There has been a multitude of female rappers, such as old-school legends like Missy Elliott or new stars like Cardi B. Now, there’s more than ever killing it, and finally, female rappers are showing they are capable of overshadowing and surpassing their male peers.
Different artists mark different eras, and certain female rappers appeal to specific regions. 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 7-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.
Minaj changed what was possible for a female rapper concerning the potential success levels. She appeared on a track featuring Jay-Z, Kanye West and Rick Ross and destroyed them all. It was the first time hip hop had seen a female outbar, not just one man but males en masse.
Nicki broke down many barriers for women but struggled a lot to get into the position she is in now. You can see old freestyles of Minaj on the internet dating back to 2003. The rapper’s career only really took off in 2010. With such determination and groundwork put in when Minaj finally got her foot in the door, she did a lot to make sure she stayed there and (from artists and people behind the scenes) there have been several accusations of bullying.
Minaj has been accused of blackmail, bribing DJs, and more. Especially since Remy Ma’s release and Cardi’s ascension, Nicki has, according to people within the industry and the artists themselves, done a lot in her attempts to block and suppress them.
Minaj aside, female rap has come incredibly far since its conception. However, many contemporary hip-hop fans will not be aware of its origin. Some may think it’s Salt-N-Pepa, but it isn’t. The first-ever female MC to touch a mic and rap as a hip-hop artist is MC Sha-Rock of the Funky 4 + 1.
Sharon Green, aka MC Sha-Rock, grew up in the South Bronx, where hip hop was born and became part of the Funky 4 + 1 as hip hop crews were forming.
You can listen to MC Sha-Rock in the video below.