The Best Lil' Kim Songs

Lil’ Kim’s verses coursed with a degree of sexual autonomy that was rarely seen in mainstream hip-hop, and she spoke this language as a Hot 100 star for a decade. Her success paved a lane for female artists—most obviously Nicki Minaj and Cardi B—to thrive in. In honor of her birthday, here are the best Lil’ Kim songs.

This is a photo of Lil Kim performing with her middle finger up.

Image via Getty/Taylor Hill

This is a photo of Lil Kim performing with her middle finger up.

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.

10. “Lighters Up” (2005)

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Album: The Naked Truth

Producer: Scott Storch

Lil’ Kim’s final legit hit was a spiritual successor to “The Jump Off.” It was grittier—this is a city where “police stay on us like tattoos”—but it carried the same familial vibe (the video was similarly cameo-heavy). Lil’ Kim’s patois flow may have thrown some listeners off, but NYC natives knew this was a nod to Brooklyn’s heavy Caribbean community. Their New York was also hers.

9. “It’s All About the Benjamins” Puffy Daddy f/ The Notorious B.I.G, Lil’ Kim, The LOX (1997)

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Album: No Way Out

Producer: Puff Daddy, Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie

In this verse, Lil’ Kim’s sounds down right ecstatic about how much money she’s spending. She’s dressed in all black and throwing hexes with a Ruger in hand, pissed because you’re player hating from the sidelines. She was a “Goodfella kinda lady,” and did not take any shit. Sadly, the Bad Boy union would dissolve a few short years after this classic; Lil’ Kim would cut ties with the label and The LOX’s Jadakiss would threaten to drop a refrigerator from a roof on Diddy.

8. "Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix)" f/ Missy Elliott, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Queen Latifah, Angie Martinez (1997)

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Album: Hard Core

Producer: Rashad Smith, Armabdo Colon

“Not Tonight” was a highlight from Hard Core that really only became a classic thanks to its 1997 remix, a cut off the soundtrack to a Martin Lawrence comedy. The remix is an ode to both sisterhood and the multiplicities within it. It envisions a reality where braggadocious Lil’ Kim and laidback Angie Martinez can eat at the same table. But the arguable peak of this posse cut is Missy Elliott, who’s so annoyed at just doing hook duty that she seemingly pulls an irreverent verse out of nowhere. The next decade would be hers, but in 1997, it was still Lil’ Kim’s party.

7. “The Jump Off” f/ Mr. Cheeks (2003)

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Album: La Bella Mafia

Producer: Timbaland

By the early aughties, Lil’ Kim’s singles traded in Bad Boy’s soulfulness for punchier riffs and brass. The change-up paid off with La Bella Mafia’s “The Jump Off,” produced by a Timbaland who was still in his prime. While Lil’ Kim’s rawness is again at center stage—it’s here where she delivers the infamous don’t-try-this-at-home lyric, “How I make a Sprite can disappear in my mouth”—”The Jump Off” sticks out because it feels like a family affair. Lost Boyz’s Mr. Cheeks switched from ‘90s lyricist to reliable hypeman; Funkmaster Flex and Swizz Beatz cameo in the video; and Lil’ Kim cribs “Big Poppa”’s flow to include Biggie in spirit. The Bronx had “Lean Back”; Brooklyn had “The Jump Off.”

6. “Magic Stick” f/ 50 Cent (2003)

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Album: La Bella Mafia

Producer: Sha Money XL, Phantom Of The Beat

Lil’ Kim was still maintaining a tight hold on her mainstream relevance in 2003, while fellow New Yorker 50 Cent was veering further into pop. Their interests aligned (they were both extremely gifted at talking about how good they were at sex) and thus came the boastful “Magic Stick.” The track came through on its billing’s promise, but its commercial success was still a surprise. The La Bella Mafia single didn’t have a music video to support it, yet it still peaked at No. 2, becoming Lil’ Kim’s second biggest single, behind 2001’s star-studded “Lady Marmalade.” 50 Cent would repurpose his flow here for 2005’s “Candy Shop,” which became his third No. 1.

