Hip Hop lacks a well-rounded representation of female emcees. Only a handful of female rappers have made it to national and international fame. However, whether we like it or not, the recent uprising of Nicki Minaj has inspired the dying breed to regain its puissance. The evolution of the female rapper pays homage to some of the most creative ladies to hit the rap scene. This slideshow is dedicated to the female emcees who have made an impact on Hip Hop throughout the years. Stay tuned for The Ladies of Hip Hop Part II for a continuation of veteran and up and coming female rappers making waves in the music industry.
She goes by Dr. Roxanne Shante now-a-days, but in the heyday she was known as Roxanne Shante from Queens, New York. One of the original members of the Juice Crew, Shante was the fiercest female emcee of her time. She created some of the first female battle tracks on record, which later would become the Roxanne Wars. Her hit single, “Roxanne’s Revenge”, is one of the greatest Hip Hop songs of all times. Raised in a group home, Shante made something out of nothing and left Hip Hop with an unforgettable impression.
This Hip Hop trio infiltrated the genre in 1985 as Salt-N-Pepa, which consisted of Cheryl James as Salt, Sandra Denton as Pepa, and Deidre Roe a Spinderella. Representing Queens and Brooklyn, New York, these ladies had major success with songs like “Let’s Talk About Sex”, “Expression”, “Push It”, “Shoop”, “None of Your Business”, and “Whatta Man”. Today, the ladies tour and make guest appearances around the world.
Born Lana Michele Moorer, MC Lyte hails from Brooklyn, New York. Making her musical mark in 1986, Lyte is known for music hits such as “Lyte as a Rock”, “Keep On Keepin’ On”, and “Cold Rock a Party”. Lyte was featured in Civil Brand, My Wife and Kids, and Regular Show. Today, she spends her days as an executive at Dubose Entertainment and does many voice-over jobs for BET Networks, a variety of commercials, and movies. Lyte also has a foundation named Hip Hop Sisters Network, which teaches respect among women an creates an outlet for women to express their talents.
More than just another female rapper, Queen Latifah aka Dana Elaine Owens not only talks the talk, but she walks it, too. Since 1988, she’s been unstoppable in the entertainment industry. She has earned awards from nearly every avenue of entertainment, including awards from the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, Grammys, and Oscars. There’s nothing this woman can’t do. Hailing from Newark, New Jersey, Latifah started her career as a socially conscious rapper. Her discography consists of 7 albums with hits that include “Ladies First”, “U.N.I.T.Y”, “Just Another Day”, and a remake of “Simply Beautiful”, to name a few. Latifah has been featured in a multitude of films (Set It Off, Chicago, and Bringing Down the House), has endorsements with Cover Girl and Jenny Craig, and executive produces several projects including the VH1 hit Single Ladies.
Yo-Yo was born Yolanda Whittaker in Compton, California. One of the first female emcees to represent the West Coast on a national platform, Yo-Yo got her start in Hip Hop in 1990 as a protégé of rapper Ice Cube. Her platform was the positive female rapper who didn’t take any mess. Her song “You Can’t Play with My Yo-Yo” is still considered one of Hip Hop’s classic singles. Since her beginnings, Yo-Yo has released 5 albums and appeared in Boyz n the Hood, Menace II Society, Sister Act 2, and The Jamie Foxx Show.
One-Third of the Hip Hop group TLC, Lisa Lopes aka Left Eye appeared on the scene in 1990 and became a staple for 90’s Hip Hop. Left Eye contributed to great songs such as, “What About Your Friends”, “Creep”, “Waterfalls”, “No Scrubs”, “Ladies Night”, and “Girl Talk”. Left Eye was a strong, vibrant woman on a mission to self-discovery. On April 25, 2002, just 8 months after R&B songstress Aaliyah died in an airplane crash, Left Eye’s life would tragically end when she was involved in a car crash in Honduras that killed her on impact. Her sudden departure shook the Hip Hop world and left a void in music that has yet to be filled. RIP Left Eye.
Lauryn Hill started her career in 1991 as one-third of the rap group labeled the Fugees. Reigning from South Orange, New Jersey, Ms. Hill was a multi-talented entertainer with abilities in singing, rapping, acting, and song writing. Her first solo project and platinum seller “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” won five Grammy awards. Her discography includes “No Woman, No Cry”, “Killing Me Softly with his Song”, “Ready or Not”, “Fu-Gee-La”, “Lost Ones”, “To Zion”, “Nothing Even Matters”, and “Ex-Factor”. Hill has been touring around the world and was recently part of the regional Hip Hop festival, Rock the Bells. She has also performed at Coachella Valley Music Festival and the LA Rising music festival. Hill has also acted in several films and TV shows. In the last year, Lauryn Hill has been plagued with legal and personal troubles with tax issues and former band mate Wyclef Jean releasing a book that claimed Hill was the demise of the Fugees. However, Hill remains one of the best female Hip Hop emcees of our time.
