26 Greatest Female Rappers Of All Time

You can be the King but watch the Queen conquer

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Catherine Powell, Getty Images for MTV

Female Rappers have long been the unrelenting flames of creativity and empowerment in the world of hip-hop, consistently challenging stereotypes, breaking barriers, and reshaping the very fabric of the genre. In this celebration of musical prowess and lyrical brilliance, we embark on a journey to unveil the 25 Greatest Female Rappers Ever, paying homage to the trailblazing women who have elevated hip-hop to new heights. From the pioneers who laid the foundation to the contemporary powerhouses who continue to shape the landscape, this list is a testament to their enduring impact.

These extraordinary artists have not only thrived in a male-dominated industry but have also left an indelible mark on it. As we delve into their artistry, we'll explore the evolution of female rappers' influence on the culture, their groundbreaking contributions, and their fearless commitment to authenticity. From iconic legends like Queen Latifah and Missy Elliott to modern-day queens like Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, their unique voices, storytelling prowess, and unwavering determination have made them legends in their own right. Join us on this musical odyssey as we celebrate the incomparable talent and resilience of the 25 Greatest Female Rappers Ever.

25. Ice Spice

24. Lady of Rage

23. Remy Ma

22. Swateetie

21. Iggy Azalea

20. Latto

19. Jean Grae

18. M.I.A.

17. Yo-Yo

16. Left Eye

15. Gangsta Boo

14. Megan Thee Stallion

13. Trina

12. Roxanne Shanté

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In the mid-1980s, a series of rap battle tracks had hit the streets. Known as the Roxanne Wars, 30 to 100 artists responded with their own stories and spin on the tale. The origin of the Roxanne Wars, however, was the song “Roxanne Roxanne” by the hip-hop group UTFO. The song was about a woman who wasn’t interested in their advances; around the same time, UTFO had to cancel a show appearance. Upset at the cancellation, 14-year-old Lolita Shanté Gooden changed her rap name to Roxanne Shante and recorded “Roxanne’s Revenge,” making her one of the first and youngest female battle rappers.

11. Dabrat

10. Eve

9. MC Lyte

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No list of hip-hop pioneers is complete without Lana Michelle Moorer, better known as MC Lyte. She came on the scene in 1988 at age 17, when she was featured on the remix of Sinéad O'Connor’s "I Want Your (Hands on Me).” That same year, she released her first album, Lyte as a Rock, the first solo rapper to release her own full-length album. Although MC Lyte has been open about the difficulty in establishing herself as a woman in hip-hop culture, no one could deny her talent; in 1993, she was the first female MC nominated for a Grammy for her single, “Ruffneck.”

8. Salt-N-Pepa

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Some will say it’s not about who did it first, it’s about who did it best,” but what happens when that’s one and the same? Legendary group Salt-N-Pepa (with DJ Spinderella) were the first women to win a Grammy for Best Performance By Duo or Group in 1995, and they remain one of the best-selling rap acts of all time. They were the first female rap group to achieve gold and platinum status with their hit debut album in 1986, Hot, Cool & Vicious while their fourth release, Very Necessary, sold seven million albums, making it not only one of the best-selling rap albums, like, ever, but making Salt-N-Pepa the first female rap act to have multi-platinum selling albums. If that wasn’t enough barriers to break, they are also heavily credited for ushering in a wave of hip-hop feminism that we hear today.

7. Cardi B

6. Foxy Brown

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When 15-year-old Inga DeCarlo Fung Marchand won a talent contest in Brooklyn, she had no idea about the impression she made on the production duo Trackmasters, in the audience while working on LL Cool J’s album, Mr. Smith. Not too long after they invited Marchand, otherwise known as Foxy Brown, to rap over “I Shot Ya,” Def Jam signed Foxy. Her age and her provocative and distinct style of rapping landed her a spot on the Bad Boy remix of “No One Else” with Lil’ Kim, Da Brat and Total. Foxy Brown’s debut album, Ill Na Na, secured her position in hip-hop notoriety, as it was full of “radio-friendly jams, club bangers and street anthems.”

6. Doja Cat

5. Queen Latifah

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Before she was the leading lady of movies like Just Wright and Last Holiday (which, if you know me personally, you know is my favorite movie), and even before she was playing Khadijah James on the beloved sitcom Living Single, Dana Elaine Owens was paving the way for all the rappers-turned-quadruple threats of today. She started off beat-boxing for hip-hop group Ladies Fresh before she started rapping herself; it didn’t take long for Queen Latifah to make a name for herself, thanks to her willingness to explore issues that affected women and members of the Black community. Her song “U.N.I.T.Y" addressed the way hip-hop culture treated women, along with verbal and domestic violence, which won the Queen a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1995.

4. Lil Kim

3. Lauryn Hill

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Sometimes an album is so powerful, so impactful—and so strongly received that it secures an artist’s place in hip-hop history—that said artist only needs to make one. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is one of those albums. Lauryn Noelle Hill was in high school when friend Pras Michel asked her to join a musical group; friend Wyclef Jean joined shortly after— and The Fugees were born. After three years, however, the group broke up, and Hill went on to record her debut album, which showcased her incredible talents and made her the face of neo-soul. The rawness of her lyrics speaking on “themes like love, motherhood, spirituality,” felt fresh and were articulated in a way that wasn’t common at the time; the 1998 album debuted at number one on the Billboard charts and went on to win five Grammys.

2. Nicki Minaj

1. Missy Elliot

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  • Albums: "Supa Dupa Fly," "Under Construction," "Miss E... So Addictive"
  • Iconic Songs: "Work It"
  • Achievements: Multiple Grammy Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, and a pioneering music video director.

Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot has reinvented herself time and time again. From song to music video to album, each of her creative endeavors has broken molds and led the way for the female artists who have come after her. She’s sold over 30 million records, has won five Grammys and last year, Missy made history when she became the first female hip-hop artist and third rapper ever to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Fearless with her vision for herself and her music, Missy is responsible for some of the most iconic videos from the past decade: “Pass that Dutch,” “Supa Dupa Fly,” “Work It,” “Get Your Freak On,” “Hot Boyz” and “Sock It to Me.” Missy’s devotion to her craft and originality also allow her to continue trailblazing in other arenas: Earlier this month, it was announced that she had signed onto play a role in the new Cinderella musical.

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