To celebrate International Women’s Day I have put together a playlist of the best female rappers of all time. Across all sub-genres of Hip-Hop I have tried to represent a cross sectional view of the calibre of talent from the late 80s to the freshest voices today.
Our playlist kicks off in the late 80s with MC Lyte, the first solo female rapper to release a full album, the critically acclaimed ‘Lyte As A Rock’. Since 1988 Lyte has paved the way for female hip-hop stars in a music genre that is rife with misogyny. Right there from the start with MC Lyte were Salt-N-Peppa whose 1986 album ‘Hot, Cool & Vicious’ made them the first ever female hip-hop group to have a platinum album and they continued to claim critical and commercial success with their 1988 album ‘A Salt With A Deadly Peppa’. Finishing off our top picks from the 80s is the feminist anthem “Ladies First” from Queen Latifah & Monie Love.
Bringing us into the 90s we have tracks from Ice Cube’s protégé Yo-Yo, more from Salt-N-Peppa with “Shoop” (most recently heard in Deadpool) and Grammy award winning “U.N.I.T.Y”. The mid-90s saw Snoop Dogg collaborator The Lady Of Rage release “Afro Puffs”, Lil’ Kim’s double platinum album ‘Hard Core’ and the fantastic debut from Bahamadia, ‘Kollage’.
The Late 90s saw some outstanding singles from the likes of Foxy Brown and Rah Digga but it will be best remembered for both Missy Elliot’s ‘Supa Duper Fly’ and the legendary ‘The Miseducation of Lauren Hill’. Although Ms. Lauren Hill may fall closer into the R&B category, the influence and inspiration surrounding this album in the hip-hop world is unquestionable and it would be remiss not to include it here.
The early 2000s saw more from Foxy Brown and Missy Elliot released ‘Miss E… So Addictive’ (2001) and ‘Under Construction’ (2002) which featured “Get Your Freak On” and “Work It” respectively; both of which are still go-to floor fillers for anyone in the mood for a throwback.
As the decade continued so too did the quality of releases from the women in hip-hop. 2005 saw Lil’ Kim’s ‘The Naked Truth’ and the following year saw Remy Ma’s ‘There’s Something About Remy’. In 2008 both M.I.A (‘Kala’) and Erykah Badu (‘New Amerykah Part One’) released critically acclaimed albums.
The UK’s Dancehall Queen, Lady Chann released “Sticky Situation” in 2010, the same year the world was taken by storm by Nicki Minaj. ‘Pink Friday’ dropped in November 2010 and Minaj has since rocked some of the finest verses of the last decade. Period.
Rapsody released her debut album ‘The Idea Of Beautiful’ in 2012, and you may have caught her more recently featuring on Anderson Paak’s fantastic ‘Malibu’ and Musiq Soulchild’s ‘Life on Earth’.
In just the last few years some incredibly exciting talent has emerged. Zambian-born, Botswana-raised rapper, poet and singer-songwriter Sampa The Great released ‘The Great Mixtape’ in 2015 and followed it up with several singles including “Blue Boss” in 2016. Sampa is certainly one to watch.
With two studio albums in as many years, Little Simz is proving to be as prolific as she is talented and the Islington 23-year old is deservedly turning heads in the UK and beyond.
To close out the playlist is the identical twin sister rap duo, Cam & China who are lighting up the LA rap scene and keeping her lit. Their self-titled debut EP is simply excellent and I could have simply just threw in all 7 tracks. Instead I’ve chosen “Vibe”, a separately released single, and “We Gon Make It” which closes out the EP.
So there you have it. The greatest female rappers of all time. If I’ve forgotten anyone or you want to recommend someone, just leave them in the comments. Thanks to Dean Van Nguyen, Louise Bruton and BarryGruff for all their help and suggestions.
The Greatest Female Rappers Of All Time