These days, it’s rather uncommon to see some of the biggest names together for a hot feature. Sure, Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” video had a guest verse from Kendrick and a host of cameo performances, and Madonna called together her friends and their blank walls for “Bitch I’m Madonna.” Considering how hyped these videos were, it’s surprising that celebs don’t call on their pals more often. Well yesterday in 1997, Lil’ Kim did just that.
“Not Tonight,” featured on Kim’s 1996 debut Hard Core, was already all-sorts of female liberation. Kim was happy to rhyme about the guys who wanted her to get down and dirty but wouldn’t return the favor. This was lyrical sexual empowerment. While some artists defend their tepid lyrics with “if a man said this, you wouldn’t have a problem,” Kim dove head first into a male-dominated category and made sure we knew what she wanted – and how she wanted it.
Fast forward to the summer of ’97 and “Not Tonight” gets a revamp for its single release. The Ladies Night Remix featured guest verses from Da Brat, Missy Elliott, Angie Martinez and Lisa Left Eye Lopes. Now, to put this into a bit of context, these were all hot female rappers, but at the same time up-and-comers. Lil’ Kim’s album had been released the year before, Missy had a slew of guest appearances and production credentials but was still gearing up to release her solo effort, Da Brat was two albums deep into her career, Angie Martinez had only appeared on one guest verse and Left Eye was achieving mainstream success as part of TLC. The beauty of the “Ladies Night Remix” is that is shows the versatility of rap, with each woman bringing their signature style and flow to the song. Each artist was at a different point in their career but when they came together there was a sense of unity. This continued on in the music video.
The summer-themed visual featured all the ladies together, riding jet skis, speed boats, and performing together in a safari themed setting. There was also a host of cameos from the likes of Queen Latifah, SWV and Mary J. Blige. It was truly a star-studded affair and can still be appreciated today where feature videos tend to literally be (video) phoned in.
The song was a success, charting at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and being featured on the Nothing to Lose Soundtrack. It’s no surprise given the talent on the track, as well as Missy Elliott’s Kool and The Gang inspired chorus:
“cause this is ladies night, and our rhymes is tight,
yeah this is ladies night, oh what a night,
cause this is ladies night, and the feelings right
yes this is ladies night, oh what a night”.
The song has stood the test of time, being greeted with roars of applause when Lil’ Kim, Da Brat and Missy got together to perform the song at the 2014 Soul Train Awards.
It’s been 19 years since the “Ladies Night Remix” was released. With all the potential among today’s female rappers, it would be interesting to hear and see how they would come together on a single track. Sure, Nicki Minaj delivered arguably her best verse of Kanye West’s “Monster,” but imagine that with a host of other female rappers! “Ladies Night” is exactly what a collaboration should be: a mix of styles coming together on a singular track with the music video to match. So this summer, get the cocktails together, add this jam to your playlist and Get. Your. Life.