Despite the growing number of women in music topping the charts, the appreciation for the female contributors to hip-hop is a wavering one. Ideas that there can only be one woman killing it at a time are archaic in thought, but still dominate debates of "who's next" or "who the best emcee is" from barbershop talk to internet forums. Of course, hip hop has been male-dominated since inception but bar for bar, women have always been able to compete with the best of the boys while breaking records. From the poetic styles of Lauryn Hill and MC Lyte to the 90s Mafioso of Lil’ Kim, women have seen ceilings and shattered them without effort or apology.
Before you queue up Drake admitting his hidden son or give your energy to another Lil Yachty track, here are 15 other rappers you should support. And yes, they’re all women.
With mesmerizing cadence and entendre so complex you have to enlist Genius for help, Rapsody is an emcee that cannot be forgotten. A pillar of excellence and possibility for young black girls everywhere, the North Carolina born maverick sits in a lane of her own unique style, sound, and unparalleled rhymes.
In an era of pop records and trap synths, Rapsody’s appeal lives in nostalgic storytelling that masterfully takes you to hip hop’s golden era without feeling outdated. Her stories of love and empowerment live on her last album Laila’s Wisdom, which garnered her the spot of the only woman nominated for “Best Rap Album” at this year’s Grammys.
Her longtime fans (or “homies” as she calls them) call her L.A., but Latasha is a name that’s been ringing bells on the East Coast for a bit. The Brooklyn bred emcee blends the spice of her textured lineage and the grittiness of her hometown to unload the most tantalizing bars we’ve heard in a minute. Leading from a space of ladies first, Latasha makes the music for all the pretty girls that need fire Instagram captions, as heard on one of her recently popular records, “Glo Up.”
As addicting as her music is, her live show is equally dynamic. If you're in New York, catch her on the stage for the highly anticipated Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival on July 14th.
Another New York favorite is raptress Siya. You may remember her from her feature on Tank’s “Birthday” or her time on reality show "Sisterhood of Hip Hop" but don’t ever sleep -- her bars are the realest thing about her. In true Bed-Stuy fashion, Siya cements her interchanging persona on her debut project Siya vs Siya (almost twonyears later and it’s still a mood) paired with layered instrumentals and symphonic melodies.
Versatility is the name of the game especially when you’re a woman in hip-hop so you can catch Siya on the big screen, featured in “The First Purge” in theaters now.
We wouldn’t be doing this justice if we didn’t mention our sisters across the pond. While grime continues to be an increasingly popular genre overseas, British native Lady Leshurr pairs her rhymes with dancehall influence for the perfect sonic marriage.
Growing a rapid fanbase on Youtube with her popular “Queen’s Speech” freestyles, Leshurr serves quick “did she go there?” punchlines in the style of your favorite homegirl. While innovative, she's quick to pay homage to the women that came before her, as seen in her latest visual "Black Panther" where Leshurr channels her inner Missy Elliott while celebrating Wakanda greatness. I'm challenging you to try playing that one without running it back.
Depth, complexity, and fearlessness are the three things you can pull from Afro-Latina Nitty Scott's addicting sound. Using her music as a springboard to discuss oppression, sexual orientation and more social issues Scott has carved out a space in music that goes far beyond her being a female rapper- and just a rapper, period.
Her last release Creature! is an unapologetic ode to brown and black girls that struggle with being themselves in a world that so desperately wants you to be everything but.
Chicago rapper and poet Noname is holding ChiTown’s flag for artists to keep on your playlist. Her lyrics are a transparent collection reflecting on society’s imperfections, tackling topics of oppression, a woman’s right to choose and racism; all wrapped in the influence of her Windy City hometown. For her peers, she’s the necessary addition to a great record- lending her voice to Chance the Rapper, Saba and more. Her debut album Telefone, is an emotional catalogue showcasing her effortless storytelling skills documenting her transition into adulthood.
There’s this false idea that women in hip-hop can only be successful if they’re half naked and selling sex. Rising star Leikili47 quickly dismantles that as soon as she steps on a stage. Donning a ski mask 24-7, Leikili spits with precision and contagious energy all the while keeping her identity a mystery. With hits like “2nd Fiddle” and her newest collaboration with Lion Babe “The Wave,” the only thing she’s selling is bars.
Hip-hop was birthed in the Bronx, so it’s no surprise that some of the most talented acts have come out of the city. One to pay attention to is a very promising Connie Diiamond. Her colorful exterior matches her explosive bars, dominating the internet with freestyles over Drake, Future and more. Her style mirrors Missy Elliott, while her hardcore raps allow her to go toe-to-toe with any male rapper in the Bronx and beyond.
A must-have for your playlist this summer and beyond is "Run It Up" from her album Trap Elliott.
Pairing hip-hop with undertones of R&B, Tierra Whack is an artist bound to captivate beyond the mic. At just 15 minutes long, her debut album Whack World was an audiovisual release, innovative enough to catch the attention of fickle, social media loving consumers with its whimsical hooks. The 22-year-old Philly native’s quick-witted bars and imaginative style will surely keep her relevant.
When it comes to genius marketing, new artists might want to a scroll through Tierra's Instagram page and take a few notes.
“No gyal can tell me ‘bout my mother” is the opening line of “16 Shots,” the noteworthy 2016 single from Stefflon Don. The genre-bending musician laces dancehall with poignant hip-hop lyrics giving you hard-cutting rhymes while offering something to dutty whine to. From a score in “Honey: Rise up and Dance” (starring Teyana Taylor) to working with hip-hop heartthrob Drake, Don’s versatility keeps her at the top of UK artists to watch lists and should land her a permanent spot in your recently played favs.
If you’re looking for a woman able to break all barriers, don’t look past Rico Nasty. At 21 years old, she's a testament to hard work beats talent, though she has an enormous amount of both. Her explosive lyrics and ever-changing sound have landed her a spot on the Insecure soundtrack and a coveted deal at Atlantic Records.
Holding it down for the West Coast is former XXLFreshman Kamaiyah, the energetic storyteller who seamlessly entrances you in ideas of growing up in Oakland. Kamaiyah's ownership of her position in music is an admirable one, welcoming competition and naysayers and meeting them on wax with over-your-head rhymes. Despite two critically acclaimed albums and collaborative taps from Drake and YG, the Bay Area dynamo keeps her profile low and her raps turned up.
Increasingly popular for her recent appearances on this past season of “Love & Hip-Hop: NY,” is Queens upstart Kiyanne. The fiery energy she brings to the show triples over the hard-hitting beats she pairs with gritty lyrics. If the hip-hop you love is reminiscent of the mafioso era, Kiyanne is your girl. Her latest single “Better Luck Next Time” is a New York love story- personified. If New York's crown is ever up for grabs, Kiyanne just might be taking the throne.
Women can literally do all things -- as is proven by multifaceted Philly artist Bri Steves. The recent Temple University grad balanced music and an academic course load all while snagging the attention of DJ Jazzy Jeff, G.O.O.D. music and her new label Atlantic Records. From Plain Jane remixes to her newest hit “Jealousy,” Steves can unapologetically flip a sample with her limitless talent and the rawness of her hometown’s influence.
Be on the lookout for her forthcoming mixtape, bound to give you a few more joints to bump from your stoop this summer and beyond.
Popular for her viral remixes on Twitter and her epic gathering of Kanye West back in April, Chika is an artist to keep on your Instagram feed for a 60-second dose of “why isn’t she signed?!” Only 21 years old, CHIKA goes off on your favorite rappers records, unapologetically making them her own and nabbing their fans in the process.