Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, M.I.A., Nicki Minaj - some of the names that come to mind when you think about female rappers. Quite different from one another, they share one common thing. No, it’s not the gender; it’s their ability to push the boundaries of hip hop in inimitable ways.
Part of our Women in Music initiative, this list will present to your attention some brilliant rappers, who deserve much more attention and recognition than they get. Similar to our previous list of 10 Female R&B/Neo-Soul Singers Who Write And Produce Their Music, this one also contains both renowned and upcoming names. Another important thing to note is that this particular selection of tracks focuses on rather soulful hip hop sound and is not meant to showcase the best female hip hop artists whatsoever.
The artists included in the article often combine singing with rapping, representing a wide spectrum of vocal styles and flow. Their skills and talent often spread beyond songwriting and vocal expression and include producing, video directing, etc. Another common thing amongst all talented women you’ll find in this article is their engagement with socially relevant topics and the way those are addressed in their music.
This is one of the major differences that often occur between pop-star rappers and underground or alternative rappers - the themes that we can find in their music While the mainstream rappers would extensively cover topics related to material gains or sex, underground music aims to tackle complex personal matters and societal issues. Empowerment sounds different in both cases - in the first you are supposed to be empowered by the way you look, the ways others (should) treat you and your possessions - external ways of gaining (or rather showing off) power. In the second case, you’re reminded about your inner source of wisdom and drive, also capacity to deal with whatever comes your way; you’re also reminded that power stems from togetherness, justice and showing up every day to the challenges that eventually lead to progress. And this observation is not meant to devaluate mainstream music. However, in the context of portraying the image of female rappers as a whole, it’s important for underground/alternative female rappers to gain more visibility and be acknowledged for their contribution to the hip hop culture. This is one of the main reasons for this article to exist, besides sharing some wonderful music. So let’s finally dig in!
A British-Nigerian rapper, singer and actress Little Simz has already achieved quite a lot for her 27 years. With four mixtapes, four studio albums and numerous nominations and awards behind her back, the artist of Yoruba heritage doesn’t seek to impress with mindblowing lyricism and delivery skills. She describes her style as experimental rap and apparently doesn’t shy away from trying out diverse sonic directions with one thing remaining a constant - her determination to remove our heads with every new track she drops!
Sampa the Great
Sampa the Great is a force of nature in a human form. The Zambia-born, Botswana-raised, Australia-based artist has a lot to offer when it comes to tight rhymes, tasty flow and strong visuals. Drawing inspiration from her roots, she effortlessly incorporates various influences in her music, ranging from funk, soul, R&B, hip hop and spoken word, traditional folk chants and singing. Lyrically, her music revolves around topics like freedom and self-discovery - and as someone who has travelled the world in search of herself, you better believe she has a lot to say on that one.
A talented poet and exceptional performer, Akua Naru is not only a hip hop artist, but an activist and a scholar, engaged in social justice advocacy and community building. She utilizes her skills as a wordsmith, combined with her powerful vocal presence, to "provide a body of knowledge" by centralizing black women's experiences through her work. She recently became the founder of theKEEPERS: ‘the first digital archive to visually-map and document womxn's work in hip hop culture’ - a brilliant initiative that hopefully will be just the beginning of an important and inspiring movement.
Sa-Roc is the rap warrior whose words are sharper than swords. A gifted wordsmith, she never ceases to prove her talent and determination. Her lyrics shine with depth, targeting a socially-conscious audience, while her impeccable and infectious delivery provides a solid back for the elevating content of her music. She describes her album from 2020, The Sharecropper’s Daughter, as “a sonic reflection on the generational inheritance of trauma and triumph that shapes our humanity and influences the way we see the world”. And some people say hip hop is dead! - well, not if you have artists who pull it off as Sa-Roc does!
OSHUN is the soulful hip hop duo you’re bound to fall inlove with the minute you hear one of their tracks. Creating music, visuals, and experiences in honour of the divine feminine, Niambi Sala and Thandiwe carry the name and traditions of the primordial West African deity, Ọṣun. OSHUN pays homage to the Great Mother through Afrofuturistic sound and wise lyricism. Their music empowers, nourishes and heals, as they skillfully rap and sing over infectious soulful beats. If you want to be enlightened in the most grounding way, look no further!
Vel The Wonder
Vel The Wonder - the “Mexican rap princess”. She gained a substantial following after posting original music on Soundcloud and hasn’t stopped dropping high-voltage tracks ever since. With her witty rhymes and slick delivery, the LA-based artist has all it takes to prove wrong whoever claims that women can’t rap.
Canadian-Jamaican hip hop artist and poet Zakisha Brown is one to fascinate with conscious lyricism, strong female energy and captivating flow. Her music carries powerful messages with her words meant to bring more peace inside and a feeling of belonging to something bigger. After the video above, check out her track “Purpose” to see what I mean.
Noga Erez is the kind of artist you didn’t know you needed. Hailing from Israel, the singer, songwriter and producer combines influences from electronic music, pop and hip hop. It’s hard to pin her down, as she always defies her own gravity, with a healthy dose of sarcasm always being present in her sound, lyricism and visuals. Besides the track above, feel free to check “Cash Out” (ft. Sammus - another female rapper), which hits hard and will give you a better idea of Noga’s versatility.
It’s hard to put Alewya in a box. The upcoming artist of Egyptian and Ethiopian descent grew up nestled in a London community rich with diaspora from around the globe. That’s why it’s no surprise that she is so versatile when it comes to incorporating diverse influences in her music. Being an exceptional singer/songwriter, producer and multidisciplinary artist, she offers genre-bending sound and provocative visuals, which stir up ancient wisdom, young spirit and a huge amount of talent and inner power. Getting obsessed with her is perfectly possible once you hear the track above or watch this amazing live session in which she melds together afrofuturistic sound with rock to shake you up and awaken the divine human within you, no matter what your nationality or skin colour is. Her artist mission could be described as guiding people to connect with their roots and the source of vitality, unleashing their spirit.
Those of you who stick around might find the name familiar, as we featured AMAZUMI’s collaboration with Dragonfruit on the website not long ago. The Nepal-born artist with a surprisingly nomadic lifestyle is a real diamond who always manages to come around the corner with yet another stunning track. Raised in Hong Kong, introduced to the hip hop scene in London and made in Belgium, AMAZUMI’s sound is experimental, versatile and progressive with genre-bending tendencies. “Moods” is one of her smoother tunes, while if you check some more of her music, you’ll find yourself some proper heat in terms of beat and flow.
In addition to the list, here are 5 awesome tracks by some more brilliant female rappers you might want to check out. Enjoy this blast of talent and energy:
Gifted Gab & Blimes Brixton
Reverie & Gavlyn
Ivy Sole & Anyee Wright
Nappy Nina & Stas Thee Boss
Lastly, I’d like to mention a great initiative that aims to bring more attention to female hip hop artists: 365 Female* MCs, founded by Mona Lina - a German DJ and Journalist. Her project (which, similar to Stereofox, started as a personal blog) presents female rappers from all over the world, making it easier for anyone to discover their music. Check it out and dive into this huge sea of talent.