The Rise of Female Rappers

May 29, 2013 2:03 pm

Female Rappers, what took so long?

Since Hip-hop’s inception in the 1970’s, the air waves of urban radio stations littered across America were heavily influenced by the intellectual musings of Public Enemy and Ice-T. These, in turn, directly influenced bigger names such as LL Cool J, Notorious B.I.G and Nas, all coined as rap legends in their own right. It was the black man that took the traditional African rap and turned it into a money-making craft. 2004 saw every single #1 in the USA be a R&B or rap song – a clear indication of the rising popularity of the genres.

Why then, has it taken up to 40 years for women to start becoming truly prominent in this industry? Some argue misogyny is still ripe in the world’s society – yet we see the likes of Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Britney Spears breaking musical pop records every year. Is it hip-hop then that has seemed for so long to have no space for the female rapper?

It is ignorant to ignore the few female rappers who were powerful enough to crack through into the mainstream over the last 10 years. Pioneers such as Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott and Eve have all achieved #1 singles  and albums. Then there are the likes of Lil Kim, Foxxy Brown and Khia – who developed notoriety for their almost naked photo-shoots and racy lyrics. None of them, however, have managed to capture any longevity, and the majority live on in obscurity, with their careers a pleasant but distant memory.

An alarming aspect of the female rap scene is the scarcity of it. With each era and generation comes a handful of potential stars with only one or two ever rocketing to stardom. Eve addressed this issue, quoted as saying the following when asked why people pit female rappers against each other;


Maybe there’s not enough of us? There only point of reference is only who’s the hottest at the moment- i’m nothing like Nicki (Minaj) and she’s nothing like Azealia… let us be ourselves!


What female rappers from the past have done however is opening doors.  This year we have the likes of Iggy Azalea (who is the first female to ever feature on the cover of XXL magazine’s Freshman issue) Azealia Banks, Rye Rye, Angel Haze and Brooke Candy, to name a few. Each bringing their own distinctive style to the table, and it is the internet which has multiplied their stock infinitely.


“Guys pit female rappers against each other because female rappers – if you haven’t noticed of late – are a lot more interesting than guys”  said Angel Haze, new face on the scene.


Indie music bloggers, video distribution websites, social media profiles and the hope to go “viral” (think 212 by Azealia), the world wide web has awoken an urge for discovery in the public. We as a species have unlimited ways to search and invest in music thanks to the internet, and it is this that has given us the chance to broaden our minds and accept a new breed of hip-hop star.

It would be an injustice if this article didn’t dedicate at least a paragraph to Nicki Minaj, who is arguably one of the biggest female rap artists of all time. Boasting 16 million followers on Twitter, she has amassed a fan base larger than any male rapper on the internet. Her split personalities, cartoonish rhymes and divergence into the dance/electro scene has solidified her as not only a tour-de-force in rap but also a titan in the pop world. She has undoubtedly sent label executives into a frenzy for women in hip-hop and can partially be thanked for this new wave of female MCs.

It is undecided, though, whether this is a definitive change or a passing niche. But with a look at the upcoming stars on the horizon and the continued success of Minaj, there is hope.  Macklemore is set to become the biggest white rapper since Eminem, and the previously mentioned Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea are both tipped to release much hyped albums later in the year. Not forgetting Le1f and Mikkey Blanco, two gay rappers who are currently in the spotlight, almost likely to do with R&B singer Frank Ocean’s recent admittance of being bisexual.

Things are changing in the hip-hop scene and we’re very excited indeed.

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