Hip Hop Awards ‘20: 9 Times Women Made History

From MC Lyte to Nicki Minaj, here is a look back at how women changed the rap game.

Though women in rap have made some serious strides in the past few years in terms of representation, hip hop hasn’t always been the most inclusive space for women. In the early days of the genre’s genasis, it was largely men that topped the charts for years while women were afforded a much narrower lane to success. But eventually a number of  women, such as Da Brat, Queen Latifah, Salt-N-Pepa and Lil Kim defied the odds in a largely male-dominated industry to break the mold and pave the way for more representation in hip hop. The inroads they laid gave rise to a moment in time where more women than ever are dominating the charts. In a salute to their strides, we’re taking a look back at some of the culture-shifting moments from women that changed the rap game.

  • MC Lyte

    (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

    Steve Granitz/WireImage

    (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

    In 1993, she made history as the first female rapper to be nominated for a Grammy for her single, ‘Ruffneck.’ 


  • Da Brat

    (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

    Paras Griffin/Getty Images

    (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

    With her 1994 solo debut, Funkdafied, the Chicago MC became the first solo female hip hop artist to earn a platinum plaque.


  • (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)

    Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

    (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)

    At the 37th annual Grammy Awards, Queen Latifah and Salt-N-Pepa simultaneously became the first female rappers to take home Grammys in 1995. Salt-N-Pepa took home the accolade for Best Performance By Duo Or Group, for their hit, “None of Your Business,” while Queen Latifah won Best Rap Solo Performance with her classic, “U.N.I.T.Y.”


  • Lil Kim

    (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)


    (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)

    In a further testament to women’s increasing influence in hip-hop, Lil Kim had the highest-selling debut for a female rap album at the time with the release of her debut album, Hardcore, in 1996. 

  • (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)


    (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)

    In 1998, Lauryn Hill released her first and only solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The acclaimed project debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and the former Fugess frontwoman became the first woman to win five or more awards in a single night at the 41st Grammy Awards. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill further cemented her spot in rap history as it was the first hip-hop record to win Album of the Year.

  • Missy Elliott

    (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Songwriters Hall Of Fame )

    Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Songwriters Hall Of Fame

    (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Songwriters Hall Of Fame )

    Missy Elliott was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 2019, which makes her the first female hip-hop artist to receive this accolade. An additional testament that the Virginia native is in a class of her own, Elliott joins Jay-Z and Jermain Dupri as one of the few rappers or hip-hop artists to ever be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, according to the Associated Press.


  • (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

    Michael Kovac/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

    (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

    Two decades after Lauryn Hill’s feat, Cardi B made history as the female rapper to win Best Rap Album solo for her critically acclaimed debut effort, Invasion of Privacy, in 2019. 


  • (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)

    Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

    (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)

    One of hip-hop’s undisputed facts is that Nicki Minaj still reigns supreme as one of the genre’s most influential artists of all time as the first female artist with 100 career visits to the Hot 100 chart earlier this year, according to Billboard — the latest of her many achievements.  She hit the milestone after scoring her first No. 1 on the remix of Doja Cat's viral smash, "Say So."

  • Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion

    There’s no shortage of achievements that have poured in since Cardi and Megan teamed up for “WAP.” The single marked the first time for a female rap collaboration to debut at No. 1 on the Hot 100 after it had the highest-streaming  debut week of any song in the chart’s history, according to Billboard.


Latest News

Subscribe for BET Updates

Provide your email address to receive our newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, you confirm that you have read and agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge our Privacy Policy. You also agree to receive marketing communications, updates, special offers (including partner offers) and other information from BET and the Paramount family of companies. You understand that you can unsubscribe at any time.