A good female rapper is hard to find. When hip hop became a male dominated musical genre in the late ’80s and early ’90s, some women got fed up and declared no more. If you listen to the talented ladies like Nicki Minaj or Azealia Banks who dominate our Spotify playlists today, it’s important to know who the ladies were that paved the way for them. When Queen Latifah rapped, “Who you calling a bitch?” it was more than just a rhetorical question. The song “U.N.I.T.Y.” calls our culture out on slut shaming, domestic violence, cat-calling and even girl-on-girl hating. The Queen was shouting to a less progressive world, “Let ‘em know. You ain’t a bitch or a hoe.”
Female MCs began, first and foremost, with female empowerment. Always with a flirtatious and fierce attitude and a healthy sexual appetite they had no problem going where women traditionally were not allowed to go. They wore baggy clothes, talked about sex, demanded respect and wouldn’t tolerate any form of sexism. The early ’90s were truly an amazing time for these women artists who used their gender neutral style to let the world know that they are worthy competitors for their male counterparts. (Kind of like when women wore shoulder pads in the ’80s!) These pioneers are the reasons why rappers like M.I.A., Lil Kim, Nicki Minaj and Azealia Banks can look feminine, glamorous and use their sexuality as a tool for empowerment while still working in the paradigm of a male dominated field. Similar to the transition between second and third wave feminism, hip hop went from emulating the styles of men to reclaim a sense of strength and womanhood to evolving where women have true freedom and power in their sexuality and femininity.
MC Lyte “Poor Georgie” (1991)
Queen Latifah “U.N.I.T.Y.” (1993)
Salt ‘N’ Pepa “Shoop” (1993)
TLC “Waterfalls” (1995)
Lil’ Kim, Missy, Angie Martinez, Da Brat, Left Eye “Ladiez Night” (1997)
Lauryn Hill “Doo Wop” (1998)
Missy Elliot “I’m Really Hot” (2004)
Nicki Minaj “Beez In The Trap” (2012)
M.I.A. “Bad Girls” (2013)
Azealia Banks “1991” (2013)
Listen To This is our weekly music column where we share the latest songs, music videos and playlist we can’t get out of our heads. For more Listen To This click here.