Hip-hop’s misogynist streak has long made the art form hostile to women, particularly those with the skill, talent, and desire to make the music themselves. But there’s a rich history of strong women making their mark on the game, from Golden Age battle legend Roxanne Shanté and crossover stars like Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Lil’ Kim to the genre-bending Missy Elliott and, of course, the goddess Lauryn Hill, whose Miseducation redefined what a hip-hop record was and could be. As they’ve carved out space in hip-hop for women, the diversity of perspectives have served only to make the music stronger and more relatable to more people.
These days, women who rap are shedding the novelty label, with contemporary pop stars like Nicki Minaj standing on the shoulders of their forebears to reach the top of the pop charts. But while all ears have been turned to Minaj since the moment we heard her heart-stopping bars on Kanye West’s “Monster” (if not earlier), there are plenty of other MCs spitting just as hard with nowhere near as much recognition. In honor of International Women’s Day, here’s a short list of some of the illest MCs in the game right now. And they all just happen to be women.
Detroit’s own Dej Loaf has been dropping jaws since 2012, the year the sneakerhead dropped her debut mixtape Just Do It. Like many up-and-coming rappers, she’s benefitted from culture vulture Aubrey “Drake” Graham’s co-sign, but there’s a reason the Sensitive One took note: the lady spits bars. On “Try Me,” the breakout single from Sell Sole (sensing a theme here?), she flexes her considerable lyrical chops over a DDS beat.
“You rollin’ around wit yo nieces, bitch you titi / Mind full of money, got a heart full of demons / Mobbin’ like Italians, we really take yo fingas / Turn yo face into a pizza, no acne”
Her Columbia records debut, …And See That’s The Thing, dropped last year; be on the lookout for a forthcoming full-length.
It wasn’t even on the first pressing, but Gangsta Boo’s disgusting verse from Run The Jewels’ “Love Again (Akinyele Back)” definitely contains the filthiest bars on the unimpeachable Run The Jewels 2.
“Keep it ratchet so sweet / All these boys kiss my feet / I be on that queen shit / You better bless my realness / Stick your tongue up in my ass / You better show me who you fuckin’ with”
An early member of the legendary Memphis hip-hop group Three Six Mafia, Boo is no stranger to the trap, but has yet to experience the mainstream success of her Academy Award-winning compadres. If that travesty offends you (as it should), fix it by copping her latest EP with La Chat, Witch, or download her latest mixtape, Candy, Diamonds & Pills.
Junglepussy is quick to tell you about her “Cream Team” or her “pussy muscle,” but her recent academic discourse tour through Yale and NYU has proved her to be as sharp with her wit as she is with her tongue. A strong advocate of clean eating (and eating out), her lyrics often juggle sex and food metaphors with equal aplomb. Just peep these foul bars from “Spicy 103 FM”:
“Relationships are more than food & lusty interactions dude / Subject of attachment, true love is just a battlefield / Wipin’ these whack ass niggas of the back of my windshield / Actin up, caught you slippin’ trippin’ on banana peels / Now your heart is at the fuckin’ bottom of my six inch heels”
Another Detroit native, Angel Haze first caught our attention when she slapped us in the face with her gut-wrenching reworking of Eminem’s “Cleaning Out My Closet,” in which she recounts her experience as a victim of sexual assault, and how it informs her life and art. She’s since signed to Universal Republic, leaked her own debut album Dirty Gold, and followed it up with the mixtape Back to the Woods. Some may have already written her off after the disaster that was the rollout of her debut, but you’d be foolish to dismiss the MC who wrote these rhymes:
“My biggest problem was fear, and what being fearful could do / It made me run, it made me hide it made me scared of the truth / I’m not deranged anymore, I’m not the same anymore / I mean I’m sane but I’m insane but not the same as before / I had to deal with my shit, I had to look at my truth / To understand that to grow you’ve got to look at your root / I had to cut off the dead, I had to make myself proud / And now I’m just standing living breathing proof look at me now / I made it through everything, I made you look like a clown / I’m fucking great, can’t fucking hate, you nigga look at me now”
Rapsody’s been killing it on the solo tip since signing with 9th Wonder’s label It’s a Wonderful World Music Group, collaborating with the likes of DJ Premier, Raekwon, Big Daddy Kane, and Jean Grae. Even more so than the rest of the MCs on this list, her penchant for flipping styles and rhyme patterns makes her one of the most deft lyricists in the game. “Godzilla” is the third single from her 2014 EP Beauty and the Beast; peep the rhymes as you bob yr head to the ice cold 9th Wonder beat.
“I’m burnin’ yo city, they fear me / Black and I’m witty, while y’all still argue about Nicki / Iggy, I’m killing these biggies, Biggie / I’m talkin’ ’bout Mice and Men, I’m talkin’ ’bout God again / I could flip it like Rodman, you a rebound, a vitamin / Boy I’m lethal as lidocaine, up the wall I been spatterin’ / That’s the skill you admirin’, hard to wait on me, higher than God”