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Nineteen Ninety-Sex: The Year of Rap’s Femme Fatales

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I used to be scared of the dick/Now I throw lips to the shit, handle it like a real bitch

Lil’ Kim was 22-years-old on November 12, 1996, when she uttered those lines, the first lyrics on her debut album, Hard Core. Just one week later, 18-year-old Foxy Brown released her own debut, Ill Na Na, and together the two Brooklyn College Academy alumni set the course for female emcees for the next two decades, changing the way women in hip-hop present themselves to the world — and how they are received by it.

From the cover photos to the lyrics to the album titles, almost nothing was left to the imagination, and with their lethal combination of sexy and street, they easily appealed to fans from both genders.

While Kim and Foxy may not have been the first female hip-hop artists to use their looks as their strongest weapon, they were certainly the most visible and, at least up until that point, the most successful.