Mia Young, stage name Mia X, surfaced in 1992 as a protege of rap star and entrepreneur Master P with No Limit Records. Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, Mia X was known for her hardcore lyrics and ability to hold her own. Although her career was brief as a rapper, she made her impact with songs that include “What’cha Wanna Do?”, “I Get the Paper”, and “I’mma Shine”. Mia X has also been featured on many collaborations with Master P, Silk tha Shocka, and C-Murder.
In 1992, Da Brat, government name Shawntae Harris, made her mark in the music industry with Jermaine Dupri produced record Funkdafied. Da Brat was the first female emcee to have a platinum record, selling over one million copies of Funkdafied. From Chicago, Illinois, Da Brat was labeled the female Snoop Dogg with her R&B-inspired beats and laid back lyrical flow. Her career would consist of her being a guest feature on many successful hits, such as “Honey” with Mariah Carey, “Sock It to Me” with Missy Elliot, and “Jumpin’, Jumpin'” with Destiny’s Child. Da Brat’s successful career was put on hold when she was charged with assaulting a waiter in 2007. She served 21 months in jail. She was released in February 28, 2011. Her discography includes a total of 4 albums. Fans are still waiting for the “tell it like it is” rap star to bring new music.
She’s known as Lil’ Kim, but her fans call her Queen Bee. A protégé of the Notorious B.I.G. and member of rap group Junior M.A.F.I.A., Kimberly Jones started the trend of the sexy female emcee of the 21st century. She had no limits with her image or lyrics that explored sexually explicit topics and entered territory mainly occupied by her male counterparts. Starting her career in 1994, Lil’ Kim has garnered much success and respect from the industry with hit singles “Player’s Anthem”, “Crush on You”, “Get Money”, “All About the Benjamins”, and “Lady Marmalade”. With 4 albums under her belt, her nominations are extensive and she has been featured in several films. She has also acquired fashion endorsements. Lil’ Kim plans to tour in the upcoming year.
In 1995, Inga Marchand aka Foxy Brown carried on the torch of the sexy female rapper with brutal lyrics. From Brooklyn, New York, Foxy Brown molded herself into a heavyweight rapper known for singles “I’ll Be”, “Get Me Home”, “Ain’t No”, “Oh Yeah”, and “B.K. Anthem”. The emcee had one of the most unique voices in the Hip Hop game and collaborated on several songs with Jay-Z. In the last few years, Brown has been involved in a host of assault cases and even had a period of time where she lost her hearing. Her third and last record was released in 2001.
Born Rashia Fisher, Rah Digga was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. She was first noticed in 1995. Under rapper Busta Rhymes’ guidance, Rah Digga became one of the most lyrical and skilled female emcees of her time. As a member of the Flipmode Squad, Rah Digga has created joints “Party and Bull..”, “Imperial”, “Tight”, “Make It Hot”, and “Classic”. With only 2 albums, Rah Digga’s rapping and acting career has lasted for nearly two decades.
Eve Jeffers, simply known as Eve, has one of the most inspiring stories. Hailing from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Eve has made a troubled past become a segway for an unbelievably, successful career. Her discography consists of singles “Tambourine”, “Love is Blind”, “Gangsta Lovin'”, and “Blow your Mind”. She was also featured in several notable films and had her own TV show. Eve has two movies in the works. A former member of the DMX-created rap group Ruff Ryders, Eve has released 3 albums and is currently working on her new album Lip Lock.
Katrina Taylor aka Trina was introduced to the Hip Hop world in 1998 as Miami’s finest. Thanks to rapper Trick Daddy putting Trina on, this diamond in the rough killed it on records “Nann”, “Da Baddest”, “Look Back at Me”, “No Panties”, “That’s My Attitude”, and “Beam”. Criticized for her raunchy lyrics and explicit nature, Trina has played into the sexy vixen slash rapper role forging a path for sexed-up female rappers in the new millennium. She is still heavily involved with music with a slew of underground mixtape releases. Her discography includes 5 albums over the last ten years.