Since the creation of hip hop in 1979 (some say the early 80s), the genre has been dominated by men; male rappers, male producers, male CEOs, male DJs and so on. Hip hop, as well as other music genres, has been rampant in misogyny, speaking about women in overtly sexual tones and just over-the-top machismo.
Now there definitely have been women rappers from the early days to now. In the 80s, there was Queen Latifah, Roxanne Shante, MC Lyte, Yo-Yo and Salt-n-Pepa. The 90s gave us Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Trina, Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott. The 2000s had a lot of the 90s stars continue on the same path but not any breakout stars. Then last decade saw the dominance of one Nicki Minaj holding up female rap with not much competition over a ten year span. But as the 2010s wound down, seeds for the current decade’s group of female rappers would be planted.
Getting your name out there as a rapper has been a fun evolution over time. You used to have to find an A&R or a label head or even a rapper and have your best freestyle ready and hope you impressed. Then the internet happened. Putting your music on MySpace became a thing and a way to get signed. Ask Soulja Boy. Then mixtapes became the way to get on and grow your brand. Ask 50 Cent. Then the next evolution was your clips getting shared across all social platforms and creating a buzz that way. Ask Megan Thee Stallion.
Megan is the perfect millennial rapper. The buzz around her began on YouTube and Twitter with clips of her freestyling any and everywhere in 2017
Then the EPs/mixtapes/albums and guest appearances started to flow out like water; 2017’s Make It Hot (Megan’s studio debut), 2018’s Tina Snow which featured the breakout hit “Big Ol Freak”, 2019’s Fever and 2020’s Suga and Good News, respectively. All while featuring show stopping collabs with Beyonce (“Savage Remix”) and Cardi B (“WAP”). And speaking of Cardi……
If you watched VH1’s Love & Hip Hop then you are familiar with Cardi B and her…..personality. But after her time on the show, she decided to give rapping a try. Dropping Gangsta B**** Vol. 1 in 2016 and Vol. 2 in 2017, there was a breakout single that would forever change her career.
“Bodak Yellow” was a smash hit that turned Cardi from a young up and coming rapper to a well-known celebrity literally overnight. That was followed by 2019’s Grammy-nominated album Invasion Of Privacy. Many more guest appearances (“Finesse Remix”, “Motorsport”, “Backin It Up”) and hits (“Money”, “WAP”, “Please Me”) would soon follow. Cardi’s future is well ahead of her this decade.
While the former two are the bigger names that come to mind, they definitely are not the only female rappers making noise right now and setting themselves up for a huge decade in the 2020s. There is a true golden rebirth of female rappers and to be honest, it is about damn time.
If you heard “Mooooooo!!!” in 2018 and thought to yourself that Doja Cat would become one of the best young female rappers in the game, you are lying to me. And yourself. But wouldn’t you know it, that exactly what ended up happening. Even though she had been bubbling below the surface for four years, the viral hit is what made her a household name.
With two albums already out 2018’s Amala and 2019’s Hot Pink along with many show-stopping guest appearances (“34+35 Remix”, “Best Friend”, “In Your Eyes Remix”), she has established herself as a not only a legit guest rapper but one who can hold her own with her own sound.
Being a rapper has never been a monolithic profession contrary to popular belief. You don’t have to be from the ‘hood or grow up in poverty nor use half of Webster’s Dictionary. You are allowed to have fun, create a unique persona, use clever and awkward rhyming styles over non-traditional beats. That’s what made Missy Elliott, Tyler The Creator and Busta Rhymes so beloved.
Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack and Leikeli47 have seemed to read from that same blueprint.
Take one listen to “Money” or “Girl Blunt” by Leikeli47 and if you aren’t dancing or grooving immediately, check your pulse. One of the most unique rappers, regardless of gender, in decades, Leikeli channels a mix of Missy Elliott’s creativity and a Foxy Brown rapping tone. Why someone so talented has flown under the radar for this long is beyond me. But she’s definitely making Brooklyn proud and already has three albums under her belt Leikeli47 (2015), Wash & Set (2017) and Acrylic (2018). Also, when was the last time you saw a female rapper rocking a mask? Exactly.
I tried to come up with a clever introduction for this paragraph but I can’t so I’ll just say this: Rico Nasty is a shock to the system (in an amazing way). Her energy, her flow, her style are all something that are not comparable. She has catchy, anthemic songs like “STFU” & “OHFR?” and a self-described sound called “sugar trap”. With a heavy work ethic that has seen her drop five albums in 4 years; Tales of Tacobella (2017), Sugar Trap 2 (2017), Nasty (2018), Anger Management (2019), Nightmare Vacation (2020), Rico is way overdue to breakout in hip hop.
Another branch from the Missy Elliott creativity tree is Philly’s own Tierra Whack. Add in the dizzying lyrical ability and wordplay that you have heard in a Kendrick or a Lupe, you see how Tierra is in a league of her own. While she only has one album, 2018’s Whack World, she has been definitely flooded the market with singles like the Grammy-nominated “MUMBO JUMBO”, “Unemployed” and “Peppers and Onions”. Also a guest appearance on the Lion King: The Gift, the live action soundtrack curated by Beyonce. Tierra has also toured with Lauryn Hill and 6LACK so she is clearly being co-signed by some of the, already, well-known names in music.
As much as there is room in hip hop for lyrical ability, wordplay, creativity and a message, either subtle or overt, there is also room for the kind of hip hop that you can turn up to, that women can shake that a** to and straight up party anthems.
Bringing back the vibes of Miami legends, 2 Live Crew, Trick Daddy and Trina (Yung Miami’s, one half of the City Girls, godmother), City Girls are an interesting combination. Yung Miami and JT don’t worry about being lyrical or clever, they give pure, unadulterated filth plus luxury. And trust me, I mean that in a good way. A very good way. The three albums deep, PERIOD (2018), Girl Code (2018), City On Lock (2020) and already two strip club Hall of Fame tracks with “Act Up” and “Twerk”. Rap duos usually don’t last for the long haul but hopefully their story is different.
There is a certain subgenre of hip hop called “luxury rap”. Talking about fancy and expensive items in your songs, dressing up in name brands in your music videos, having triumphant beats are par for the course. That’s the space where you will find Northern California native Saweetie. Breaking onto the scene in 2017 with her viral hit “ICY GRL”, but “My Type” really broke her out to a mainstream audience. Only two albums under her belt so far; High Maintenance (2018) and ICY (2019) but if her latest single “Best Friend” shows anything, she won’t be going anywhere for a while.
When a new rapper comes out that is a throwback to a golden age while at the same time ushering in a unique dynamic, that artist deserves your ears. And CHIKA deserves your ears and attention. She’s a woman with a mic with something to say. She won’t blow you away with visuals or anything but with lyrics like hers, she doesn’t have to. Her debut album (Industry Games) dropped last year so she is definitely just getting started. But to be 22 and be co-signed by Cardi B and you have the legendary Charlie Wilson on one of your songs? She’s truly someone to be taken seriously.
There are many other up and coming female rappers that will make their mark this decade like Flo Milli, cupcakKe, Mulatto, DreamDoll, Noname, BIA, Armani Caesar and so many more. The point is, women in hip hop today are here for a long time AND a good time. There was a golden age for female rap in the 1990s and this decade is the golden rebirth for female rap. I love to see it.