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Revisiting the Style of Hip-Hop's Fashion Icon Lil' Kim

Before Rihanna draped herself in colorful furs, before Nicki Minaj put on pink wigs and skin tight bustiers, and long before Miley Cyrus hopped onstage in a bedazzled thong, Lil' Kim was the risk-taking fashion icon we looked to in music. Her style has become an encapsulation of the racy, avant-garde costuming we’re seeing from both our favorite artists and designers today. To commemorate her impact on the world of fashion and music, we’re taking it back to the late ‘90s with six of her most memorable outfits.


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Getty Images: Kevin Mazur

1997

Lil' Kim was born Kimberly Denise Jones in Brooklyn, New York in 1975 and, after performing a freestyle rap for fellow Brooklyn rapper, the Notorious B.I.G, officially launched her rap career at the age of 20. She later signed with his group, Junior M.A.F.I.A. and released her debut album "Hard Core" in 1996. She was an immediate hit — the album went double platinum with the number one hits "Crush on You," "Not Tonight," and "No Time."

She donned this green bikini and fur combo during her cameo on Diddy's "No Way Out" tour in '97, complete with a mesh bodysuit and Chanel chain belt. Swimsuits as ready-to-wear have become commonplace on the runway at places like Moschino. A consistent front-row attendee at his shows since 2005, Lil' Kim might have been the inspiration behind a few of Jeremy Scott's outlandish collections.

Vibrant furs also continue to be a popular fixture on the runways. The trend has gained a bit more steam after the fall 2015 shows at Saint Laurent and Fendi.


1998

Lil' Kim has a long history in the fashion world. She has rubbed shoulders with some of the industry's biggest designers from Marc Jacobs to Giorgio Armani (pictured right).

She launched her own music label, Queen Bee Entertainment, in 1998 and toured and modeled for brands like Versace, Baby Phat, and Iceberg.

Most of her outfits during this time were heavily sequined, bedazzled, and very visibly see-through — a trend Rihanna has taken up recently on the red carpet (remember that transparent Swarovski crystal dress she wore to the CFDA Fashion Awards) and in her music videos.

Getty Images: Ron Gallela


Getty Images: Run Gallela

1999

She was one of the hottest featured artists in '99 with guest appearances on tracks like "Quiet Storm" with Mobb Deep and "Notorious B.I.G." with Biggie Smalls and Puff Daddy.

The rapper attended the Tommy Hilfiger "Rock Style" Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that same year and decked herself out in a hot pink fur coat and snakeskin boots.

The pink fur trend is a Rihanna favorite now as well, thanks to the designers at Altuzarra and Tome. Similar python boots can be found in Chloé and Marni's latest collections.


Getty Images: Kevin Winter

2001

Lil' Kim premiered her new look with the release of her 2000 album "The Notorious K.I.M.," and she hasn't looked back since. In 2001, she teamed up with fellow artists Christina Aguilera, Pink, and Mya to take on the song "Lady Marmalade" for the film Moulin Rouge. The song scored the ladies a number one hit record on the Billboard Hot 100 charts — a big first for the rapper.

In this photo, she wears a head-to-toe Fendi look that truly encapsulates the logo-mania trend resurfacing today at places like Gucci, Alexander Wang, and DKNY.


2003

She released her third studio album "La Bella Mafia" in 2003, with the hit song "Magic Stick," featuring the rapper 50 Cent. She won two Source Awards and received two Grammy nominations for Best Female Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Collaboration.

She attended the Spike TV Video Game Awards that year, too, and wore a matching embellished denim ensemble that looks eerily similar to the denim pieces Gucci's Alessandro Michele sent down the spring 2016 runways.

Getty Images: Denise Truscello


Getty Images: L. Cohen

2004

Things took a turn for the rapper in 2005 when she was convicted for three counts of conspiracy and one count of perjury for her friends' involvement in a 2001 shooting.

But a year before, she continued to serve some of her best looks, like this halter top and frayed denim outfit she wore to a car event hosted by Shaquille O'Neil.

Frayed denim blew up with the street style crowd in 2014 and has continued to gain traction this year. These look like something Marques' Almeida or Hood By Air would recreate in a heart beat.

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