The media loves to pit people against other, especially if they’re successful women. When Lil Kim was Queen of Rap and Nicki Minaj started getting big, they had beef, and when Remy Ma started blowing up, Remy had beef with Nicki. The same cycle seems to be repeating itself here between Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, but in today’s music climate, there doesn’t have to just be one.
Not that there ever had to be, but that it feels oh so more prevalent that there should, of course, be more than one popular female rapper. I get the arguments for Queen of Rap as much as I get them for King of Rap, but I think since the days of those titles’ real prime, no one really argues about King or Queen status anymore. The market is as saturated as ever, and there’s no reason not to have multiple favorites when it comes to female rappers.
The only reason we make the designation of “female” rapper anyway is because the field has been mainly dominated by male rappers since the ’70’s. Anyone other than that description gets a marker (white rapper, female rapper, asian rapper, etc.) As sexism hopefully fades from the industry, so should the feeling that only one female rapper is able to be on top. In fact, there’s already a ton of amazing female rappers in the game, and you’ll find a selection of some of the best and most popular artists breaking the mold below:
One of my favorite rappers, period. She broke through with an amazing verse on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, and has since worked with huge artists such as Anderson .Paak, 9th Wonder, Talib Kweli, Black Thought, Busta Rhymes, and Terrace Martin, to name a few. Rapsody makes true hip-hop, and her recent LP Laila’s Wisdom was one of my top five favorite rap records of 2017.
Unlike most musicians hiding their appearance, Leikeli47 doesn’t wear the ski mask to seem gangsta or revolutionary. She’s not afraid of publicity, but instead wears the mask so that people don’t focus on her other attributes. It doesn’t matter what her race or complexion or shape looks like, she told Noisey, all they pay attention to is the music and her trademark look of the Ski Mask. It’s branding by enigma, and it’s been really working for the Brooklyn MC.
She might have just released an emo record, but Princess Nokia’s 1992 Deluxe was a rap record through and through, showcasing her affinity for the classic New York style, and breaking stereotypes of what it means to be a female rapper. She’s as bold as it comes, performing at the TIDAL 2017 concert, and throwing soup on racist people in the subway.
My love for the best mixtape of the Summer forever, Kamaiyah’s A Good Night in the Ghetto, is no secret. Kamaiyah is fun as hell, and she hits the sweet spot right in between novelty and seriousness. Her music is full of 80’s nostalgia from the production down to the choruses, and the simple melodies and sayings about just having a great time will get stuck in your head for days.
I’m not the biggest Young M.A fan, but “OOOUUU” was pretty good, She’s as trap rapper as it comes, but she also leads with the fact that she’s gay, which is a pretty nice signifier that she’s not cool with everything that’s happening in the rap industry right now. Her track with T-Pain showed her singing and rapping about women just as much T-Pain, and although it didn’t get a lot of buzz, it was a good step in the fight against homophobia in hip-hop.
Saweetie might not be the most animated rapper, as her hit “ICY GRL” is performed in the same monotone all throughout, but it kind of only adds to the ICY GRL persona. She just got a huge video write-up in Harper’s Bazaar, and her 80’s style of production bounces as hard as Kamaiyah’s. Her new track “ANTI” reverses the role of male rapper, female singer, with Saweetie pumping out bars in between the chorus of an un-credited male singer. One YouTuber comment wrote: “When Daenerys and Rihanna had a kid.”
I have no idea how 3D Na’Tee hasn’t blown up yet. A battle rapper from New Orleans, 3D’s bars are incredibly fast and witty, once performing better than a young Kendrick Lamar for Sway in the Morning back in 2013. After her bars, Sway says “that’s why I wanted you two to meet.” 3D mentions her trouble with labels trying to force her into a position of “female rapper,” and after Sway and Kendrick oddly oggle her, she stands her ground and says, “I’ll open a show, but I don’t want no backstage pass.”
Part of the Chicago rap scene, Noname got her boost with a feature on Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap and subsequent Surf compilation, as well as features on projects from Saba, Mick Jenkins, Jeremih, Smino, Kirk Knight, and countless Chance features. Her debut project Telefone was one of the best rap releases of 2016, and her diary-like songwriting approach is one of the most unique takes on rap in a long while.
Definitely the most outright odd on the list, Jean Grae, whose name comes from the X-Men character Jean Gray, has garnered a lot of attention in the underground New York scene, gathering features from names like Talib Kweli, Styles P, 9th Wonder, and even Pharoahe Monch. Her latest project, made with her husband and fellow-rapper Quelle Chris, is called Everything’s Fine, and comments on the political and social issues of today.
Trina, a rapper out of Miami, has been through all of Nicki’s beef and had to comment on all of them, trying to stay neutral and asking the two to work out their differences. She’s good friends with Lil Kim as well. XXL called her “the most consistent female rapper of all time” in 2013, and Billboard cited her as one of “31 Female Rappers Who Changed Hip-Hop.”
Lady of Rage
Winner of the Best Verse of the Month for July 2017, The Lady of Rage’s big return for Compton rapper MC Eiht’s Which ay Iz West was classic, hip-hop. Spittin’ on “Heart’s Cold,” Lady of Rage had bars such as “The inhospitable, un-fuck-wittable villain sent here to finish you/No subliminal, I’m just givin’ you facts” and “(His heart is cold) but mine been froze.” She’s a hip-hop veteran, with appearances on both The Chronic and Doggystyle, and she still had time in 2017 to remind everyone of her greatness.
