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From having five younger sisters and growing up on Destiny’s Child’s girl power anthems, my entire life has been about female empowerment. I was also raised to know I deserve to be heard and that everything I say and feel is valid. I like to credit my upbringing for my love for female rap. I love the fact that women have been joining in on a “man’s game” for years and even beating them at their own game several times.

To me, the beauty of female rap is the freedom it gives women to be vulgar and creative. For decades men have been rapping about fucking bitches and getting money and then Lil’ Kim stepped onto the scene.

Granted, there were many others that came before her but something about Kimberly Denise Jones flipped the script and literally paved the ways for the Nickis, Cardis, and Megans that we have now. Her openness and vulgarity surprised the world but it earned her the respect that she demanded from everyone around her. From lines like “Got buffoons eating my pussy while I watch cartoons/Sleep ’til noon, rap Pam Grier’s here” to “I used to be scared of the dick, now I throw lips to the shit/Handle it like a real bitch,” Lil’ Kim’s words not only caused controversy but it also inspired the generation of women in hip-hop that came after her. The video above depicts her career in chapters and shows exactly how she’s influenced the female rappers we listen to today.

I was raised on R&B, specifically women with big voices as well as personalities like Destiny’s Child, Keyshia Cole, and Fantasia. As a product of the Dirty South, I also grew up loving the sounds of T.I., OutKast, and Crime Mob. At some point, my horizons were broadened and I paid more attention to what was playing on the radio and 106 & Park and not just what my mom was playing around the house. I came across 50 Cent, Biggie and Jay Z, of course, but Lil’ Kim stole my heart. From then I was listening to more music from New York (this was around the time that I told everyone I was moving there as an adult). I fell in love with everything about NYC: the music, the fashion, and the whole aesthetic. 

One of my absolute favorites growing up was “Let It Go” by Keyshia Cole featuring Missy Elliot and Lil’ Kim. Not only did it include the Keyshia’s amazing voice but it was also a great hit thanks to Missy’s star power and Kim’s rhymes. After listening to that track on repeat for months, I took time to listen to Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s Conspiracy and Lil’ Kim’s Hard Core and La Bella Mafia and just fell in love but due to how explicit everything was my mom wasn’t rocking with it for her 8-year-old daughter.

As I entered my late elementary school years, I transitioned into my pop/Disney era and eventually alternative era, listening to Paramore and A Day to Remember. This era still continues to this day as you can see from this summer’s Series Sunday. However, during seventh grade, I fell back in love with hip-hop. Thank Me Later had dropped over the summer and Pink Friday was coming out during Thanksgiving break. Rap was becoming mainstream and my non-black classmates were eating it up. After getting Paramore merch and Nicki’s debut album for Christmas, I was finally letting my worlds collide and I was coming into my own. I spent the entire Christmas break listening to Pink Friday and Thank Me Later on repeat and learning every word. While I loved Drake’s album and it remains one of my favorites from him (it’s a close second to NWTS), Nicki’s album just warmed my heart and made me smile all the type. I’m not sure if I just felt her fire sign energy through my headphones or if I just resonated with “I’m The Best” that much. It felt refreshing to hear another cocky and vulgar voice like Kim’s.

Ever since then, I’ve been a huuuuge Nicki fan, loving her confidence, her candor, and even her courage to be different. (I’m disappointed in her now but that’s a post for another day.) It was something about black women being confident, uncensored, and taking charge that woke up the bad bitch in me. Just one listen to “Did It On’em” or “Blazin” and I’ll go from sulking to remembering who I am. Nicki’s energy and motivating bars translated into my self-esteem and the rest is history, haha.

During my freshman year of college, I came across Rico Nasty and was blasting “Hey Arnold” from the third floor of Crandall every day of spring semester and using the lyrics for my favorite Instagram posts (1, 2). Let Samya tell the story and she’d say I put everyone on. Now, I don’t know if that’s exactly true but I do know that it was added to our freshman year soundtrack. I mean, how could we not add it after the first line of the second verse?

As the summer came, Cardi’s debut single was released and I knew all the word within a few days. I also started listening to the playlists that Issa Rae released on Spotify after every episode of Insecure and discovered more talented women to follow along with when I’m getting ready for my day. By the spring semester of my sophomore year, I had included Cuban Doll, Leikeli47, Molly Brazy, and more to my “Worst Behavior” playlist. This past summer, I fell in love with the City Girls and their raunchy raps. Although I love all of these rappers for different reasons, there’s one that is my absolute favorite and I’ve been rocking with her since “Baby” and “Samaritan.” If you haven’t taken the time to listen to Noname yet, you should definitely start. Her raps are smooth like spoken word and contain bars and references that just put her on a pedestal for me. 

As for our current list of female rappers, it’s a lot longer than Nicki, Cardi, and Kash Doll. I’ve compiled a playlist of my favorite female rappers so that you’ll be able to listen to your favorites and maybe discover a few new ones. I suggest you shuffle it. Enjoy.

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