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Roxanne Shante - 14-year-old Roxanne Shante burst onto the hip-hop scene in 1984 with an answer record to UTFO's "Roxanne, Roxanne." The 12-inch single, "Roxanne's Revenge" sold over 250,000 copies and established Lolita Shante Gooden as one of the first female rap recording artists to be recognized as a hip-hop celebrity.
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Salt-n-Pepa - These dynamic female hip-hop pioneers were show-stoppers. In 1985, they answered Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick's "The Show" with "Show Stoppers" and the rest is history. They have five Grammys and released five albums, one of which went five times platinum. They are the best-selling female rap act of all time.
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MC Lyte - 1986 was the year that MC Lyte debuted with "I Cram To Understand U (Sam)." She went on to record classic hip-hop records such as "Paper Thin," "Poor Georgie," "Ruffneck," and "Cha Cha Cha," which established her as a force to be reckoned with and showed off a rhyme skill that matched and even surpassed some of the boys.
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Queen Latifah - No one can deny the influence of Queen Latifah, who debuted as a rapper back in 1988 and has gone on to sing, act, and even get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Latifah is probably the most successful female rapper because of her expansive film resume and her makeup line with CoverGirl.
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JJ Fad - They might be considered a one-hit wonder, but their mega hit, "Supersonic" helped put the West Coast on the map (for female rappers, that is). Their name was an acronym for Just Jammin' Fresh And Def.
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Yo Yo - A female protege of Ice Cube, Yoland "Yo Yo" Whittaker promoted female empowerment in her music. In 1991, she dropped her debut album, "Make Way for the Motherlode." Yo Yo also appeared in classic hip-hop films like "Boyz n the Hood" and "Menace II Society."
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Nikki D - Before Nicki Minaj, there was Nikki D. The first female rapper to be signed to Def Jam Records, Nikki D became popular off the success of her hit single, "Daddy's Little Girl."
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Boss - Detroit native Bo$ was one of the first female gangster rappers. Signed to Def Jam West, she released her debut album, "Born Gangstaz" in 1993 before the Wall Street Journal reported that she grew up in a middle class household and went to private school. Def Jam dropped her soon after.
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Lauryn Hill - She is arguably the best female rapper of all time. Having only released two solo albums, the record-breaking Grammy-winning "Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" and her "MTV Unplugged No. 2.0," Hill began her rap career with The Fugees. Lauryn has been absent for a minute, but she is still a highly respected female MC.
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Lady Of Rage - Rocking rough and tough with her afro puffs, the Lady of Rage was the main female to rap on Dr. Dre's classic album, "The Chronic." Six years later, the critically acclaimed female gangster rapper released her debut album, "Necessary Roughness," but it was met with little excitement.
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Da Brat - Da Brat went platinum with her debut album, "Funkdafied," and she became the first solo female rapper to do so. Brat was signed to Jermaine Dupri's So So Def Recordings, and became commercially successful by lending her rap vocals to a number of popular R&B hits by artists including Mariah Carey and Brandy.
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Lil Kim - Brooklyn-born Kimberly Denise Jones took the industry by storm in 1996 with her raw unabashed lyricism. Under the guidance of the one and only Notorious B.I.G., Kim changed the game for female rappers by introducing a sexy, uncut style of rap for women.
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Foxy Brown - Her debut album, "Ill Na Na" sold over six million copies worldwide, but she has yet to match her own success. Later in her career, Foxy (born Inga Marchand) has been plagued by legal trouble, hearing loss and negative publicity.
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Rah Digga - Flipmode Squad's female MC Rah Digga had a raspy voice and a boisterous rhyme style, making her a perfect fit for the crew led by Busta Rhymes.
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Ladybug (of Digable Planets) - As 1/3 of the jazz-infused rap group Digable Planets, Ladybug Mecca was cool like dat. The song "Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat)" won the Grammy in 1994 for Best Performance by a Rap Duo or Group.
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Eve - The rapper, actress and TV star Eve began her career as the first lady of the Ruff Ryders crew. E-V-E has also launched her own clothing line called "Fetish."
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Missy Elliott - With six albums under her belt, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott is considered the best-selling female rapper of all time. She has been recognized as a pioneer when it comes to making music videos, as she continues to push the envelope for rappers, both male and female.
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Jean Grae - Unbeknownst to many, this critically acclaimed independent female MC has released six albums. With over 10 years of experience in the industry, Jean Grae is still waiting for her shining moment. Signed to Talib Kweli's Blacksmith label, Grae is working on a 7th album entitled, "Cake Or Death."
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Trina - Miami's baddest chick Trina is Southern rap's answer to diamond-wearing females. Her fifth album, "Amazin,'" is due out before summer.
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Remy Ma - Currently serving time in a Rikers Island prison, this former Terror Squad member was a beast when it came to rapping. Before being locked up, she released a solo album entitled, "There's Something About Remy."
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Khia - Her neck and her back brought this Southern MC to notoriety. Khia is a controversial female rapper from Florida who went gold with her debut album, "Thug Misses," which was released independently.
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Nicki Minaj - Nicki Minaj is holding it down for the ladies. This Young Money female is the one to watch in 2010.