Much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ segments, readers of That Grape Juice know what avid music lovers we are – especially of hits past. So in a quest to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday we introduced a new retrospective segment – ‘TGJ Replay’.
Unlike its ‘Rewind’ and ‘Vault’ predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase albums (and eras) from a library of pop music hits. Today, as fans gear up for the release of her Bangladesh driven new album, TGJ shines a new light on Lil Kim‘s debut album ‘Hardcore‘.
Under the pupilage of mentor Biggie Smalls, 1996 saw Miss Kimberly Denise Jones release her debut album ‘Hardcore’ under the stage name Lil Kim-one year after scoring the Top 20 smash ‘Player’s Anthem’ alongside Rap collective Junior M.A.F.I.A.
Sexually charged and packing a lyrical billed as ‘hilarious filth’ by Rolling Stones Magazine, the project secured the Rapper the highest first week sales to be generated by a Female MC at the time, hitting the Billboard 200 at #11 with sales of 78,000.
Serving a sweet mix of femininity, agression and a glamour, the LP’s scorching cuts and well executed video catapulted the the pint sized MC to a notoriety never afforded to her long time rival Foxy Brown, securing her 3 Rap #1 singles from the album.
Three #1s, which also nabbed her three Top Twenty spots on the Billboard Hot 100 within the space of one a year. An achievement that oft goes forgotten when listing her achievements, the album’s glory went on to enjoyed just as much glory on the charts as did outside of it- when ‘Crush On You’ was nabbed a ‘Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group’ at the 40th annual Grammy Awards.
What truly made ‘Hardcore’ the classic it is though, was the lyrical structure, production and label push that saw the Rapper enjoy Top Ten hits with Hip Hop singles.
Of course, while the genre was very much in fashion at the time thanks to heights attained by Jay Z’s ‘Reasonable Doubt’ and Biggie Smalls’ ‘Ready To Die’, it was Kim’s conviction as a lyricist and broad appeal as an entertainer which saw her stand side by side as one of the many forces to lead Hip Hop even further into ‘mainstream culture’.
All this, while facing a number of personal battles- one of which included Smalls’ marriage to Bad Boy’s Faith Evans and claims that the lyrics she had claimed to have penned on the album were in fact written by Smalls, with whom she was involved with during its conception.
Irrelevant considering it was Kim’s delivery that turned her cuts into classics, the album’s critical approval serves as the perfect ‘F U’ to many who question her status as Rap’s leading trendsetter when its modest sales are thrown into the mix. Indeed, despite it’s impressive peak upon debuting, the last 17 years has seen it struggle to surpass the 2 million mark in the United States, despite being certified Double Platinum by the RIAA for shipping that many copies.
Fact of the matter is, whatever one thinks of her career today, there’s no denying the only word that the ‘Hardcore‘ era will forever be on the strongest ‘moments’ in Pop culture history.
Indeed, while recent years have seen her struggle to live up to her former glory, the light she brought to Hip Hop back then still burns bright today in stylistic choices made by her very own Eve Harrington… Nicki Minaj.
Sure, while Minaj’s calculated and cut throat approach saw her achieve more commercially in seven years than Kim did in seventeen, she no doubt cherry picked the strongest fruits of Kim’s cause to further her own, and in doing so proved how influential Brand Kim is..even to this day.
So, with a new album set for release in the coming year here’s hoping Miss Jones pulls from ‘Harcore‘s greatness to forge a project just as groundbreaking. For, while her chances of ‘beating’ Minaj at her own game are slim to none, nothing will ever take away from her legacy and how it shaped Rap culture as we know it today.