Lil’ Kim and Her Influence In Fashion and Culture

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Now here's a little story I gots to tell about the first rap b*tch to rock Chanel. Taught you how to get money and pop Cristal.” – Lil Kim

Hip Hop’s artist have long been influential in the world of fashion. The music industry’s undeniable impact on the fashion industry began as early as the 1920's. It is easy to turn a blind eye to the real facts, it took forever for high-end designer brands to embrace the power and influence Hip Hop artist had on fashion and pop culture. There was a time when big named brands were only known and accessible to elitist groups. But when Hip Hop culture started to reign the primary demographic for brands like Gucci, Versace and Louis Vuitton, the industry of fashion underwent a drastic shift.

Stylists like Misa Hylton recently recalled the times where she had to fight tooth and nail for designers to willingly dress her artist and even the fight didn’t always mean reward.

“When I started out as a young female African American fashion stylist, one of my greatest challenges was getting into showrooms. This felt like a closed door that would not budge. The gate keepers did not know my clients and they were not familiar with this new wave of hip hop and R&B music which was at the verge of taking over, with me at the helm of it all. They saw no value in working with us. This felt like a huge obstacle. However, in actuality, like all obstacles - this was a hidden opportunity. An opportunity to dream, create and design. That is exactly what I did. I said to myself FINE I will create my own pieces. At that point I began to design what I wanted, I found a freedom to incorporate all of the important details and nuances that I knew represented the culture but felt intriguing and aspirational at the same time.” – Misa Hylton via Instagram

Perhaps one of Misa’s most memorably, iconic styling clients was none other than Lil Kim. When I was first introduced to Kim it was at an age where I was forbidden to listen to her music. I remember sneaking into my cousin’s room while she was at dance practice and listening to Hardcore. I memorized the words to her songs and recorded the “No Time” video to impersonate Kim’s moves. It was the “Crush On You” video that helped form a whole other level of love in my heart for Kim. I would always imagine what her home closet looked like and the joy I’d get being able to play dress up with her. Kim’s emergence onto the hip hop scene was a pivotal point in music. She introduced a new radical narrative and ultimately contradicted all standards and what it meant to be a woman within the industry.

I wasn’t even 10 years old when she appeared on the rap scene as the protégé of the late Christopher Wallace (Notorious B.I.G). Her controversial lyrics and racy album covers were often criticized. To me, the Brooklyn Born Rapper exuded and exemplified what it meant to be confident, sexy and carefree. Kim’s Sexuality wasn’t something that the mainstream media was always comfortable with, yet it was often a reminder for those of us who struggled with self-acceptance issues to embrace ourselves. While the “sex sells” movement was frowned upon by many, Kim has always had a way of making sexy-sensuality loveable.

Before Rihanna was a bad gal showcasing open displays of sexiness or before Nicki decided to throw on a colored wig, there was Kim, the risk taker who was unapologetically unafraid to express herself through the art of fashion. We often forget to commemorate Kim’s willingness to take risks and make bold statements. Because of her bravery, she successfully bridged the gap between hip hop and high fashion. In today’s generation, consumption is easy, but reverting to history for facts isn’t. Her captivating looks have created unforgettable moments in fashion history that will forever set her apart from many.

There will always be one undeniable fact about Kim, she is and will forever be a style icon. It was very important for me to create space in this issue to acknowledge her influence on the music and fashion industry. It’s an incontestable fact, if there was ever a time where a boundary or line was crossed which resulted in a new trend being set, Kimberly Denise Jones was likely the culprit. With the help of long-time stylist and friend Misa, Kim introduced us all to a new narrative by embracing sex-appeal as her distinguished style. 

From vibrant furs with wigs to match, bikinis, lingerie as outerwear, and bedazzled pasties, she’s been our muse and inspiration long before many of us were able to purchase our own clothing. At a time when it was unheard of, Kim was rubbing shoulders with Marc Jacobs, Karl Lagerfeld and Betsey Johnson, all of whom have openly admitted that they’ve curated collections designed after Kim. It is very easy for us to underestimate the impact she’s had on the industry. She has always been bold, bright and daring. Kim has paved the way for many female rappers today. Many of the trends we see revived and relived from 20-years ago is evidential proof that Kim’s iconic influence still shapes culture today, serving as proof that decades later she still has her foot on the necks of us all.

CultureAmber Janae