Hip-hop is undoubtedly a male-dominated culture. Full of testosterone and aggression until very recently, female rappers arrived few and far between, and when they did arrive, they weren’t around for long. In hip-hop, sexism has been very real for a long time. Since the art form’s conception, males have always had an unwavering assertion that female rap is innately inferior to male rap.
It is common knowledge among real hip-hop fans that the MC Sha-rock was the first female MC in the hip-hop culture. Her real name is Sharon Green. MC Sha-Rock grew up in the South Bronx, where hip-hop was born and became part of the Funky 4 + 1, one of the first hip-hop groups.
However, this was in the late 1970s and even with Green as part of the group, the fact that she was the plus one of the group, quite literally according to their name, sadly insinuated that, as a female, Green was detached.
When it comes to female rappers, different artists mark different eras, and certain female rappers appeal to specific regions. After the ’70s, the 1980s didn’t see many female rappers. LA rapper Yo-Yo was around, but most of her material was as a featured artist for prominent West Coast male artists. MC Lyte also began to emerge. However, this was as the decade was drawing to a close.
During the 1990s, Lil’ Kim was hip-hop’s most prominent female rapper. As a result of her affiliation with Bad Boy Entertainment, The Notorious B.I.G and Diddy, Lil Kim received a lot of exposure and shine. Furthermore, she was operating in New York, the home of hip-hop and was bound to break through.
However, in the late ’90s, another female artist began to take hold of the southern states, which started just after Notorious B.I.G’s death. Alongside rapper Trick Daddy Dollars, Trina began to blow up in Miami, with her buzz spreading througout the south. Trina, akin to Lil Kim, was raw and sexually provocative. However, her legion of fans was in the south, while people in New York and its surrounding areas were still loyal to Lil’ Kim.
Sometimes female rap can become quite divisive and polarising, with fans perpetuating the narrative that “there can only be one queen”. During the early 2000s, Lil Kim began to fade slightly, and Trina began to rise. However, a new artist from New York also began to break through. Signed to Loud Records alongside Fat Joe, Remy Ma from the Bronx was popular as a battle rapper on the underground. However, she made a breakthrough with her appearance on the remix of M.O.P’s smash hit ‘Ante-Up’.
From here, Remy Ma began to ascend. The early noughties most definitely saw Trina and Remy as the two leading female artists in the US. Unfortunately, during the mid-noughties, just after the release of her debut album, There’s Something About Remy, which performed poorly, Remy Ma faced legal issues and got hit with a seven-year prison sentence in 2007.
A new face had emerged by 2007. This artist had been grafting since 2004, appeared on multiple mixtapes as a featured artist in New York, and appeared several times on the famous Come Up DVD. This person would catch Lil Wayne’s eye and change the definition of female rap forever. This person was Nicki Minaj.
When it comes to Nicki Minaj, timing played a huge part in her success. Lil Kim had been irrelevant for years, Remy Ma was in prison, and Trina was an unimportant artist by 2007. Nicki had the chance to study these artists, see where they had made mistakes and learn from their failures. As a result, she was the first female rapper in hip hop to turn mogul.
Now, with Cardi B’s success, the floodgates of female rap have opened, and hip-hop is seeing more female rappers making a name for themselves nationally and internationally. Together Nicki Minaj and Cardi B have shown the world that female rappers can garner just as much attention as male rappers, if not more. This has inspired so many women to get involved in hip-hop and has led to an influx of new up-and-coming female artists, so we have compiled a list of the five best new female rappers destined for stardom.
The five best new female rappers:
5. Ice Spice
Ice Spice had to be featured on this list, although one might be unsure about how much longevity her music has. Usually, a new rapper who has just broken into the mainstream has a good few projects under their belt already. Whether it’s mixtapes, EPs or others, they have a catalogue from their time on the underground.
That is not the case with Ice Spice. The Bronx rapper had a viral song with her track ‘Munch’, which she released through WorldStarHipHop in 2022 and even admitted herself that she had never been into a recording studio until the end of 2021. Fad tracks come-and-go in hip-hop, so it’s hard to tell at this point whether or not she will be a mainstay. In 2019, LA rapper Blueface had a hit with ‘Thotiana’ but never followed up with anything else of quality.
