Bad Boy’s ’90s run was significant because the biggest hitmakers set templates. At the center was Biggie’s blend of fashion, mainstream pop, and Brooklyn-bred gruffness. Acts like Total and Mary J. Blige proved on a commercial level that R&B and hip-hop weren’t two separate lanes, but one in the same. Founder Puff Daddy is still the exemplar of black wealth. And of course, you can’t have a serious talk about Bad Boy’s legacy without mentioning the Queen Bee herself, Lil’ Kim.
Born in Bed-Stuy, Lil’ Kim began catching eyes in 1995 as the standout member of Biggie’s Junior M.A.F.I.A. crew. She was just turning 20 when she recorded her classic verses for “Get Money” and “Player’s Anthem.” Then came “No Time,” “Crush on You,” "Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix),” and plenty of others. Though the hits certainly helped, a big part of Lil’ Kim’s legacy is her raw language. Her verses coursed with a degree of sexual autonomy that was rarely seen from women in mainstream hip-hop, and she used this language as a Hot 100 star for a decade. Her delivery—slick-talking taunts that bend the vowel and punch the consonants—was also unapologetically New York and distinct. Her prime opened a lane for female artists—most obviously Nicki Minaj and Cardi B—to thrive in.
Unfortunately, Lil’ Kim’s momentum as a star was halted when she was convicted of conspiracy and perjury in relation to a 2001 shooting outside of Hot 97. The Naked Truth, released in 2005 during her one-year prison term, is her most recent album, and her following mixtapes have landed with general apathy. Still, her best songs and her classic 1996 debut Hard Core ensure her status as one of the culture’s legends. In honor of her birthday, here are the best Lil’ Kim songs. Warning: This list is NSFW.