On this day, November 12, in hip-hop history…

Big Beat Records
Big Beat Records

1996: Lil Kim built her name as the first lady of The Notorious B.I.G.’s Junior M.A.F.I.A. Kim's big day came when she released her debut Hard Core, which found the BK spitter setting the standards for females in a male dominated arena. Working alongside Biggie, Jermaine Dupri, and Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs on the album, Kimmy Blanco dropped fearless rhymes that were dripping with raunchiness. There were very few female rappers at the time not giving a fuck like Kim.

Hard Core comes after Ready To Die and Reasonable Doubt established the ethos of East Coast rap. It fits perfectly with the lineage—gritty, funk samples and heavy drums—that don’t distract you from the Queen Bee’s bold lyrics. Singles like “No Time” and “Crush On You” were widely successful, while “Not Tonight” was the kind of smooth hip-hop/R&B combo that immediately set the mood. This is the tip of the iceberg, though, as the entire album was a landmark for hip-hop, influencing new school MCs Nicki Minaj, Azealia Banks, and Tiffany Foxx to be just as confident.

Lil Kim is planning to make history once again with her follow-up sequel, Hard Core 2k13. Revamping her iconic album cover with a bigger and badder animal, the anticipation is high that Kim is bringing raw lyricism back. But for now, enjoy the classic hip-hop album that helped put females on top of the rap game.