Celebrate 25 Brilliant Women Running The Rap Game Then And Now

These lyricists boldly went where no ladies had gone before and busted the doors down for other to follow.

 Ladies first – always! 

Women are and have been the gold standard and blueprint when it comes to hip-hop. Since the very beginning, women have proved that rap is not just a boy’s club. Out-rapping and performing their male counterparts, female MCs have done it all.

In the beginning over 35 years ago, women such as Salt-n-Pepa, Queen Latifah and MC Lyte, laid the foundation for women to speak up and speak out. Lil Kim and Foxy Brown presented the gift of rapping about sex, high fashion and living a life of luxury. Today, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B and Meghan the Stallion are taking over multiple charts – continuing the mission of bringing Female MCs to the forefront of music. 

RELATED: Hip Hop Awards ‘20: 9 Times Women Made History

Celebrating Women’s History Month, takes a look through the decades at 25 of the most impactful women rappers of our time.

The '80s


The '90s


The 2000's And Beyond

  • Roxanne Shanté

    (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)
    (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

    Roxanne Shanté - You couldn’t tell this teenage MC a single thing! In 1984, after out rapping men twice her age in her Queen, N.Y. neighborhood, Roxanne was tapped by then-producer Marley Marl to record the freestyle, “Roxanne’s Revenge.” “Everybody wanted to be Roxanne,” she told NPR about the ripple effect the six-minute track caused in the early days of hip-hop. Roxanne set the blueprint for women in rap, proving that it’s not just a boy’s game.

  • MC Lyte

    (Photo by Leon Bennett/WireImage)
    (Photo by Leon Bennett/WireImage)

    The first in many ways! “Lyte as a Rock” (1988) was the first full-length album released by a solo female rapper. MC Lyte went on to release eight albums and became the first solo female rapper to be nominated for a Grammy for her single “Ruffneck” in 1993. She became a model for many women in hip-hop as her career spanned outside of music into television, film and most notably, her work as the Mistress of Ceremony at various award shows including the BET Awards, GRAMMYs and more. 

  • Salt-N-Pepa

    (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for dick clark productions)
    (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for dick clark productions)

    Let’s talk about Cheryl James (Salt), Sandra Denton (Pepa) and Deidra Roper (DJ Spinderella). One of the most decorated and celebrated rap groups of all time. Salt-N-Pepa changed the rules of the rap game as they freely expressed and dressed themselves as they pleased. Their decades-long run saw them becoming the first female hip-hop act to reach platinum status with “Push It” and make history as the first female hip-hop group to win a Grammy award for their hit, “None of Your Business”. 

  • Queen Latifah

    (Photo by Micheal Greenberg/CBS via Getty Images)
    (Photo by Micheal Greenberg/CBS via Getty Images)

    All Hail the Queen! The royal MC who built her career speaking out against sexism, violence is also responsible for bringing us “U.N.I.T.Y.” and putting “Ladies First”. Queen Latifah remained a maverick in hip-hop throughout her career that saw her win a Grammy award for Solo Rap performance in 1995. Leading by example, Queen proved that she was more than bars as she found success with her multi-faceted singing and acting careers.

  • Monie Love

    (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Essence)
    (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Essence)

    Bringing a new sound and swag from across the pond, Monie Love entered the world of hip-hop and paid homage (and raped with) the women who came before her. Monie found success with her debut single “Monie in the Middle” (a song about the lady making choices for herself when it comes to relationships) and alongside Queen Latifah on her single “Ladies First”. Monie has been praised for influencing the likes of Nicki Minaj, Da Brat and the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez.

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