Princess Nokia (Photo: 1992 cover art); Nicki Minaj (Photo: Alex Loucas); and Kamaiyah (Photo: GEEZY/Courtesy of Interscope Records)

When A.V. Club Executive Editor Laura M. Browning recently polled one of our company Slack channels looking for heavy workout music by women, I sent her Princess Nokia’s “Kitana,” a song that makes me feel invincible enough to walk down the street overturning cars and knocking down lampposts despite my 5’ 2” frame. She loved the track so much she asked me to put together an A.V. Club playlist of women rappers.

Some consider the very words “woman rapper” or “female MC” to be a diss, since they’re so often used to separate and qualify praise for women who rap. You’re often more likely to hear a female rapper described as someone’s “favorite female rapper,” rather than just favorite rapper, period. And I agree: These artists deserve to be considered alongside the men who have dominated the genre since its inception.

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With that in mind, this list is intended not to ghettoize but to uplift and amplify, to celebrate the talents of both worldwide stars like Missy Elliott and lesser-knowns (for now) like Ill Camille. The chameleonic Princess Nokia kicks things off with the Mortal Kombat-inspired song that started it all, followed by Nicki Minaj’s own recent Street Fighter-influenced fulmination. From there we criss-cross the States, cruising with Oakland’s Kamaiyah and Boston’s Vintage Lee, and booty-whopping with Big Freedia on the dirty coast. We also occasionally cross the Atlantic to shake shoulders with grime freestyle queen Lady Leshurr and London’s Little Simz. Janelle Monáe’s forthcoming album and Beyoncé’s recent earth-shattering performance are both on my mind, and they represent here for singers who also rap.

Some tracks are brand new, some years old, and together they glimpse a stunning range of styles and approaches by women in contemporary hip-hop, one that obliterates the industry’s false notion that the world can only handle one female rapper at a time.

I look forward to seeing your own additions in the comments. Turn it up!


We Run This: Women In Rap Now

1. Princess Nokia, “Kitana” (East Harlem/Lower East Side)
2. Nicki Minaj, “Chun-Li” (Queens)
3. Kamaiyah, “Dope Bitch” (Oakland)
4. Maliibu Miitch, “The Count” (Bronx)
5. Noname, “Diddy Bop” (Bronzeville, Chicago)
6. Lady Leshurr, “Where Are You Now?” (Birmingham, U.K.)
7. Janelle Monáe, “Django Jane” (Kansas City/Atlanta)
8. Vintage Lee, “Hennythings Possible” (Boston)
9. Ill Camille, “Live It Up” (Compton, Los Angeles)
10. Big Freedia, “Booty-Whop” (New Orleans)
11. Jean Grae, “Threats” (Brooklyn)
12. Young M.A., “Praktice” (Brooklyn)
13. Beyoncé, “7/11” (Houston)
14. Missy Elliott, “I’m Better” (Portsmouth, Virginia)
15. Rapsody, “Sassy” (North Carolina)
16. Cardi B, “Money Bag” (Bronx)
17. Little Simz, “Good For What” (Central London)
18. Barclay Crenshaw w/ Cam & China, “The Baddest” (Inglewood, Los Angeles)

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Recommended further listening

Bbymutha, “RULES” (Chattanooga)
Kash Doll, “Serious” (Detroit)
Leikeli47, “M I L K” (Brooklyn)
Ms Banks, “R.I.P. (Ft. Loksi)” (South London)
Lady Dahlia, “Savage” (New Orleans)
Rico Nasty, “Trust Issues” (Washington, D.C.)
Chynna, “Practice” (Philadelphia)
Latasha Alcindor, “Don’t Be Mad” (Brooklyn)
Audra The Rapper, “Bxtchlxss” (Washington, D.C.)
CupcaKKe, “Cartoons” (South Chicago)

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