The tides changed when Lil’ Kim came bursting through the misogynistic doors of hip-hop with her debut album Hardcore in 1996. Of course, we had been privy to her talented hip-hop predecessors of the female persuasion, such as Queen Latifah, Roxanne Shante and more, but this time around, it was different. She was different. Here, we had this young MC rocking fashion fresh off the runway while spitting ferocious rhymes that can only be described as hardcore.

Her lyricism was a breath of fresh air, marked by her unapologetic nature in unabashedly discussing her sexuality. Lil’ Kim was likely just being herself, but that authenticity launched a blueprint for women rappers of today’s generation to be just as poised to take over the rap game. Legends aren’t just born; they’re created through a relentless work ethic and genre-defying talent that define generations while retaining originality. The legend in question is Kimberly Denise Jones, or better yet, the Notorious K.I.M.