It's never been easy for a woman to find her way into the rap game. First, she had to fight hard to become an equal to the frequently sexist male rappers. And then, she had to deal with her rivals; the audience, or the industry, curiously, always wanted just one female star per generation. And then, once all of this is achieved, any female rapper needed to position herself against the many stereotypes about her kind. She had to decide if she was a tomboy, or a bad bitch, or an R&B sentimentalist. Despite these many obstacles, however, many made it. Females matter, in hip-hop, as demonstrated by our selection of outstanding projects.
One criteria only dictated which records were selected in the list: their quality. Their historical significance, or their representativeness, had nothing to do with our choice. They were all about this subjective thing called "taste". Don't be surprised, then, if some female rap highlights are missing. Also, please notice that we only listed hip-hop projects, delivered entirely by females: no R&B album there, and no mixed band. However, if you are shocked by the list, if you think that something is wrong with it, please do comment it, at the bottom of this page.
For the time being, our list will focus primarily on the years 2008 to 2020.
# 100. KASH DOLL - Brat Mail (2018)
There were many rap dolls, in the second half of the 2010's, but Arkeisha Knight might have been the most eminent of them all; with her first class collaborations, at least. Her releases were a bit mixed, apart maybe from that one, a short mixtape she dedicated entirely to her riches and to her success, with a sound that had more in common with Atlanta, than with her own city of Detroit.
# 099. QUEEN KEY - Your Highness (2016)
Ke'Asha McClure is the embodiment of feminism, the way it is approached by rap music. She is incredibly insolent, absolutely hedonist, and keen on displaying her appetite for sex, or to treat men with contempt, as if they were objects. She was already all of this, on the imperfect but appealing Your Highness, the first project of this endearingly cheeky and funny rapper from Chicago.
# 098. CUPCAKKE - Queen Elizabitch (2017)
The most hardcore of all female dirty rappers is also the nicest. Behind CupcakKe's thirst for sex, despite her furious raps, her porn lyrics and her harsh beats, she is a conscious rapper, fighting to liberate the women and the ugly. Coupled with her most melodic moments, this attitude made Elizabeth Harris a much more mainstream and respectable rapper than she looked like at first glance.
# 097. KODIE SHANE - Big Trouble Little Jupiter (2017)
The feminine face of Lil Yachtie's Sailing Team is Kodie Shane. Like the rest of Lil Yachtie's crew, she was joyous, juvenile and exuberant. When she didn't deliver some serious, intimate or sung tracks – after all, she had R&B musicians in her family, like her half-sister, an ex-member of Blaque – she delivered astute and petulant songs, her best, such as with the irresistible "Like a Rockstar".
# 096. LORD NARF - Witchcraft (2016)
The people in Awful Records had grown up with rap music. For them, practicing it was obvious, but they didn't do it with any kind of respect. They did it in their own twisted way, as demonstrated here by one of their female members. Lord Narf was indeed a skilled rapper, like in the old days, but she preferred to use her hypnotic, low and witchy voice with some ghostly and bizarre kind of music.
# 095. AZJAH - Princess Diaries (2019)
One of the main trends in rap music, by the end of the 2010s, was this sad gangster music, delivered with atmospheric sounds and, from time to time, Auto-Tuned voices. Azjah had represented this, in L.A. The album from the so-called "Princess of Compton" might not be the most famous from that place, but it deserves to be known, at least for gems like the magnificent "Loved Ones".
# 094. ASIAN DOLL - Drippin' in Glo (2016)
Like all of the other dolls who invaded the rap game by the end of the 2010's, Asian Doll - who, by the way, has nothing to do with Asia - is a heir of Nicki Minaj. With this album, though, which she focused on a gangster stance and anthems to money, the self-titled Queen of the Teens also demonstrated why she deserved to be the very first woman invited to join Gucci Mane's 1017 Records.
# 093. LADY LESHURR - Friggin L (2011)
Lady Leshurr was the premier freestyle rapper in the UK, in the 2010's. It is indeed through her "Queen Speech" series that she made a name for herself. Even prior to that, though, Friggin L had been her defining mixtape. Due to her version of Chris Brown's "Look at Me Now" and her US influences, it was also the first time that the rapper had caught the attention of her American peers.
