60 Essential Songs From Women in Hip-Hop
MC Sha-Rock, known as the “Mother of the Mic,” was one of the founding members of the Funky 4 + 1 in the 1970s. She often played alongside hip-hop pioneers DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash during the earliest years of hip-hop culture in New York. Meanwhile in 1987, Monie Love and Queen Latifah became the only two female members of the storied Native Tongues crew alongside Jungle Brothers, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. A year later, MC Lyte became the first solo female rapper to release a full-length album with 1988’s critically acclaimed Lyte as a Rock. These early female hip-hop pioneers broke barriers with their slick rhymes about race, gender and female empowerment.
As the 1980s rolled into the 1990s, Lauryn Hill, Foxy Brown, Da Brat, Lil' Kim, Trina, Missy Elliott, Bahamadia, Angie Martinez and countless others continued to pave the way for women in hip-hop, proving that it was possible for female rappers to gain mainstream attention and commercial success.
Fast-forward to the present day, and there are even more women in hip-hop finally getting their much deserved flowers. Nicki Minaj currently wears the crown for having the most Billboard Hot 100 hits among women of all genres. And last year, Cardi B became the first female rapper to snag Best Rap Album at the 2019 Grammy Awards for her Invasion of Privacy album.
As for the newer ladies in hip-hop, Megan Thee Stallion delivered an unforgettable Hot Girl Summer last year and a string of subsequent bangers, joining Rico Nasty and Tierra Whack in 2019’s XXL Freshman Class.
In celebration of female excellence across decades, XXL shares 60 essential songs from the most influential and innovative female rappers in hip-hop.