I might not be too familiar with Dreezy’s work, but she’s worked with names like Gucci Mane, T-Pain, Southside, 6LACK, Jeremih, Wale, Common, and 2 Chainz. From the Southside of Chicago, Dreezy’s single “Scar” addresses her concerns with today’s political climate involving everything from police brutality, racism, drug offenses, and #FreeMeekMill.
Locked in a four-year label limbo between Epic and Timbaland’s Mosley Music Group, Tink finally recently got free and released her Pain & Pleasure EP. Now that the rapper/singer is free to release music all her own, I expect to here a lot more from her in the future, especially since she’s so young, as just 18. The Chicago artist has a lot of potential ahead.
CupcakKe is one of the most sexually explicit artists period, let alone female rappers, but it’s all in good fun. Her music might be too crude for me from time to time, but that’s to say that for every horribly explicit song by a male rapper, there should exist one by a female rapper, and most of the time CupcakKe fills that void all her own. Her newest mixtape also featured a song called “LGBT,” where she promotes and has a ball with the LGBTQ community.
An English/Jamaican rapper, Stefflon Don first appeared on the track “London” featuring Jeremih, a name that has appeared all over the list, and has since signed on with Quality Control (the label with Migos, Lil Yachty, OG Maco, and now Cardi B). Her first debut project has yet to be released, but that hasn’t stopped her from putting out singles with Ne-Yo, Bebe Rexha, Skepta, Future, J Balvin, Halsey, and Big Sean.
Bhad Bhabie, a.k.a. the “Cash Me Outside” girl is insane. She acts and speaks like no girl her age should, and at age 15, her rap career is taking off oddly fast. She definitely sounds her age, but apparent hits like “Hi Bich” have gotten her a crazy amount of attention, enough that she’s nominated alongside Nicki and Cardi for Billboard 2018’s Top Rap Female Artist Award. She also comes after anyone who asks, with the ferocity of someone twice her age. Teen rappers are pretty big nowadays, and for someone reason Bhad Bhabie might be around for awhile.
Maliibu Mitch has had her fair share of label problems as well. Alongside most females in the music industry, it’s hard to get your work promoted as heavily as more successful male artists, and Maliibu Mitch, the 26-year-old rapper from the Bronx, was once signed to both Ruff Ryders and Island Def Jam. Just waiting to get her real break, she’s been a contender for my Freshman list every year, maybe 2018 is hers to win.
You might remember this British rapper from her “Queen’s Speech Ep. 4” video where she tells rappers speaking her name to “brush their teeth.” She’s been releasing equally amazing material ever since, most recently with her amazing “Black Panther” freestyle. Her first project is due out this Summer, according to the video’s descriptions, and I’m sure it’ll shake up the UK’s rap scene.
Babes Wodumo and Yugen Blakrok
Two amazing South African rappers, Babes Wodumo and Yugen Blakrok were both featured on TDE’s Black Panther soundtrack alongside Kendrick Lamar. Wodumo brought an insane amount of energy to “Redemption” with Zacari, and Yugen Blakrok stood her own next to Kendrick Lamar and Vince Staples on “Opps,” a track that actually made it into the film.
Janelle Monáe, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Lauyrn Hill, Missy Elliot, Foxy Brown, Lil’ Kim, Eve, Gangsta Boo, and Remy Ma
Let’s not forget that all these female rappers and mega-star’s have at one point or are leading to in the future, produced rap albums. Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, Foxy Brown, Lil’ Kim, Eve, and Remy are all titans of female-led hip-hop, and are not only still active, but still considered some of the most amazing rappers of all time. Likewise, Janelle Monáe, Beyoncé, and Rihanna have all recently put out tracks that seem like the artists are heading into more rap-oriented territory.
Probably the most famous female rapper of all-time, Nicki Minaj was and probably is the Queen of Rap Ever since her 2010 verse on Kanye West’s track “Monster,” she’s been on top of the game. She’s most definitely listed as an inspiration to 80% of the artists on this list, and her career with Drake and Lil Wayne has been one of the most successful rap family’s of the past decade. Whether she is or isn’t the best female rapper really doesn’t matter however, as she’s still amazing and will always be one of the greatest rappers of all time.
The newcomer from the Bronx, the heavy-hitter, and the most tasked-about artist today is Cardi B. She’s engaged to Offset, one of the Migos, and is currently pregnant, though still making her rounds of talk shows, SNL, Coachella 2018, and releasing her debut album Invasion of Privacy. Her beef with Nicki is barely even real, but it still permeates the industry due to the fact that two women currently occupy “the same space.”
As it’s clear from the list above however, there is an insane amount of talent in the rap world, and women have been rising up to prove that they’re not only clearly capable of amazing bars, but having all-around talent and star-power. Cardi B’s rise shouldn’t be a challenge to Nicki’s throne, is should be a celebration of two women who were able to occupy a space in the highly contentious and slowly-but-surely progressive rap pantheon.
What do you think? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.