Hard Core is the debut studio album by American rapper Lil’ Kim. It was released on November 12, 1996, by Undeas RecordingsBig Beat Records, and Atlantic Records. After achieving a success with the hip hop group Junior M.A.F.I.A. and their album Conspiracy (1995), Kim began working on her solo album with The Notorious B.I.G. serving as the executive producer (besides this, he performed on four songs). She collaborated with a number of producers, such as Sean “Puff Daddy” CombsStevie J.David “Ski” Willis and Jermaine Dupri, among others. Other rappers, including Jay-ZLil’ Cease and Puff Daddy were featured on the album.

The album was notable for its overt raunchy sexual tone and Kim’s lyrical delivery, which was praised by music critics and is considered a classic album. Hard Core debuted at number 11 on the US Billboard 200 and at number three on the Billboard‘s Top R&B Albums, selling 78,000 copies in its first week, while reaching number 26 of the Canadian Albums Chart. The album was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and has sold over five million copies worldwide.


After making her debut recording appearance on Junior M.A.F.I.A.‘s Conspiracy album, Lil’ Kim appeared on records by artists such as Mona LisaThe Isley Brothers, and Total. With recording her debut album, Hard Core was mainly recorded at The Hit Factory in Manhattan, New York City.  Working with a number of producers, including Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs and Jermaine Dupri, the album featured edgy hardcore rap and explicit sexuality, as the title suggested, which at the time were two territories that had long been the province of male rappers. The album was originally titled “Queen Bee”.

Guest artists included Jay-ZThe Notorious B.I.G., and other members of Junior M.A.F.I.A. The promotional campaign for the album, including the album cover, featured provocative advertisements of Kim dressed in a skimpy bikini and surrounded by furs.

During the recording sessions, Kim and B.I.G made a demo for the track “Street Dreams”, never released officially. “Big Momma Thang” was originally intended to be a diss towards Faith Evans and 2Pac but was re-recorded after Biggie disapproved of it. The verse containing remarks against Faith was replaced by Jay-Z’s vocals while the third verse, which had a diss on 2Pac, was re-recorded by Kim.


The first two singles from Hard Core, the gold-certified “No Time” and the remix version of “Crush on You” both peaked in the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100, top 10 of the Hot R&B Singles chart, and topped the Rap Songs chart, making Lil’ Kim the first female rap artist to have two consecutive number-one singles on that chart. Both singles peaked in the top 50 of the UK Singles Chart. A third single, “Not Tonight” (Remix), became a huge top 10 success in 1997, peaking at number six on the Hot 100, number three on the Hot R&B Singles chart, and topping the Rap Songs chart. The single also reached the top 20 on the UK chart and number 10 in Germany. The single was certified platinum by the RIAA. It was nominated in 1998 for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. “Big Momma Thang” was released to commercial radio in the fall of 1996


Professional Ratings

Hard Core received critical acclaim. The Source called the album “a solid debut because phat beats and rhymes are really all it takes, and they’re both present”, while Rolling Stone magazine included Hard Core in its list of “Essential Recordings of the 90’s”. In 2003, PopMatters wrote, “Track for track, Hard Core‘s thuggette-auctioneering flow melds the perfect hybrid of yoni power Mafioso and Park Avenue duchess.” Rolling Stone concluded in reviewing the album in the magazine’s 2004 version of The Rolling Stone Album Guide:

Hip-hop had never seen anything like Brooklynite Kimberly Jones at the time of her solo debut: She single-handedly raised the bar for raunchy lyrics in hip-hop, making male rappers quiver with fear with lines like “You ain’t lickin’ this, you ain’t stickin’ this . . . I don’t want dick tonight/Eat my pussy right” (“Not Tonight”). Riding the wing of Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die and Jay-Z‘s Reasonable Doubt, Kim’s Hard Core helped put East Coast hip-hop back on top in the late ’90s. The album’s overreliance on old ’70s funk samples doesn’t detract a bit from the Queen Bee’s fearless rhymes: In “Dreams”, she demands service from R. KellyBabyface, and nearly every “R&B dick” in the field. A landmark of bold, hilarious filth.

