Rap music was in an interesting place when Lil Kim made her arrival in the late 1990s with her debut album, Hard Core. It’s an album that firmly put Lil Kim on the map and has ensured she’s left an indelible mark on the hip hop world forever. As time passes on, and Kim’s cultural significance only grows, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the one relationship she held dear: her time with Biggie Smalls.
Kim was a refreshing influence on the genre, and she was a pioneer who single-handedly changed people’s perspectives on female rappers. Unlike other female hip hop artists, Kim went as hard on the mic as her male contemporaries, kitted herself out in more diamonds than anybody else around, and was unashamed to express her sexuality. But, before she became a superstar, Kim was simply another rapper looking to break into the big time.
“Salt-N-Pepa had the sexiness I knew I had,” she once said about her musical influences to Talib Kweli on Uproxx. “See, MC Lyte was always rough — she didn’t really care to be nothing else, but like look ‘I’m just a rough chick with a pretty face.’ That’s who she was and wanted to be. But Salt-N-Pepa had everything I kinda was. I was sexy with the rough edge but I knew I was different from both of them completely.”
Despite having many different influences, there’s no getting away from the fact that Kim owes a great deal to her one-time boyfriend The Notorious B.I.G., aka Biggie Smalls. The Brooklyn icon gave Kim her big break with a series of singles supported by Bad Boy Records. However, before she hit the airwaves, Kim proved herself with a series of performances for Big. In fact, they first met when Biggie caught Kim rapping in their home neighbourhood and immediately asked her to join his group.
Soon enough, despite Biggie’s marriage to Faith Evans, the pair started dating, and their lives would be forever entwined. “He became my friend, my lover, my everything. I was his biggest fan,” Kim told Entertainment Weekly in 2016. “He knew I would be the biggest female rapper. I think I inspired him to want to do different things and be different. We were a match made in heaven, like Sonny and Cher or Ashford and Simpson.”
Dropping their respective debut albums on the same day, something Kim referred to as a “double date”, the duo would work as the King and Queen of East Coast hip hop. With the Junior M.A.F.I.A. as their knights of the realm, the pair were regarded as heroes in their native New York, and enemies in Los Angeles as the fabled feud between the two sides of America commenced.
However, all was not well behind the scenes. Kim admitted she felt she had to terminate the couple’s pregnancy, telling The Source magazine in 1999: “I already knew the kind of relationship that Biggie and I had, and I knew that [having a child] was something that couldn’t take place.”
Things were even darker than first expected, however. In a recent interview, Kim revealed: “We did have a very violent relationship. I hate that, for a while, that was all I attracted: violent [men]. It is what it is. He was everything. You know how it is when you’re in the industry: the guys can do whatever they want, but you can’t do s—. You can’t do nothing.”
The nature of Biggie’s death has naturally led to Kim’s struggles for closure. The two artists were so fiery and so fearsome that to have such a flame extinguished so brutally must have ensured a difficult coming to terms thereafter. Kim has managed to achieve a successful solo career without Biggie, but there will always be a question mark over what they could have achieved together had he lived