5. “Get Money” The Notorious B.I.G f/ Lil Kim (1995)

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Album: Conspiracy

Producer: EZ Elpee

“Get Money” now stands as another Lil’ Kim-featuring club essential, but its significance becomes clearer when you consider how early in her career this dropped. This was only her third single, yet she had enough charisma to convincingly stand toe-to-toe with B.I.G. In fact, “Get Money” suggests she’s a better player than Big Poppa; while Biggie’s reeling over a romantic interest’s set-up, Lil’ Kim is Billboard bound, musing on “Stiff dicks [that] feel sweet in this little petite,” and waving off a man trying to buy her Armani suits. Yep, this was a star.

4. “Quiet Storm (Remix)” Mobb Deep f/ Lil Kim (1999)

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Album: Murda Muzik

Producer: Havoc, Jonathan Williams

Prodigy and Havoc were already two of rap’s greatest anti-heroes by the time 1999 hit, but Lil’ Kim’s appearance still gave them a needed boost. She distilled her charm as a performer in what turned out to be one of her greatest guest appearances: there’s that ear for a sticky hook, and that confident, yet slightly peeved presence (“Bitches suck cock just to get to the top”). It’s no surprise that Mobb Deep’s grit and Lil’ Kim’s flourish meshed for what’s still a club banger.

3. “Crush on You” f/ Lil Cease (1996)

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Album: Hard Core

Producer: Andraeo "Fanatic" Heard

A dynamic that colors Lil’ Kim’s debut, Hard Core, is the playful wielding of her sexuality. “Crush on You,” the album’s second single, falls in line with the former. While the song strikes as a clear hit by itself, and Lil’ Kim gets off her most memorable one-liners (“Imma throw shade if I can't get paid”), there’s also a lot of backstory surrounding the single. For one, there’s the video, in which she switches up wigs and gets a multitude of looks off. Lil’ Kim couldn’t finish “Crush on You” due to her pregnancy at the time, so Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s utility player Lil’ Cease filled in some verses (which were written by Cam’ron). The album version of “Crush on You” only has Lil’ Cease, while the single of course brings in Lil’ Kim. You can guess which one is superior.

2. “No Time” f/ Puff Daddy (1996)

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Album: Hard Core

Producer: Puff Daddy, Stevie J

Lil’ Kim immediately proved she was the Junior M.A.F.I.A. clique’s breakout star on “Player’s Anthem” and “Get Money,” so no one was shocked when her lead single, “No Time,” became a hit. Her more famous ribald lyrics would come on later Hard Core cuts (though “No licky licky, fuck the dicky dicky” is a line here), but on “No Time,” she proved to be an able ambassador for Diddy’s luxury-first ethos. Zsa Zsa Gabor, Prada, and Mercedes-Benz were names Lil’ Kim convincingly reappropriated under the idea of black wealth. As with many Bad Boy hits, “No Time” benefits from Puff Daddy’s ear; the production’s vaudevillian keys and plushness coalesce to deliver Lil’ Kim as rap’s most charismatic villainess.

1. “Queen Bitch” f/ The Notorious B.I.G (1996)

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Album: Hard Core

Producer: Jacob York, The Notorious B.I.G, Lance "Un" Rivera, Carlos "6 July" Broady, Nashiem Myrick

Though DJ Premier isn’t on the boards, “Queen Bitch” is very much the spiritual successor to Biggie’s “Unbelievable,” as Lil’ Kim’s brisk this is who I am record. Though the melange of candied keys and schoolyard clacks is inviting, the track’s essentialness is in Lil’ Kim’s unfiltered performance. “Got buffoons eating my pussy while I watch cartoons” sticks out not only because of its absurd lucidity, but also because it’s the clearest depiction of the sense of liberation that made her a star. The rest of the performance also sticks because of how Lil’ Kim sells every line: You can picture her sneering at Moschino wearers.

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