It is no mystery that hip-hop has been, and still is, a male-dominated entity.
Despite the longtime popularity of Nicki Minaj and the recent successes of artists such as Cardi B, Stefflon Don, and Young M.A., hip-hop culture — not unlike the rest of the music industry and human society as a whole — still collectively fails to do a fair job of recognizing the women within it.
Discussions concerning this subject can feel unproductive sometimes; in many cases, female rappers are either pitted against each other or insidiously magnified at the expense of others. Women are also frequently excluded from the agendas of rap’s “gatekeepers,” which promotes a false narrative that “there aren’t that many women in hip-hop.” The women of hip-hop are numerous; we just routinely fail to notice them.
This topic came up in a recent conversation in a group chat; I had the opportunity to promote the music of a few women I’ve followed for a while (besides the ones I named earlier). Naturally, it inspired me to write. I figured: why not spread the word?
So, without further ado, I present my first installment of a series I hope to continue, in which I briefly shine a light on a few talented rappers — some you may have already heard of, and others you may not recognize — who are establishing names for themselves and making dope music.
Bay Area ex-battle rapper Blimes Brixton and Seattle emcee Gifted Gab are both talented, incredibly lyrical emcees in their own right. Together, they form the synergetic duo B.A.G. (Blimes and Gab), whose single “Come Correct” helped gain them some recognition earlier this year after circulation across social media.
Brittnee Moore, aka Bbymutha, is the Chattanooga rapper/mother who is challenging the mainstream stigmas surrounding single black motherhood. She continues to build a sizable fanbase, who are drawn to her signature slow, southern drawl and her down-to-earth messages.
Recording artist/producer/engineer Bri Steves is one of the hardest working, multi-faceted artists out right now. She’s a very compelling rapper, whose music combines modern hip-hop and R&B sounds with that of her Philadelphia influences. Hopefully there’s a debut project on the horizon…
Alabama rapper/poet Chika Oranika has been wowing people across the industry and cultivating a massive fanbase in the midst of her on-going series of impressive remixes — including a viral takedown of Kanye West over his own beat. She’s also received co-signs from rap stars like Missy Elliott and Cardi B.
Chynna Rogers is a rapper/model from Philadelphia, whose career inspirations stemmed from her affiliation with the A$AP Mob. She has a couple projects under her belt, most recently her 2017 EP music 2 die 2, and she continues making a name with her impressive flows and quotable lyrics.
CupcakKe has garnered a lot of attention because of her ultra-provocative, ultra-explicit raps about her sexual endeavors, but when the 21-year-old isn’t popping off hilarious, sexually-charged one-liners, she’s often crafting progressive anthems or addressing serious subjects that a lot of artists avoid discussing.
Brooklyn rapper DonMonique burst onto the scene in 2015 with the party track “Pilates,” which made rounds after it caught Kylie Jenner’s attention. That was followed up by her debut EP Thirst Trap, which displayed her Lil Kim-inspired flow over an array of eerie production.
If Dreezy‘s 2014 song “Chiraq” showed the world that she can rap circles around your favorite rapper, the rest of her discography, especially her 2016 Interscope debut No Hard Feelings, has shown us that the Chicago native is also a capable singer, a quality hitmaker, and an artist with staying power.
Manchester rapper-singer IAMDDB is owning a brand of wavy trap music she’s branded as “urban jazz” — music that walks the line between melodic hip-hop and smooth, jazzy R&B. She gained a lot of recognition in 2017 with her breakthrough songs “Pause” and “Shade.”
Since her music debut a couple of years ago, Ivy Sole‘s career has taken off. The Philadelphia artist is an adept lyricist and singer whose introspective music revolves around topics like self-growth and intimacy. She recently released her sophomore album, Overgrown.
If you’ve followed the music of the Chicago Renaissance, you’ve probably heard singer/rapper Jean Deaux on a chorus or a verse. Deaux is known for her dulcet voice and atmospheric hooks, and she floats between singing and rapping cadences with ease. She recently released an EP called Krash.
I’m almost always entertained by the funny, captivating, salacious rhymes of Brooklyn rapper Shayna McHayle, aka Junglepussy. She’s a very expressive artist whose self-loving, sex-positive anthems ooze charisma. She dropped her third album, JP3, this past May.
It seems that Kari Faux has come a long way since her breakout song “No Small Talk” in 2014, which was remixed by Childish Gambino that same year. Her lively, vibe-heavy music has helped spur her high rise, going as far as producing original music for the soundtrack of HBO’s hit show Insecure.
