Retrospective: The Best Female Hip Hop Artists

Hip hop is usually a male dominated art form. The culture has always been this way, but without question, there have been women who have left their impact on the game without a doubt. Today, we discuss the greatest female hip hop artists, as everyone gives their top 5 personally. Let's get started.

I'm grateful I came up in a time that I was able to get the essence of Hip Hop. Rappers were speaking about present conditions and were their authentic selves. When it comes to female emcees, a listener had no problem distinguishing one from the other.

*Lauryn Hill

-Lauryn Hill stands one of the best emcees in my humble opinion. She earned that crown with the Fugees are carried it through her solo career. Lauryn was able to spit then flow right into her singing voice with ease. Her voice is so rich and holds so much conviction. Her debut solo album, Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, is a classic. Of course she had an unplugged album as well, but the initial project holds serious weight.

*MC Lyte

-Lyte as a rock... You can't talk Hip Hop without discussing MC Lyte. She's a trailblazer of the rap game, male or female. When she kicked the gate open, she was surrounded by her male counterparts but she wasn't afraid to be herself. Lyte came out demanding respect and wasn't afraid to walk with the big dogs while maintaining her womanhood.

*Queen Latifah 

-Queen Latifah was a different kind of act. She also spoke on social awareness but she made sure the women were acknowledged. "Who you calling a bitch?" is a sure fire way to get attention from the masses and she accomplished that mission. As another pioneer, Queen wasn't afraid to spread her wings: she succeeded in acting, singing, and became the face of Cover Girl.

*Lil Kim

-Lil Kim's approach to rap was far less conservative than the previously mentioned artists. Biggie's protégé wasn't afraid to go that extra mile. She said what happened behind closed doors and was comfortably open about her sexuality. Between Kim's New York tone and her heavy rasp, listeners couldn't break away from what Kim verbalized. To know that such raunchy material came from that tiny vessel was almost amazing but it was her gimmick. Kim oozed sex and street but she owned her sound. She could hop in the lyrical ring with the best of them and my money would be on the little one.


-Eve is somewhat underrated in my eyes. She was the First Lady of Ruff Ryders. I'm a fan of her delivery. Eve got my attention on her single "Love is Blind" when she confronted domestic abuse. She flaunted her lyrical talent over her frame and that's dope to me. As she matured, so did her sound. Eve later collaborated with pop star Gwen Stefani on "Let Me Blow Ya Mind." Bringing two genres together and making a hit isn't always easy. Eve maintained Hip Hop in her body of work and consistency always wins with me.

It's clear that the Hip hop genre/industry is a heavily male dominated one, as quantitively males outnumber females, and as a result they are constant topics of conversation. Obviously my list is mine and although it is HEAVILY rooted in New York MC's, I think it's the absolute best so let me get right into it....

*Foxy Brown

-Foxy Brown will always be my favorite because she was the first female MC I ever heard personally. 1996 would be the year she dropped her debut album "Ill Na Na", and Foxy definitely showcased her range. She isn't as explicit as say Lil Kim (I'll get to her in a sec), but she definitely maintains a level of sex appeal and femininity while incorporating the hardcore rap styles we've come to expect from New York. I actually like the majority of Foxy's tracks, but my favorites are "If I...", "I'll Be", "Oh Yeah", "Holy Matrimony" and a few others. To me, Foxy is a balanced rapper, her flow is very easy to listen to and of course she's raw with her lyrics and her voice compliments any other rapper. I love that. It's probably why she was part of the Firm rapping alongside her male counterparts. I also love that she teamed with Meth, Jay, Havoc and Kid Capri to make a solid debut album that definitely gained her quite a bit of popularity and a strong following.

*Lil Kim

-Lil Kim... the original Queen Bee. There is so much to say about Kim. I think what makes her my favorite is that she absolutely doesn't care at all how she comes across or any backlash her image may create. Kim's catalog is pretty solid and her songs have always incorporated her raw sexually explicit ways as well as straight to the point accounts of her life. Her "Hardcore" album is my favorite of her catalog although all of her stuff supported her image, and provided fans with fun tracks and her racy lyrics on "Crush On You", "Queen Bitch", "We Don't Need It", "How Many Licks", and "Not Tonight" to name a few. This is a woman who can definitely go toe to toe with the legends and maintain her own ground. She's fantastic. And I can't end this without mentioning her diss track to Nicki Minaj. Years later, she comes back and shows she can still put together clever rhymes along with her unique style. She holds the number 2  spot on this list with good reason.

*Lauryn Hill

-My 3rd favorite of course is Lauryn Hill. Here's what I love and appreciate about this lady: she's both a brilliant R&B artist as well as a fantastic Hiphop MC. The talent is unmatched. She's the one artist who can spit a crazy intricate rap verse and then angelically sing her own chorus, almost like 2 different people! She's truly amazing. From the way she carried the Fugees to delivering her own solo albums and gracing the big screen in movies, she truly is a woman with a thousand talents. Her "Miseducation" debut album is a classic and a perfect example of her versatility. There is nothing more you can ask for as a fan. We are truly blessed to have such a person leaving her imprint in the genre.