# 092. YOUNG M.A - M.A The Mixtape (2015)
With "Ooouuu", Young M.A. released one of 2016's bangers. This song made her famous. It popularized her impetuous raps, her tomboy pose, and her overtly lesbian stance. This single, however, had not been the first time New-York's rapper had demonstrated her talents. One year before, she had showed that she was an outstanding freestyler, while rapping brashly on some recent big rap hits.
# 091. KATIE GOT BANDZ - Bandz and Hittaz (2012)
Katie Got Bandz was imprisoned when her first rap song, "I Need a Hitta", got hot in the streets of Chicago. This would encourage her to turn into a full-time rapper. And thus, being as tough and intimidating as her male peers, as shown on her first mixtape, she would open a way to the other ladies of drill music. After Bandz and Hittaz, she would become the queen of this rising rap subgenre.
# 090. CUPCAKKE - Cum Cake (2016)
By 2016, as announced with this delicate cover art, CupcakKe pushed even further the very limits of dirty rap. The Chicago native would claim her thirst for sex; she would be explicitly pornographic, more than any before her. But she would also talk about the nastier and darker sides of sex, like with the autobiographic track "Pedophile". And at times, she would turn into a conscious and feminist rapper.
# 089. LIL DEBBIE - Debbie (2016)
The White Girl Mob, this band of white chicks located by the Bay Area, didn't last long. Kreayshawn, its figurehead, disappeared from the rap game, as well as V-Nasty, despite her surprising collaboration with Gucci Mane. Only Jordan Capozzi, a.k.a. Lil Debbie, lasted. Sure, most of her releases were uneven, but they had some memorable tracks, especially that album, she simply titled after her name.
# 088. DEJ LOAF - Sell Sole (2014)
One song only, and everything was different. After her defining single "Try Me", Dej Loaf was no longer a backpacker. She had left the underground, and she collaborated with rap stars. On Sell Sole indeed, the mixtape that revealed her, the frail and shy Detroit rapper suddenly turned rough, agressive and cheeky, even if her music, on the opposite, was on the moody and contemplative sides.
# 087. RICO NASTY - Nasty (2018)
First known for her own "sugar trap" subgenre, a deceptively naïve kind of music talking about drugs and sex with childhood words and imageries, Rico Nasty evolved. On Nasty, with some decisive support from Kenny Beats, she turned into a punk rock vixen. And with tracks as coarse as "Trust Issues", "In The Air" and the outstanding "Rage", the Maryland rapper delivered her best project to date.
# 086. IGGY AZALEA - Ignorant Art (2011)
Before turning pop and mainstream, like so many of her colleagues, Iggy Azalea had appropriated the sounds, style and excesses - the sexual ones, mostly - of southern rap. It was somehow strange to see a white and Australian lady exploring that way, and representing a culture which was not hers. But still, with Ignorant Art at least, the mixtape which had made her famous, it had worked rather well.
# 085. NEILA - Better Late Than Never (2009)
The heights of Neila's career, by the late 2000's and early 2010's, were also a time of pain, distress and bad health condition for the Hawaiian rapper. Released once again with some support from Deeskee, a key player on the West Coast Underground rap scene, this album testified of this with its perfect balance of sinister tracks, more joyful songs, and the key contribution of her Californian pals.
# 084. AMBER LONDON - 1994 EP (2012)
Amber London doesn't show up on the cover of her mixtape, and no other woman neither. And there is a reason for this: like her friends from the Raider Klan, this is not about her, this is not about her time. This is all about rap forms from the 90's. Her aim was to restore them: those from her own Texas, those from Memphis, and also California's g-funk, she perfectly appropriated on the excellent "Low MF Key".
# 083. LEIKELI47 - Acrylic (2018)
Leikeli47 hids her face behind an ugly ski mask. However, she talks about beauty products and body care. Her most remarked release is about acrylic, the chemical compound false nails are made of. Its smells, indeed, are evocative of the beauty salons in the African-American neighborhoods. They are a way, for the New-York rapper, to celebrate her personal universe on this diverse and creative release.
# 082. 3D NA'TEE - The Coronation (2012)
Noticed by G-Unit, and then Timbaland, 3D Na'Tee was supposed to release a mixtape with some support from the latter. The Coronation, though, would be recorded without his assistance. Nonetheless, it would be a crucial release for the New-Orleans rapper. Below the battle raps at the surface, it also had social considerations, and a few hints about the difficult existence she had as a teenager.
