A traditionally male-dominated music genre, hip hop is known for its competitive nature and cut-throat rivalry in which only the greatest high achievers can survive. However, time after time, female hip hop artists are demonstrating that they are just as strong, fearless and successful as their male counterparts and, in some cases, even more so. Female rhymers from Salt-N-Pepa to Nicki Minaj have pushed the boundaries of hip hop to become stand out artists in their own right. These are some of the most prolific female artists of all time on the hip hop scene.
When Lauryn Hill released her solo debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, in 1998, she became the first hip hop artist (as well as the first woman) to win 5 Grammy Awards. Formerly a member of The Fugees, Hill’s vocals had been featured heavily on the group’s hugely successful album The Score which launched The Fugees and Hill into the music stratosphere. Following The Score’s release in 1996, the group disbanded before briefly reuniting on a couple of occasions for live performances. However, it was Hill’s solo album that would cement her long-lasting role in hip hop forever.
Although most famous for her solo work, Foxy Brown began her career featuring her vocals on other artists singles, such as Toni Braxton’s You’re Makin’ Me High. She was invited to join the rap supergroup known as The Firm in 1997 whose debut album entered the Billboard 200 chart at number 1. She then started recording solo albums, though left the Def Jam label in 2003 cancelling the release of her highly anticipated album Ill Na Na 2. She has often been referred to as a female version of Tupac and is expected to release a visual album King Soon Come in 2019.
In 1994, rapper Lil’ Kim was invited to join the group Junior M.A.F.I.A. by fellow rapper The Notorious B.I.G. After the success of their debut album Conspiracy, Lil’ Kim released her debut solo album Hard Core in 1996 which has since been certified double platinum and has sold more than 6 million copies around the world. Alongside Missy Elliott and Nicki Minaj, she is the only female rapper to have at least 3 platinum-certified studio albums. Her fifth studio album, 9, was released in 2019 and she was recently ranked as one of the top 50 greatest MCs of all time by Kool Moe Dee in his book There’s a God on the Mic.
After starting her music career with all-female R&B group Sista in the early 1990s, Missy Elliot later became a member of the famous Swing Mob collective alongside childhood friend Timbaland. She collaborated on many huge projects, including Aaliyah, 702 and SWV before launching her solo career in 1997 with Supa Dupa Fly. She has since gone on to win 5 Grammy Awards and sell more than 30 million records in the United States alone. According to Billboard, she is the best-selling female rap artist in Nielsen Music history and is also the only female rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019.
Credited with bringing more women into the hip hop genre, in much the same way that Divina Galicia paved the way for women in F1 and the Ladies at the Hippodrome are introducing more women to the poker scene, Salt-N-Pepa opened the door for acts like Foxy Brown and Lil’ Kim to storm the charts. Their famous single “Push It” was originally meant for the B side, however, the audience reaction was so great they released it as a hit on its own in 1987. Fast forward to the 21st century and Salt-N-Pepa has sold more than 15 million records worldwide, making them one of the best-selling rap acts of all time.
Though Nicki Minaj has only been on the hip-hop scene for a relatively short time, she has accumulated five MTV VMAs, more entries in the Billboard Hot 100 than Aretha Franklin and has sold more than 5 million albums worldwide. She has broken a number of records including the most top 10 hits among women on the Billboard R&B Hip-Hop Airplay chart making her one of the most influential hip hop artists of her time. Although she recently announced her retirement from the music scene to start a family, it is fair to say that no one ever really quits when it comes to hip hop.
There is a multitude of other women who have impacted the hip hop genre, leave us a comment below to let us know your favorite.
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