Rap music has been a staple in the music industry since the 1970s, and it rose to prominence in the 1990s. Throughout the history of music, female hip hop artists have continuously broken boundaries and records and created space for each other’s success. That’s why we have created a list of the 21 best female rappers of all time.
1. Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah is an American rapper from Newark, New Jersey. She was first signed to the record label, Tommy Boy Records, in 1989. Through her record deal, she released her first album “All Hail The Queen” in 1989. The debut album included her hit single “Ladies First.”
In 1993, she released her album “Black Reign,” which became the first album by a female rapper to become certified gold. The album included her hit song “U.N.I.T.Y.,” which raised awareness about violence against women, especially toward black female sexuality. She would go on to win multiple awards and star in countless movies, making her a staple in American music and film.
2. Missy Elliot
Missy Elliot started her music career in an R&B group known as Sista in the early 1990s. She would later become part of the group Swing Mob with her friend Timbaland. After numerous collaborations, she began her solo rap career in 1997 with her debut album “Sock It 2 Me.” It became the highest charting debut for any female rapper at that time, becoming number three on the Billboard 200.
She would later go on to be known as the “Queen of Rap.” She has sold over 30 million records in the United States alone and is recognized internationally.
3. Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill is one of the greatest rappers of all time and one of the most influential musicians to come out of the 1990s. She began her career in the group The Fugees and would release the hit song “Killing Me Softly.”
Her debut album as a solo artist, “The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill,” was released in 1998 and has become one of the best-selling albums of all time. It also became registered in the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry. Hill is credited for pushing the boundaries to create space for other female rappers and has brought hip-hop and neo-soul to modern, popular music. She has broken countless records in her time and continues to influence modern rap and music.
4. Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj is a Trinidadian rapper who first gained popularity by releasing mixtapes in 2007 and 2009. Her debut album, “Pink Friday,” was released in 2010 and was at the top of the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, and her song “Super Bass” was charting as well. The album would become a certified diamond record.
Minaj would go on to release countless singles that would chart and receive awards. She is also known as the “Queen of Hip Hop” and also the “Queen of Rap,” becoming influential in American rap and internationally known.
Rapsody is an American rapper who became known for her second album “Laila’s Wisdom.” It was released in 2017 and received multiple Grammy Award nominations. Her second album “Eve” was released in 2019 and is also highly critically acclaimed.
Rapsody is most commonly known for her rhyme patterns and poetic rap. She uses metaphors and wordplay to create her poetic language.
6. Foxy Brown
Foxy Brown was signed to the record label Def Jam in 1996 and released her debut album “Ill Na Na” the same year. The album became a certified platinum record and would go on to sell over 7 million copies throughout the world.
Her second album “Chyna Doll” was released in 1999 and made her the second female rapper to be at the top of the Billboard 200 chart—the first being Lauryn Hill. She would go on to release her third album “Broken Silence” in 2001. Her rap style continues to influence the music industry today.
7. Lil’ Kim
Lil’ Kim is an American rapper from Brooklyn, New York City, where she lived on the streets. She began to freestyle rap in her teens, and in 1994, was discovered by the rapper The Notorious B.I.G. She would join his group known as M.A.F.I.A. and be featured on the album “Conspiracy.” The album became a certified gold record and released two of the top 20 singles in America.
Lil’ Kim’s first debut solo album, “Hard Core,” was released in 1996 and was certified double platinum, selling over six million copies. Her following albums became certified platinum as well, and she has since become one of the most popular female rappers in America.
8. Da Brat
The Chicago-born rapper, Da Brat, began her music career in 1992 when she was signed to So So Def Records. In 1994, she released her debut album known as “Funkdafied.” It sold over one million copies and made her the first female rapper to gain a platinum certification.
Through her debut album and her second album, “Not Tonight,” she has released two top ten hits. She has received commercial and critical success along with multiple Grammy Award nominations.
M.I.A. is a British-Syrian rapper whose songs circle political and social standards regarding immigration, identity, and warfare. She is often cited for her use of blending multiple music genres, such as hip-hop, alternative, and electronic. She also includes new instruments and samples.
M.I.A. found fame after becoming known in the underground rap scene on the internet in 2004. She has released five studio albums that have all received widespread critical acclaim and have charted singles.
10. Cardi B
Cardi B is an American rapper from New York City. She first became known as an internet celebrity through Vine and Instagram and was a regular cast member on Love & Hip Hop. Her first studio album “Invasion Of Privacy” was released in 2018 and reached number one on the Billboard 200.