Few rappers on this list have a vocal presence as energetic or as dynamic as English rapper Lady Leshurr does. Leshurr seems capable of rapping at supersonic speed, and she has a penchant for witty, punchline-laced rhymes that are chock-filled with pop culture references.
Brooklyn Magazine stated earlier this year that “If you really want to know what Brooklyn sounds like, listen to Latasha.” Latasha Alcindor‘s sound is a tribute to the city’s past and her influences. Her reflective storytelling touches on topics like gentrification, cultural appropriation, and womanism.
Very little is known about Brooklyn rapper Leikeli47. The anonymity of the ski-masked artist, of course, is intentional: to focus our attention on her music, which drips with tons of swagger and “attitude.” She released her third album, Acrylic, on November 15.
London rapper Little Simz has gotten cosigns from Mos Def, J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar, who said that Simz “might be the illest one doing it right now.” It’s hard to argue with that assessment: she’s a master lyricist whose got some of the rawest rhymes and most confident flows in the game.
Melissa Jefferson, aka Lizzo, is a hip-hop artist from Minneapolis, whose brand of socially conscious, “feel-good” music stresses body positivity, women empowerment, and self-care. This high-spirited rapper/singer draws from a range of musical inspirations, like pop, R&B, neo-soul and gospel.
Maliibu Miitch may only be short in stature, but her rugged Bronx flow and ostentatious rhymes make her appear larger than life. Miitch’s remix of Lil Kim’s “Crush On You” helped establish her as one of the NYC’s most promising talents. Expectations are high for her Atlantic Records debut.
MEGAN THEE STALLION
Raunchy, hedonistic rap is an art that Houston native Megan Thee Stallion is the absolute master of. The self-described “H-Town Hottie” has a swagger-packed, captivating flow, and her music perfectly captures hip-hop’s bombastic tendencies. She released her Tina Snow mixtape in June.
Ms Banks is a member of a wave of talented artists who have helped blaze a trail for rappers from the U.K. in recent years. She turned heads in 2016 with her Fire In The Booth freestyle, and has since gotten support from both Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, the latter of whom she toured with in 2017.
It’s been almost a decade since Nitty Scott first turned heads with a freestyle over Kanye West’s “Monster.” Besides her remarkable pen, Nitty’s catalog up to this point has explored subjects that include depression & mental health, sexuality, femininity, and spirituality.
You’d be hard pressed to name a smoother, more poetic rapper than Noname in, literally, all of hip-hop. The Chicago poet has an incredibly likable, endearing personality that shines through into her music, which has been very well-received thus far. She recently released her sophomore project, Room 25.
OSHUN, the duo of Thandi and Niambi, channel the spirit of the Yoruban goddess into their music, preaching love, self-empowerment, and Black consciousness through their afrofuturistic blend of neo-soul and hip-hop. Their debut album, Bittersweet, Vol. 1, dropped this past April.
A self-proclaimed “tomboy” and “bruja,” New York native Princess Nokia is an Afro-Puerto Rican, intersectional feminist rapper, whose music has become a sanctuary for those who crave empowering music that celebrates cultural identity, encourages subverting the status quo, and basks in self-acceptance.
There’s a reason that Rapsody‘s excellent 2017 album, Laila’s Wisdom, was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 60th Grammy Awards. In addition to the fact that her music explores so many salient social issues, the North Carolinian is also one of contemporary hip-hop’s premier lyricists and storytellers.
Rico Nasty is perhaps one of hip-hop’s most eccentric artists and has become a burgeoning icon of the post-SoundCloud era. Nasty’s music ranges across the sonic spectrum, from light-hearted bubblegum trap to boisterous, heavy metal-inspired bangers. She released her sixth mixtape, Nasty, in June.
SAMPA THE GREAT
If you’re looking for colorful, bright, introspective music, Sampa the Great is definitely a go-to. The Zambian rapper/singer/poet’s most recent project, Birds and the BEE9, was a jazzy, soulful collection of beautiful songs that explored topics like Black femininity, self-truth, and love.
Tierra Whack burst onto the scene this year with the release of the incredibly well-received visual album Whack World, composed of 15, one-minute songs that take listeners on a journey into her super-imaginative world. She’s incredibly creative, humorous, and is a true hip-hop/R&B surrealist.
Zimbabwe-born Australian recording artist Tkay Maidza‘s brand of vibrant, youthful, bubbly music blends hip-hop with elements of electronic music and synthpop. She recently released her second major project, Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 1.