November 12, 2021

Lil’ Kim’s “Hard Core” – 25 Years Later.

Lil’ Kim’s “Hard Core” – 25 Years Later.

Today – Lil’ Kim’s Hardcore turns 25!

Many of the biggest names in hip-hop are women like Doja Cat, Nicki Minaj, Megan Thee Stallion, and Cardi B – but these superstars stand on the backs of rap legends. Few artists are more prolific than Lil’ Kim, whose legacy and accomplishments were unmatched in the 90’s. Lil’ Kim’s debut album Hard Core changed the trajectory of hip-hop and broke ground for women MC’s looking to express themselves unabashedly.


A Place In Time

In 2021 – songs are mostly made through emails sent by producers across the globe. This was not the reality of production for Lil’ Kim while she made Hard Core in New York in 1996. Kim spent her days surrounded by hip-hop royalty during the rap renaissance. Hard Core was born out of the same recording booths that Biggie, Puff, and Jermaine Dupri were working in – and all three of those greats helped produce this album.

Lil’ Kim obviously did the heavy lifting in rapping in a way that few artists ever had, but it’s undeniable that Hard Core was born out of one of the most important times and places in modern music history. 

Hard Core Liberation

The name of this album is a warning to the listener. The opening track to Hard Core ends in a one minute long sex scene. Sounds of moaning and visceral sex sounds play through the headphones in almost pornographic detail in the provocatively named Intro in A-Minor. 

After the raunchy intro, the first song is Big Momma Thang – which feels much less visceral than the literal sex noises on the intro. However, in 1996 – mainstream audiences were not accustomed to a woman rapping about her sexual needs. But 25 years later, it’s incredibly evident that Lil’ Kim and this album in particular paved the way for tracks like WAP to exist in the future. Coincidentally, Kim’s message and music aligns perfectly with the emergence of Third-Wave Feminism which largely centers around sexual liberation. 

Whether you like it or not, Lil’ Kim’s explicit lyrics were a necessary step for the sexual liberation of women. Men across the globe were confronted with the truths of a sexually independent woman and forced to react. Women who were perhaps less sexually expressive now had a symbol in pop culture to look to for sexual empowerment in a male-dominated culture. Lil’ Kim opened people’s imaginations and helped assist in the overall fight for equality with some of the filthiest language you’ll ever hear. 

It’d be foolish to reduce Lil’ Kim’s appeal to simply her raunchy lyrics, anyone can deliver graphically sexual lyrics – but it takes a true artist to make it sound good. Kim’s ability to rhyme, change flows, and paint a picture is what makes her distinct in the music industry. 

The Album 

Hard Core has achieved a longevity that most albums never see. Although the album never reached #1 on the Billboard charts or had a song reach #1 – Hard Core went double platinum selling more than 5 million copies worldwide through the years. In 2018 – Hard Core reached the Top 10 Hip Hop/Rap Albums chart on iTunes, appearing at #1 for a brief period of time. 

Some recognizable voices and features on this album include Jay-Z, Biggie, Puff Daddy, Lil Cease, and Jermaine Dupri. An absolute murderer’s row of talent. 

Through time – the most popular song off Hard Core is likely “Crush On You.” You can still hear this song on any hip-hop station in America or at any party that’s poppin. The combination of Biggie, Lil’ Cease, and Lil’ Kim makes for an instant classic. 

“Crush On You” has one of the most infectious ad libs in hip-hop history. Long before 2 Chainz shouted “truu” on the track – someone was singing “true” behind Biggie’s vocals on this song. The Crush On You Remix is a far superior track – because unlike the album version, it features Lil’ Kim. Kim was on a musical hiatus for personal reasons during the original recording of the song causing her to be left off of a track on her own album. 

In other remix madness – the Not Tonight Remix is a completely different song from the album version of Not Tonight. On the remix – Lil’ Kim is joined by a damned near Mount Rushmore of early-90’s rappers – Da Brat, Missy Elliot, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and Angie Martinez. This remix features a recreation of Kool & the Gang’s Ladies Night – which is not at all present on the original Not Tonight with Jermaine Dupri. Both are tremendous songs. But where the original “Not Tonight” says “I don’t want dick tonight,” the remix says “It’s Ladies Night.” For likely that reason – the remix was the most commercially successful song released from Hard Core. Lil’ Kim helped build the foundation for the modern state of hip-hop and Hard Core was not only her magnum opus, but also her introduction to the majority of the world. 25 years later, we salute Lil’ Kim and the persistent success of Hard Core.