Women have historically struggled to create a space for themselves in the male-dominated rap genre. Whether they battled stereotypes that claimed women didn’t have the same lyrical prowess as men or were demeaned in songs by male rappers, women in hip-hop have had to jump through many hurdles just to be taken seriously. In doing so, female rappers have not only proven they can rap just as well as and often better than their male counterparts, they've also created a legacy of women empowerment anthems that inspire listeners.
For Women's History Month, here's a list of songs by Black female rappers that honor their contributions to rap.
1. 'Bodak Yellow' by Cardi B
Cardi B’s breakout single ruled the summer of 2017, and cemented her position as one of rap’s most exciting new acts. “Bodak Yellow,” with its sharp bravado and braggadocious style, became the first solo record by a female rapper to take the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 since Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)” in 1998, propelling the Bronx native into superstardom.
The single’s chart-topping success is likely due to its feminist-tinged lyrics on which Cardi B raps about sporting “red bottoms” and making “money moves.” Cardi B paints a poignant portrait of her unyielding hustle that ultimately impacted her thriving stripping career, her subsequent stint as a reality television star and, her current budding music career, which is an empowering story for women in a society that consistently aims to limit their success.
2. 'WTF I Want' by Megan Thee Stallion
Although it’s considered one of Megan Thee Stallion’s lesser-known singles, “WTF I Want,” featured on her 2018 Tina Snow, is filled with confidence-evoking messages. As its title implies, “WTF I Want” features Megan casually talking about things that she’s going to do, regardless of what anyone thinks. The self-described "Hot Girl" makes it known that she’s determined to pursue what she wants whether she’s making more money or exerting her sexual prowess on a man — and nothing, especially a man, is going to stop her.
3. 'Queen B***h' by Lil' Kim
Lil' Kim leaves no one unscathed on “Queen B***h."
Lyrically I dust ‘em off like Pledge [...] Kill a n***a for my n***a, by any means b***h [...] While you struggle and strive, we pick which Benz to drive/The M.A.F.I.A., you wanna be ‘em
She challenges anyone, regardless of gender, to try and be her competition, daring anyone to come for her man while attacking those who hate on her clique Junior M.A.F.I.A.
The Queen Bee’s strong delivery mixed with her empowering messages throughout “Queen B***h” make it the quintessential single to boost anyone’s confidence upon a first listen.
4. 'Act Up' by City Girls
This empowerment anthem by the City Girls is slightly ironic because a man, Lil Yachty, wrote most of the lyrics. However, that doesn’t negate the hit single’s powerful ability to resonate with women.
Throughout the song, the Miami rap duo celebrates finessing men out of their money after having sex with them, which flips the narrative of men prioritizing their pleasure in heterosexual relationships. On “Act Up,” the City Girls encourage the liberating act of putting women in the driver’s seat of their sexual experiences.
5. 'Feeling Myself' by Nicki Minaj feat. Beyoncé
On this highly anticipated collaboration, Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj trade bars that celebrate their respective accomplishments as music’s top entertainers. While Minaj raps about her chart-topping success that goes beyond the rap genre, Beyoncé sings about being music’s undisputed queen and how she “changed the game with that digital drop.”
Although the single is tailored to the performers’ accomplishments, its positive energy resonates with listeners and encourages them to celebrate the many reasons why they should be “feeling themselves” in their own lives.
6. 'Ladies First' by Queen Latifah feat. Monie Love
“Ladies First” is Queen Latifah’s signature feminist anthem that tackles the pervasive trend of sexism in hip-hop. The 1989 single, which features British rapper Monie Love, honors the power of women and their contributions to society, which is used to challenge the stereotype of women not being able to rap as good as men.
A woman can bear you, break you, take you/Now it’s time to rhyme, can you relate to/ a sister dope enough to make you holler and scream
Love and Latifah trade their respective lyrical prowess throughout “Ladies First,” illustrating how women shouldn’t be treated as second-class rap acts simply because of their gender.
7. 'Da Baddest B***h' by Trina
On her debut solo single, Trina boldly proclaims that she’s not the one to be played with. Because she’s “da baddest,” Trina raps about not settling for less from men and always prioritizing what she wants, which is an important lesson for women. The single, which turns 20 this year, is also significant for its legacy of having inspired future sexually-empowering lyrics from female rappers.
8. 'Bling Bling' by Junglepussy
Junglepussy boasts about not needing a man on “Bling Bling.” Instead of women finding love in the man that they’re with, the New York rapper urges women to give themselves the love they deserve. On the single, Junglepussy iterates how she’s tired of seeing women in her life hurt by men, which is why she stresses the importance of self-love. Although she emphasizes that there’s nothing wrong with women who have casual sex, she stresses that women should learn how to love themselves first before trying to seek it from a man. The hard-hitting flows, catchy beat and strong message that’s present on “Bling Bling” contributes to the single’s empowerment vibe.
9. 'Work It' by Missy Elliott
On her hit single, Missy Elliott embraces her sexual prowess as she raps about taking charge with men. Throughout “Work It,” she brags about being able to seduce various men, as she raps in the chorus, “I put my thing down, flip it and reverse it.” The song is a standout because of its raunchy lyrics, but it also has an appealing experimental beat — thanks to the genius of Elliott and Timbaland’s production — that makes the song more listenable. When it was released in 2002, “Work It” presented itself as a strong addition to the trend of female rappers juxtaposing the history of male rappers objectifying women.
10. 'Hungry Hippo' by Tierra Whack
"Hungry Hippo" features Tierra Whack introducing her man to the finer things in life. She flaunts her expensive accessories and comically boasts about them to her partner.
He likes my diamonds and my pearls/ I said, "Thank you, I designed it"
Although the single is only a minute long, Whack sends a moving message to listeners about women having swag, contrasting the trend of male rappers boasting about how they've introduced their girlfriends to an expensive lifestyle. Whack emphasizes that she doesn't need a man for that because she already has it — period.
11. 'Lyte as a Rock' by MC Lyte
With her album Lyte as a Rock, which was the first album by a solo female rapper that was dropped by a major label, MC Lyte became a pioneer for women in rap. The album's title track offers a strong introduction into the Brooklyn rapper's artistry as she rhymes about knowing her worth and being dedicated to her craft. More importantly, "Lyte as a Rock" provides a solid preview into a future that gives women their deserving space in hip-hop.