She became the only woman to win the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album and the first female rapper to win the award in 15 years. She has since received constant critical acclaim, records, and awards, making her a staple in the American music industry.
Trina is regarded as one of the “most consistent female rappers of all time.” She has released numerous albums after rising to prominence in 1998 after appearing on one of Trick Daddy’s singles.
In 2000, she would release her debut album “Da Baddest Bitch,” which reached 33 on the Billboard 200 and also 11 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. For 39 consecutive weeks, her album would stay on the Billboard 200. After her initial success, she repeatedly released albums that would receive critical acclaim, records, and awards.
12. Megan Thee Stallion
Megan Thee Stallion is an American rapper from Houston, Texas. She became popular on the internet through social media, where she would post videos of her freestyle rap on Instagram. In 2018, she signed to the record label, 300 Entertainment, and released her mixtape “Fever” in 2019. She would then release her EP “Suga” in 2020. Both of these songs would reach the top ten on the Billboard 200 chart.
Her first debut album “Good News” was released in 2020 and included multiple hit singles along with widespread critical acclaim. Throughout the year, she received multiple awards and worldwide recognition.
Eve is an American rapper who rose to fame in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In 1999, she released her debut album “Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryders First Lady.” The album reached number one on the Billboard charts and made her the third female rapper to do so.
Eve would then release three other albums that all reached commercial success. She has since collaborated with other artists, received countless awards, and has become influential in the American music industry.
Saweetie released her debut single in 2018, known as “ICY GRL.” After the release of this single, she was signed to the record label, Artistry Worldwide, a branch of Warner Records. She released her debut EP “High Maintenance” in 2018. Her second EP “ICY” was released in 2019 and included the hit single “My Type.”
Her debut album “Pretty Bitch Music” is planned to be released in 2022, which will include the singles “Tap In” and “Best Friend.” Both singles have charted in the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100.
15. Rico Nasty
Rico Nasty is an American rapper from Maryland who rose to fame in 2018 after releasing her singles “Poppin” and “Smack A Bitch.” She started rapping in high school when she began posting her content online in 2014. She found notoriety online through SoundCloud and would later be signed to Atlantic Records.
In 2020, she released her debut album “Nightmare Vacation,” which included four singles, including the two previously released singles. She is known for including multiple genres like alternative and pop in her rap music, along with having an aggressive rap style.
16. Ladybug Mecca
Ladybug Mecca, also known as Ladybug, is from Silver Spring, Maryland, and is known for being in the rap group Digable Planets in the 1990s.
In 2005, she released her solo album “Trip The Light Fantastic.” Her debut album would feature a jazz production by Brian Jackson. The album became critically acclaimed. Afterward, she joined the group The Dino 5 in 2008.
Yo-Yo first came to prominence after appearing on Ice Cube’s debut album “AmeriKKKa” in 1990. A year later, he would then be featured on Yo-Yo’s debut solo album “Make Way For The Motherlode.”
Her second album “Black Pearl” was released in 1992 and was critically acclaimed due to its positive poetics and viewpoints on life. She would go on to release numerous albums that were positively received.
18. Young M.A
Young M.A gained worldwide recognition after releasing her single “Ooouuu.” It became a quadruple platinum hit and broke the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100. After her initial success, she released her debut album “Herstory In The Making.”
She has received multiple awards and has been featured in many commercials, television shows, and talk shows. Her music has become a staple in the rap scene and music industry.
19. Rah Digga
Rah Digga is an American rapper who has been a consistent member of the hip-hop group, Flipmode Squad. Her debut solo album, “Dirty Harriet” was released in 2000 and received commercial success, reaching the top 20 of the Billboard 200 chart. In 2010, she released her second album “Classic.”
She is often regarded as one of the most prominent female rappers along with being one of the most skilled women in the hip-hop music scene.
20. Remy Ma
Remy Ma was discovered by Big Pun, where she joined the group known as the Terror Squad. In 2006, she released her solo album “There’s Something About Remy: Based On A True Story.” While it did not receive critical acclaim, it received positive reviews and a great amount of success. She would go on to release multiple commercially successful singles and win numerous awards.
21. Left Eye
Lisa Lopes, also known as Left Eye, was an American rapper who was part of the girl group TLC. She was a creative force behind the group and would rap throughout the singles and albums released. She would also design all the outfits for their performances, artwork, and music videos.
She released her solo album “Supernova” in 2001 and featured two top singles. Unfortunately, she was in a fatal car crash in 2002 before releasing any other music. Since her death, her legacy still lives on, as her music continuously influences pop music and modern rap.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
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