Music, like so many other fields, is strongly male dominated. This sad occurrence is especially prevalent in certain genres, and the result is that female artists are often overlooked and under-appreciated. Hip-hop is one of the most male dominated genres, particularly because having swag is seen as an important characteristic in MCs, and society often paints women as incapable of exuding this attitude and confidence that creates the edge that makes rap what it is.
As in all other cases, this societal construction can be disproven by the slew of female hip-hop artists that not only have just as much swag as any one else, but also put out tracks that are guaranteed to bump. Here is a breakdown of my favorite five female MCs that you may have missed out on. The order is more or less negligible, and don’t stop here because there are a lot more dope ladies to be appreciated.
Coming in at the top of my personal list would have to be Lauryn Hill. Hill was a member of the 90’s supergroup the Fugees who are responsible for classics like “Ready or Not,” “Fu-Gee-La,” and “Killing Me Softly,” which were on their token multi-platinum album, The Score.
After gaining acclaim with the Fugees, Hill went on to drop her debut solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which sold 19 million copies and topped the billboard top 200 charts in 1998. Hill is a versatile MC. As a talented singer, she can flip between soulful, melodious R&B tunes and edgy old school-sounding verses. Her flow is smooth and her voice is developed, which sets her apart from other MCs.
She has that edgy, no-bullshit sound when she raps. Content wise, Hill puts out a lot of conscious, introspective lyrics. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill has a lot of empowering content on love and self.
I would have to give MC Lyte my vote as a close second. Many people argue that MC Lyte is the best woman in the rap game. Her attitude is unparalleled in songs like “Paper Thin” and “Ruffneck.” She came to the scene early and was the first female rapper to drop a solo album with Lyte As a Rock in 1988. The album is now widely accepted as a hip-hop classic and has a sweet old-school sound.
MC Lyte’s edgy voice is one of her most defining characteristics, and her content ranges from classic party content to battle rap. If you dig uncensored lyrics and overflowing swag in your hip-hop artists, look this lady up.
Another female MC who came to the hip-hop scene early on is the ever-present Queen Latifah. You may have forgotten about her hip-hop career since she has been busy acting in blockbusters like Chicago and Hairspray, singing jazz standards and soul music, and being a talk show host on The Queen Latifah Show.
A true renaissance woman and a master of entertainment, Queen Latifah badassery extends to various forms of entertainment. The Queen was only 19 years old when she dropped her first album in 1989, All Hail the Queen. This classic album exhibits her old-school flow and hype attitude through the party content that was typical of the time period.
When compared to any other artist at the time, from Run-DMC to Public Enemy, Queen Latifah is right on point. Her later work includes some more conscious content, like the song “U.N.I.T.Y.” on the album Black Reign, which speaks out on women’s issues. Queen Latifah can’t be ignored as a performer and as an MC, and she more than deserves a spot on this list.
Next is Eve. Eve started out collaborating with big names like DMX and Dre in the late nineties before debuting her first solo album in 1999, Let There Be Eve… Ruff Ryders’ First Lady. The album went on to top the Billboard 200 that year, making Eve the third female to drop a chart topping album.
Eve’s voice commands respect, and her flow sits nicely between an old-school and new-school style. Songs like “Gotta Man,” “Who’s That Girl,” and “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” featuring Gwen Stefani have landed Eve international acclaim, and her talent should not be overlooked. Like Queen Latifah, Eve has also made a career for herself in television and film and has her own clothing line called Fetish.
Finally would have to be Missy Elliott. She is the only female MC to have put out 6 platinum albums, and although her style isn’t as “classic” as some of the other ladies on here, she has a lot to offer. Starting out around 1996 as part of a songwriting and producing duo with Timbaland, Missy Elliott has been in the game for a while.
She was featured on MC Ltye’s “Cold Rock a Party” in 1996, and you probably recognize her hits like “Work It,” “Get Ur Freak On,” and “Lose Control.” These tunes have catchy dance instrumentals that make you move if you have a soul. Rap wise, Missy Elliott’s music is less lyric heavy than what a lot of us look for in hip-hop, but I must say that I dig her laid-back flow. Her content is often heavily sexual, but she owns it with her unquestionable confidence, which is what I really like to see in female MCs.
All of these ladies shine in a male dominated field and have a lot to offer. Women can bring a new element to the hip-hop game, and it would be a mistake to overlook these MCs if you’re a hip-hop fan. Other notable women to check out are Yo-Yo, Roxanne Shanté, Da Brat, Queen Pen, Vita, Remy Ma, Sole, and Salt n’ Pepa.
– Sage Delisser, Writer