Commercial performanceEdit

Hard Core debuted and peaked at number 11 on the US Billboard 200 and at number three on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart,[17] selling 78,000 copies in its first week.[18] Despite not spending another week inside the top 30,[18] the album was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on March 14, 2001,[19] and had sold 1,489,701 copies in the United States by November 2011.[20] In Canada, the album peaked at number 62.[21] As of November 2016, Hard Core had sold over five million copies worldwide.[22]
In August 2018, the album entered the top 10 Hip Hop/Rap Albums chart on iTunes, reaching number six despite the album being released nearly 22 years prior and eventually reached number one for a short time. It also peaked at number 22 on the overall albums chart on iTunes.[23]

Track listing


1.”Intro in A-Minor”  2:14

2.”Big Momma Thang” (featuring Lil’ Cease and Jay-Z)

Kimberly Jones

James Lloyd

Shawn Carter

Adrian Bartos

Sylvester James

Harvey Fuqua

Stretch Armstrong4:17

3.”No Time” (featuring Puff Daddy)


Sean Combs

Steven Jordan


Stevie J


4.”Spend a Little Doe”


David Willis

Ski 5:35

5.”Take It!”  0:46

6.”Crush on You” (featuring Lil’ Cease)


Andreao Heard

Jeff Lorber

Andraeo “Fanatic” Heard4:35



Fabian Hamilton

D. Owen

Isaac Hayes


8.”Scheamin'”  0:49

9.”Queen Bitch”


Carlos Broady

Nashiem Myrick






Daven Vanderpool

Reggie Andrews

Prestige 4:39

11.”M.A.F.I.A. Land”


Brent Toussaint

Bert Kaempfert

Herbert Rehbein

Richard Ahlert

Brent “Faraoh” Toussaint 4:37

12.”We Don’t Need It”



Rayshaun Spain

Mark Richardson

Minnesota 4:10

13.”Not Tonight” (featuring Jermaine Dupri)



Dupri 4:31

14.”Player Haters”  0:43

15.”Fuck You”


R. Spain

Antoine Spain

Chris Cresco

Christopher Wallace

The Notorious B.I.G.



Total length: 56:59

1997 reissue bonus

track No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length

16.”Not Tonight” (Remix) (featuring Da Brat, Left Eye, Missy Elliott and Angie Martinez)



Lisa Lopes

Shawntae Harris


Robert Bell

Ronald Bell

George Brown

Meekaaeel Muhammad

Claydes Smith

James Taylor

Dennis Thomas

Earl Toon

Rashad Smith

Armando Colon


“No Time”, “Take It!”, “Crush on You”, “Drugs” and “Fuck You” feature additional vocals by The Notorious B.I.G.

The intro of “Spend a Little Doe” is performed by Big Troy and Lil’ Kim, and its hook is performed by Fela.

The interlude of “Take It!” is performed by Lil’ Cease and Trife.

“Dreams” features additional vocals and a hook performed by Adilah.

The hook of “We Don’t Need It” is performed by Junior M.A.F.I.A.

Sample credits

“Big Momma Thang” contains a sample of “Was It Something I Said” by Sylvester.

“No Time” contains a sample of “Take Me Just as I Am” by Lyn Collins.

“Spend a Little Doe” contains a sample of “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” by Frank Chacksfield and His Orchestra.

“Crush on You” contains a sample of “Rain Dance” by Jeff Lorber.

“Drugs” contains a sample of “Bumpy’s Lament” by Soul Mann & The Brothers.

“Dreams” contains a sample of “Think (About It)” by Lyn Collins.

“We Don’t Need It” contains a sample of “The One I Need” by Shirley Murdock.

“Not Tonight” contains a sample of “Turn Your Love Around” by George Benson.

“Not Tonight” (Remix) contains a sample of “Ladies’ Night” by Kool & the Gang.

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Hard Core.