Ice Spice performed at Drake’s OVO Fest last year after she released ‘Munch’, but then she explained that Drake followed her, asked her to perform, and then unfollowed her. From this, one can infer that even Drake doesn’t think we’ll hear or see much more of Ice Spice beyond ‘Munch’.
4. Bree Runway
Bree Runway is a Hackney-born British rapper and singer who broke into the mainstream in 2020. Bree Runway is almost the UK’s answer to Azealia Banks in that she can sing, rap and has a very distinctive style that has made her an icon almost overnight, with fashion and culture magazines really gravitating towards her and her brand.
However, unlike Azealia Banks, Bree Runway does not go on social media rampages. Unbeknownst to many in the UK, Runway has actually been far more successful in the US than a lot of the more prevalent UK female rappers such as Ms Banks and Ivorian Doll and continues to foster relationships in the US. She has had tracks with the likes of Missy Elliott and Malibu Mitch and has only been in the mainstream for the best part of two years. Most definitely a dark horse.
BIA is a Boston rapper who seems to be blowing up very quickly. Born and raised in the Medford area downtown, BIA has the quintessential Boston accent, which makes her vocal delivery quite unique. The rapper signed with Pharrell’s I Am Other label in 2014. However, her career seemed to consist of her solely being a support act, with Pharrell taking the more organic ‘slow drip’ approach. With each tour BIA went on, and with every EP she released, a small yet significant number of fans were gained.
BIA released EPs, collaborated and toured for the best part of six years before she really started to see the fruits of her labour. So although BIA is technically not new, she has only just broken into the mainstream and has been putting in work on the underground for years. Her track ‘London’ featuring J. Cole is an amazing UK drill-inspired track and has garnered a lot of attention from the hip-hop community, especially in the UK.
2. Gloss Up
Gloss Up is a Memphis rapper who has risen to fame alongside her friend GloRilla. Memphis rap is currently having a renaissance, and GloRilla is partly the reason why. With the Memphis producer HitKidd as her weapon, GloRilla made a vast amount of tracks before ‘Tomorrow 2’ and (alongside Aleza) one of her most frequent collaborators was Gloss Up.
Akin to GloRilla, because of Memphis’s proximity to Atlanta, Gloss Up became extremely popular in the city and is signed to Kevin “Coach K” Lee’s Quality Control label (QC). QC is home to the likes of Quavo, Lil Baby, City Girls and Lil Yachty. For a short period of time, it was even home to the Migos. Now with the benefit of distribution by Capitol Records it shouldn’t be long before Gloss Up breaks into the mainstream.
GloRilla is one of the hottest new female artists out right now, and in 2023, she has the most leverage out of all the up-and-coming female rappers in the US. GloRilla was already known in her home state of Tennessee, and (following the Lil Wayne blueprint) she was really beginning to become popular across the South.
With a very heavy Southern twang and as a result of her hometown’s proximity to Atlanta, which is the US hip-hop Mecca in 2023, she was garnering attention in the city very quickly. Born and raised in Memphis, GloRilla gained traction in the South of the back of her self-released mixtapes, Most Likely Up Next (2019) and P Status (2020).
With everybody in lockdown during 2020, everybody, including label executives, took to the internet to watch videos and entertain themselves. Doing just this, Memphis rapper and record executive Yo Gotti saw the plethora of music videos GloRilla had released through the popular YouTube channel World Star Hip Hop.
Wanting to support local talent in his city, Gotti signed the young lady to his label CMG. With an Interscope distribution deal, GloRilla’s music began to reach further and get featured on curated playlists. As a result, ‘Bodak Yellow’ rapper Cardi B stumbled upon her music and, wanting to shine a light on her, collaborated with her on their track ‘Tomorrow 2’. The rest is history, as this sent GloRilla’s fanbase through the roof. The Memphis rapper is undoubtedly going to become a female rap mainstay.