# 081. STEFFLON DON - Real Ting Mixtape (2016)
Stefflon Don was part of a new generation of English rappers. Previously, in the UK, the local rap scene had been divided between the hip-hop traditionalists and the separate universe of grime. Stephanie Allen, though, was mostly influenced by contemporary American rap. Like many Brits, though, she had a particular appetite for dancehall songs, and these were often the best, on her first mixtape.
# 080. PRINCESS NOKIA - 1992 (2016)
Princess Nokia is a pure product from New-York. She is a progressist, both with her lyrics - they are feminist, pro-queer, opposed to the tyranny of beauty, and proud of the rapper's Portorican ascent - and her music - it is open, eclectic and influenced by IDM. This self-produced project, rereleased one year later by British label Rough Trade, was the main highlight of her so-so career and discography.
# 079. DONMONIQUE - Thirst Trap (2015)
Thirst Trap was full of sounds typical of New York City: looped samples, heavy basses, disturbing piano keys, and the low and threatening voice of the rapper. However, as its title alluded to, other influences were involved, from Atlanta's trap music to California's ratchet. With it, DonMonique was rejuvenating the hip-hop sound of the Big Apple, more than inheriting or preserving it.
# 078. HONEY COCAINE - Thug Love (2013)
Later on, Honey Cocaine would use a more consensual moniker, and she would smooth some of her rough edges. But on Thug Love, the Tyga protégée was on the mischievous, sulfurous and insolent side. Except for her Asian ethnicity and her Canadian citizenship, she was a generic product of the trap music era. That release, though, her defining mixtape, was a solid one with a few bangers.
# 077. NONAME - Telefone (2016)
Known through her works with Mick Jenkins and Chance the Rapper, Noname represents expectedly the arty and intellectual face of Chicago's rap scene. With her slam and poetry background, and her sweet and lighthearted jazz sounds, her Telefone mixtape looked like a coming-of-age novel. It was all about the story, both joyous and sad, of a child turning into an adult, and losing her innocence.
# 076. CAM & CHINA - Cam & China (2016)
Two Californian twin sisters, quite at their ease with a microphone, would confirm their talent with this EP. A few years after their debut, as two members of Pink Dollaz, a quintet exclusively made of female teenagers, with a taste for sexually explicit lyrics, Cam and China proved they had a larger palette than what they had showed before, when they spearheaded the short-lived jerkin' movement.
# 075. KAMAIYAH - A Good Night in the Ghetto (2016)
With A Good Night in the Ghetto, Kamaiyah continued a long Californian tradition. There was a bit of g-funk on this mixtape, including funky sounds and a few sirens, but also some more recent sounds, influenced by the ratchet subgenre, represented here by YG. There was also, first and foremost, a strong willingness to celebrate happiness and little pleasures, in the challenging world of the ghetto.
# 074. NEILA - Only This One Counts (2011)
Discovered through the Californian click LA2theBay, and based in Hawaii, Neila has released with a great regularity an interesting bunch of records. This one, however, had a special flavor, and a quite bitter one. By then, indeed, the rapper was battling a cancer, and her voice was damaged. As a result, the well-named Only This One Counts would be her most sinister album, and her most poignant.
# 073. TOMMY GENESIS - World Vision (2015)
By the middle of the 2010's, in Atlanta, the fellows from Awful Records decided to focus on the most eclectic, bizarre and sinister side of rap. Discovered in Vancouver, Canada, art student Tommy Genesis would feel at ease with them. Her diverse and strange kind of rap, made of trap music provocations, ethereal ambiances and IDM-oriented sounds, complied perfectly to the collective's agenda.
# 072. SNOW THA PRODUCT - Unorthodox (2011)
Snow White was called that way because of her fair skin color. The future Snow Tha Product, though, was not a WASP. She was of Mexican descent, and sometimes she alluded to her origins, on funny tracks like "Telemundo" et "Maria Felix". But she had more to show on Unorthodox, a joyous, light, playful, sexy and fantasist self-released album, where she made a point at challenging stereotypes.
# 071. NICKI MINAJ - Beam Me up Scotty (2009)
In the 2010's, the superstar of female rap was Nicki Minaj. No contest. But it was a few years earlier, through mixtapes, when she was Lil Wayne's protégée, that she had started to build a reputation. Before turning into a pop singer, Onika Maraj had demonstrated her skills as a rapper, thanks to these releases, and more particularly to Beam Me Up Scotty, the true turning point of her successful career.