Lil’ Kim – vocals, rapping

Stretch Armstrong – producer

Corn Bread – producer

Andraeo “Fanatic” Heard – producer

Carlos Broady – producer

Stevie J. – producer

Fabian Hamilton – producer

Ski – producer

Sean Combs (Puff Daddy) – executive producer, additional vocals

Christopher Wallace – executive producer, additional vocals

Kenny Ortiz – engineer

Phil Tan – engineer

Jermaine Dupri – producer, engineer, additional vocals

Tony Black – engineer, mixing

James Cruz – mastering

Herb Powers Jr. – mastering

Lil’ Cease – additional vocals

Junior M.A.F.I.A. – additional vocals

Jay-Z – additional vocals

LaMarquis Mark Jefferson – bass

Michael Lavine – photography


Weekly Charts

Year-End Charts



  1. ^ Cummings, Jozen (May 2006). “Crime Doesn’t Pay”Vibe. Vol. 14 no. 5. p. 56. ISSN 1070-4701. Retrieved August 22, 2014 – via Google BooksWith scanty clothing and the cachet that comes with having what many consider a classic album, Hard Core, Lil’ Kim was one of the few female rappers whose consistent platinum sales showed that she could play with the big boys.
  2. ^ Rodriguez, Kenny (August 9, 2006). “Legendary Hit Factory Studio Turning Into Condos”. Archived from the original on December 5, 2008. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  3. ^ “Lil Kim Biography”. Starpulse. Archived from the original on February 20, 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  4. ^ “Why 70% Of Women Should Know Lil’ Kim’s Hardcore Album”The Source. July 11, 2014. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
  5. ^ “Hardcore: Lil Kim: Music” Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  6. ^ “Lil Kim”. Hip Hop Galaxy. March 14, 2007. Archived from the original on January 25, 2013. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  7. ^ “American certifications – Lil Kim – Not Tonight”Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved November 29, 2016.
  8. ^ Birchmeier, Jason. “Hard Core – Lil’ Kim”AllMusic. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  9. ^ Bernard, James (January 10, 1997). “Hard Core”Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on December 27, 2016. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  10. ^ Simelane, Vukile (February 1, 2005). “Lil’ Kim :: Hardcore :: Undeas Recording/Big Beat”RapReviews. Retrieved April 4, 2012.
  11. ^ Kemp, Rob (2004). “Lil’ Kim”. In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 486ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Retrieved November 26, 2016 – via Google Books.
  12. a b “Lil’ Kim: Hard Core”. The Source. No. 87. December 1996. p. 132. ISSN 1063-2085.
  13. ^ Bernstein, Jonathan (December 1996). “Lil’ Kim: Hard Core”Spin. Vol. 12 no. 9. p. 141. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved November 26,2016 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ “Essential Recordings of the 90’s”. Rolling Stone. May 13, 1999. p. 76. ISSN 0035-791X.
  15. ^ Sawyer, Terry (February 21, 2003). “Lil’ Kim: Hardcore”PopMatters. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  16. ^ “Lil’ Kim: Biography”Rolling Stone. April 23, 2009. Archived from the original on April 23, 2009. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  17. ^ “Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums: The Week of November 30, 1996”Billboard. Retrieved November 29, 2016.
  18. a b Mayfield, Geoff (July 15, 2000). “Between the Bullets: Hit-Hop”Billboard. Vol. 112 no. 29. p. 112. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved August 22,2014 – via Google Books.
  19. ^ Cite error: The named reference RIAA was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  20. ^ “Lil’ Kim’s Hard Core vs. Foxy Brown’s Ill Na NaXXL. November 18, 2011. Archived from the original on June 30, 2013. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
  21. a b “Top RPM Albums: Issue 9804”RPMLibrary and Archives Canada. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  22. ^ Preezy, Brown (November 12, 2016). “A Definitive Track Ranking Of Lil Kim’s ‘Hard Core’ Album”Vibe. Retrieved June 9, 2017. …with more than 5 million copies sold worldwide, making it the most successful release from a female rapper at the time.
  23. ^ “Revisiting the “Female Rap Bible,” Lil’ Kim’s ‘Hard Core'”. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  24. a b c Hard Core (liner notes). Lil’ KimAtlantic Records. 1996. 92733-2.
  25. ^ “Chart Log UK: 1994–2010: DJ Steve L. – LZ Love” Retrieved November 26,2016.
  26. ^ “Official R&B Albums Chart Top 40”Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  27. ^ “Lil’ Kim Chart History (Billboard 200)”Billboard. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
  28. ^ “Lil’ Kim Chart History (Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums)”Billboard. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
  29. ^ “Top Billboard 200 Albums – Year-End 1997”Billboard. Retrieved May 27, 2018.
  30. ^ “Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums – Year-End 1997”Billboard. Retrieved May 27, 2018.
  31. ^ “American album certifications – Lil’ Kim – Hard Core”Recording Industry Association of AmericaIf necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

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