*MC Lyte 

-MC list is complete without her. She has been around since the late '80's and was paving the way in the Hip hop and is considered a pioneer in her own right. She's worked with Jermaine Dupri, Puffy, Missy and was featured on tracks with Janet Jackson and Brandy. I didn't gain an appreciation for MC Lyte until '96 when I discovered Foxy and went on to learn about other amazing females in the industry and I wasn't disappointed. She does remind me of Lil Kim (or vice versa) in style, flow and beats, but MC Lyte didn't have to be as explicit and crude as Kim. She absolutely kills the banger tracks. They are extremely fun, she does them well. I think by the time she dropped "Bad As I Wanna B", which had my favorite tracklist, she was already quite seasoned as an artist. She exudes confidence and her matter of fact delivery is what keeps me listening to her!

*Eve/Missy Elliott 

-My number 5 spot is tricky...I want to say Eve and Missy Elliot are equal, but for entirely different reasons. Eve because she came out in '99 and I remember the single "Gotta Man", which was so unexpected, at the time, a girl rolling around with DMX and the Ruff Ryders? To be honest, I didn't think she'd last. I was pleasantly surprised when Eve pretty much took over the female MC scene. She was fresh and came into Hip hop completely different than Fox and Kim did. She definitely wasn't as out there and didn't sell her sexuality as much and her debut album definitely outshined Foxy's "Chyna Doll" which dropped around the same time. Again, she was a perfect addition to RR and her style and image followed suit. Eve sort of snuck in to Hiphop and solidified her spot.

Now Missy is like a Lauryn Hill with her multifaceted talents. This woman HAS to be on top lists everywhere. As a producer she's flawless and as a rapper she's incredibly unique. She almost raps like "spoken word" and I like that. Her songs are fun and she's collaborated with absolutely all the best artists in the industry. Her "Supa Dupa Fly" album is actually flawless. Missy has refined her style and has remained consistent to me. Everything she's put out whether it's singles, an album, whatever, it is it's a chart topper. Truly a gem in the industry.

Like I said, in a genre that is so heavily dominated by men I think it's important to recognize the women who have also brought talent and greatness to the craft. Honestly, there are a ton of fantastic female artists, Jean Grae, Da Brat, Left Eye, Queen Latifah and Rah Digga are among the list as well, but I think the six I mentioned above are truly the best.

Here we go.

*MC Lyte
-You can't have a greatest "femcee" (ugh. Hate the word) without one of the best lyricists out, regardless of gender. She's paved a lot of roads.

*Lil' Kim 
-Ummm...I don't have much to say about Kim. She's made her mark. She's kind of the Eddie Murphy of "femcees," in that she has legendary material...but her flubs are just as legendary (such as the Nicki Minaj beef).

*Left Eye

-Let's just say this. Her verse on the "No Scrubs" remix felt like it came straight out the mind of Andre 3000. I have Left Eye as one of the dopest lyricists period. She understood flow, punchlines, and more. Plus, you never really expected her to just start spitting because of, like, TLC. But then she drops a sixteen and it's like "DAYUMMMMM!!!"

*Lauryn Hill
-Do I really need to explain this one?

*Queen Latifah 

-One of the first rappers period to crossover from music to film without having to rap/sing in the role she played (that came later). Without Latifah, you wouldn't have "U.N.I.T.Y." or the underrated sitcom Living Single. But, musically? She was and is so multifaceted. I debated between Latifah and Nicki Minaj for this spot as both've had huge crossover success. I went with Latifah because of her ability to do pop, showtunes, jazz-infused R&B, and rap in the same breath. That's no slight to Nicki...but Latifah is a legend.

My list looks slightly different from everyone else. Not very much, but just slightly. Let's get into it.

*Lauryn Hill 

-The greatest. Hands down. Period. Lyrically she is unmatched and vocally she is amazing. She's maintained a level of lyricism through her whole career and if you want a testament to the intricacies of this woman's mind, her often slept on Unplugged album features her best verses. Period. She is the best. With just two solo projects under her belt and two Fugees albums, she is the best.

*Jean Grae

-I remember first hearing Jean. I was captivated. Lyrically she's in a class like Lauryn. Not many can match her lyrical ability and the smooth flow she possesses. Jean is an amazing artist and is easily one of the best in hip hop.

*Missy Elliott

-Missy is one of my favorites. I've never really purchased female hip hop artists albums, but I own every Lauryn and Missy album (except the last two Missy albums). Regardless, Missy is creatively in a class of her own. She's fun musically and can still construct engaging verses and solid albums.

*Queen Latifah
-I know some might be wondering why Queen is here and not a Lil Kim or say a Foxy Brown or Nicki Minaj. That brand of rap doesn't appeal to me when speaking female MCs. Overly sexual music never works in hip hop and when the likes of Nicki, Kim and Foxy did it, it doesn't appeal as much. Queen to me was the anti-sexual female rapper, which could be for a few reasons, but she maintained her image and promoted liberation for females, support for black brothers and stressed respect and unity for each other. She's vital.

*MC Lyte
-It is impossible to do a list without MC Lyte. Hands down one of the greatest and to not include her would be criminal. Simple as that.

What are your top 5 female hip hop artists of all time? Post them below in the comments.



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