyoncé Songs.