To deny women’s contributions to Hip Hop is to deny Hip Hop itself. The women in Hip Hop have not only kicked in the door demanding respect, but also dominated the industry just like (or better than) their male counterparts. So, in no ranking order, here’s a spotlight on nine women in Hip Hop who trail blaze, influence, and elevate the culture.
Salt-N-Pepa and DJ Spinderella are one of the GOAT Hip Hop/music groups. First, they came in the game with The Showstopper, a low-key diss record in response to Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick’s classic, The Show. Later, they made eyes turn with Push It, an 80s club banger that made soccer moms cringe. In the 90s, the group’s evolution made them legendary with the safe sex track Lets Talk About Sex, along with classics such as Whatta Man ft. En Vogue, Expression, and Shoop.
2. Queen Latifah
Long before starring in the TV series The Equalizer and receiving multiple awards for acting, New Jersey’s own Queen Latifah unapologetically planted her flag in the male-dominated rap world, creating the anthem Ladies First ft. Monie Love. Latifah wore her crown unchallenged with fire rhymes that commanded respect with songs such as Latifah’s Had It Up to Here, Just Another Day, and U.N.I.T.Y.
Her role as Khadijah James on the TV show Living Single was so influential, that the NBC network created a mayonnaise version of it called Friends. At the same time, her role as Cleo in the film Set It Off became a household name in the culture. On mic and onscreen, Latifah’s legend status is unquestioned; however, it’s her behind-the-scenes moves that don’t get enough shine. She is the cofounder of Flavor Unit Entertainment which debuted Hip Hop group Naughty by Nature while managing artists such as Monica, Outkast, and Zhane. She has also produced multiple movie and TV shows.
The Diamond Princess Trina was on boss status the moment she drove NFL legend Warren Sapp’s Benz into the Miami ocean. Trina’s debut verse on Trick Daddy’s Nann made the hood and everybody’s cousins take notice. Trina’s blend of raunchy yet classy style on tracks such as Pull Over, I Don’t Need You, and Look Back at Me made her a Queen of the South, where she was the first to introduce the culture to Rick Ross and birth City Girls.
4. MC Lyte
The voice of Hip Hop, Brooklyn-born MC Lyte finessed her skill set on the debut Lyte As A Rock as a female MC pioneer who could out-rhyme any man, woman, or Dr. Seuss’s book. She is the definition of an MC, whether telling a story on Poor Georgie or sending verbal shots on Paper Thin. Lyte’s musical influence will always reign supreme, while her distinctive voice can still be heard as an announcer on multiple commercial and award shows.
5. Missy Elliot
Missy Elliot is the greatest artist that ever came out of Hip Hop. As a producer, she’s created hit records for Diddy, Aaliyah (RIP), SWV, and various other artists. Her personal music catalog has always been innovative, whether she’s rapping in an abstract style on The Rain or visually eye-catching in videos like Get Ur Freak On. Missy Elliot lowkey could do a Verzuz by herself because there’s no one like her, hence the reason no argument was (or should ever be) raised when she became the first female rapper inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
After premiering on Kriss Kross’s Da Bomb, Chicago-born Da Brat took the baton and ran all the way to legend status by becoming the first solo female rapper to sell a million records with her Funkdafied debut album. Da Brat stood equally next to the Notorious B.I.G. on Da B Side while smoothly rhyming with the baseline on Give It 2 U. Her rapid-fire flow is underrated. Her run on songs such as Destiny’s Child’s Jumpin Jumpin-remix, Dru Hill’s In My Bed-remix, and Mariah Carey’s Always Be My Baby-remix made her an elite feature killer.
7. Lil Kim
At one time, Lil Kim had men shaking in their timbs. Kim may have started as a protege of the late Biggie Smalls, but she later evolved into an all-out cultural icon. Queen Bee unapologetically pioneered sexual empowerment with songs such as Get Money and No Time during a prime Hip Hop culture that championed misogyny. She also led the all-women posse cut Not Tonight (Ladies Night-remix), a timeless summer anthem with Crush on You, and stole the shine on Mobb Deep’s Quiet Storm-remix. Lil Kim’s high fashion is iconic enough for legends like Diana Ross to famously get a cheap feel at the MTV music video awards, while her influence birthed the likes of Nicki Minaj.
Eve’s three-album run, which consists of Let There Be Eve, Scorpion, and Eve-Olution, is nothing short of masterful. Being a lyrical standout on the Hip Hop crew known as the Ruff Ryders (whose members include DMX and the Lox) deserves high praise for the Philly-born MC. Eve’s rhyme style is versatile. She can rap delicate for the catchy guitar beat Let Me Blow Ya Mind, meaningful on Love Is Blind, or fierce on Double R What. Onscreen, Eve’s career blossomed as she acted in her self-titled TV show, movies, and cohosted on The Talk, making her one of Hip Hop’s most multifaceted artists.
9. Nicki Minaj
Nicki’s nearly a decade of dominance came with high charting Billboards records, song-stealing features, and a BET award for Best Female rapper damn near every year. A series of popular mixtapes, credible underground DVD freestyles, and a Lil Wayne cosign got Nicki Minaj hot in the streets. At the same time, an impressive verse on Kanye West’s Monster (a track also featuring Jay Z and Rick Ross) made the world notice.