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The Rise of Female Rappers


From Salt N Pepa to Cardi B, women have always stood out in the rap game, the male dominant genre. 


With the start of hip hop during the 80s Salt-N-Pepa, a trio consisting of Sheryl “Salt” James, Sandra “Pepa” Denton and Deidra “Spinderella” Roper, were the pioneers of female rap in the male dominated genre. The group is mostly known for their iconic songs “Push it” and “Whatta man” that peaked at number 3 in the Billboard Top 100 chart, the trio become the first female rappers to be certified platinum in 1986 due to the success of “Push it”. Cheryl “Salt” James mentioned in a 2017 Guardian interview that they weren’t the first female rappers, as The Sequence came before them but they were the first to go platinum around the world. Their hit “Push it” was even nominated for a Grammy in 1989, but the trio boycotted the award show after the latter’s decision of not televising the segment of Hip hop and Rap awards. Their impact is still going strong as many artists are sampling their music even in Korean Pop a group by the name of I.O.I have sampled “Whatta man” in their song under the same title. 

IMG_1094A little later came in Dana Elaine Owens or widely known as Queen Latifah. The rapper, music producer and actress issued her first single in 1988 after being signed by Dante Ross of Tommy Boy Music. A year later after much positive feedback, Queen Latifah released her first album, All Hail to the Queen selling over 1 million copies. Queen Latifah later went on and became the Chief Executive officer of the self organized Flavor Unit Records and Management Company. Latifah didn’t only influence the music industry by her music, but her management and producing skills as well. She still stands as an icon in all the fields she has covered. 

Lil Kim was discovered and signed by the iconic rapper The Notorious B.I.G. who later on became her lover until he was killed in a drive-by. She is mostly known for the fact that she used the objectification of women for her own good turning it around to a positive thing. She was first featured on Junior M.A.F.I.A’s  “Player’s Anthem” of 1995. Her explicit lyrics were a huge turn for female rap. She inspired women to embrace their sexuality. Her debut album Hardcore, portrayed just that. She owned and embraced her sexuality unapologetically. Her influence lives on to this day.


On to the 2000s Nicki Minaj comes about. Starting as backup vocals to a few local rappers of her city NewYork, she then took it to herself to write her own. Later on she was discovered by Dirty Money’s CEO Fendi who stumbled upon her MySpace page and signed her to his label. Their relationship connected Nicki to the rapper Lil Wayne, who was featured on multiple of her mixtapes the first being Playtime Is Over which was released April 2007. After have earned a fanbase and a name in the industry post her mixtape releases, she was signed to Lil Wayne’s Young Money label in August 2009 becoming the first ever female artist of the label. Anticipation has built up for the release of her album scheduled on the second half of 2010, but in the same year she dropped 2 singles the first being “Massive Attack” followed by “Your Love” and two months after the release she won Best Hip Hop Female at the BET Awards, an award she won 7 consecutive times. Her much anticipated album dropped that same year in November by the title “The Pink Friday” getting a huge positive response and going triple platinum. She released three albums after her first that were all hits, and crowning her the Queen of Rap by a majority. Her next album is still on standby post the release of two new singles “Barbie Tingz” and “Chun li”.  


Emerging as a Social Media Personality, Cardi B earned the hearts of many people for her care-less persona and her real-ness. Cardi B was just a girl from the Bronx that posted Vines about her life and at that time, stripping. Her explicitness was loved by the public and soon she rose to fame. At first, she starred in the reality TV show Love and Hip Hop: New York appearing from 2015 until 2017 where she started to focus more on her musical career. Releasing 2 mixtapes in 2017, she was signed to Atlantic Records in February of that year and released her commercial debut single, Bodak Yellow. The song became a hit in no time and went triple platinum and made it to the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 making history as the first female artist to do so in nearly 19 years since Lauryn Hill’s “That Thing” in 1998. The rapper after was featured on many hits like Bruno Mars’ “Finesse” and G-Eazy’s “No limit”. Her debut album was released April 6th of this year and continuing to make history by breaking records of people like Beyoncè. Her strong personality clearly shows in her music and her success keeps adding up. 


With many female rappers on the rise, the latest standing out goes by the name of Saweetie. She started uploading Instagram and YouTube clips of her freestyles and rap, but one stood out the most. “ICY GRL”, which was her breakthrough track, was her rapping over Khia’s “My Neck, My Back”. It was uploaded to her YouTube channel on October of 2017 and earned millions of views until she was discovered by well-known label Warner Bros. The label promoted the track more and gave it wider digital distribution. She made it to the Billboards Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart post the release of her EP “High Maintenance”. The rapper continues to flourish and give praise to those prior to her such as Nicki Minaj. 

Overall, these women have either affected  and/or have been effected by each other, they have had so much influence on the view of women in music and their legacy will definitely live on. 

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