In 2021, Lil’ Kim announced she was writing a memoir: The Queen Bee. Unflinching honesty has characterised the best Lil’ Kim songs from the start, but it seemed fans were about to learn a whole lot more about the rapper and hip-hop trailblazer. “I’m excited to finally get to tell my story after all this time,” she said. “Many people have thought they knew the story of Lil’ Kim, but they have no idea.”
Slated for release in 2024, The Queen Bee will doubtless prove as unpredictable, tense, wrought with struggle and creatively brilliant as the woman herself. Lil’ Kim’s astonishing rap skills, her ability to create and inhabit characters, her traumatic life experiences, her skill at combining high fantasy with street rawness, her ferocity in the face of opposition: all of these make Lil’ Kim unique in the history of hip-hop.
Kim undoubtably directly inspired many artists who have followed her, whether they acknowledge her influence or not. One of the best female rappers of all time, she is justly credited for sailing past expected norms of how women discuss their own erotic desires, influencing artists from Cardi B to Peaches, but her sex positivity is but one of her many innovations. Kim experimented with the idea of persona in rap – something that would be taken to extremes by Eminem – as, beginning with her debut album, Hard Core, she found ways to split off the different sides to her personality. She wasn’t Kimberly Jones, the recently homeless young woman with low self-esteem; she was Lil’ Kim, the diamond-carved Venus.
Kim’s ability to mutate vulnerability into hardness in her art has bled back into her life, bringing its own issues, including public beefs and legal troubles. Yet within the drama, Kim always shines, and, as the best Lil’ Kim songs show, she is a true hip-hop pioneer and icon. “I’m Lil’ Kim,” as she said in 1999. “I’m the one who started all this.”
Listen to the best of Lil’ Kim here, and check out our best Lil’ Kim songs, below.