DAR Hip Hop: 13 Of The Greatest Hip Hop Albums By Women

By @TrueGodImmortal

These days, it seems as if women in hip hop are heavily discussed.... but only in the smallest quantity. Remy Ma gets a bit of attention, there is a mention of Cardi B nowadays, as she has managed to craft one hit, and of course, the most popular woman of the last 10 years, Nicki Minaj is always heavily discussed, for better or worse. However, ladies like Tink, Noname, Kash Doll, Kamaiyah, and others are making a name for themselves today, and of course, the true reigning queen in hip hop is Rapsody, who continues to showcase her brilliance and her lyrical ability. With that being said, the history of women in hip hop is richer than some would like to think. Long before the standard sex and money influenced raps of the late 90's and beyond, women had highly skilled pens, good ears for beats, and focused on creating great albums. That's why I'm here today. To discuss some of the greatest hip hop albums from female rappers, 13 of them to be exact (Note: If you read this and your favorite female rapper doesn't make the list... it's because their albums aren't good enough to be here. Just saying).  Which albums make the list? Let's take a look.

*Jean Grae- Jeanius (2008)

-One of the most underrated rappers of our time, whether male or female, Jean Grae is one of the more lyrically sound artists in the game. She had planned to release this album years prior, but there were unknown delays and rampant bootlegging of the project via the internet before it officially released in 2008. The album booklet showcases Jean and lead producer 9th Wonder recreating classic album covers from Black Sheep, Raekwon, and more, but of course, the music is the focus. With 9th Wonder handling the production, and some solid features from Phonte, Joe Scudda, and Median, Jean delivers an album full of spirit and soul, with classic tracks like "The Time Is Now", "Love Thirst", and "Desperada". This is an album high on my personal list of female hip hop projects.

*Rah Digga- Dirty Harriet (2000)

-One of the more slept on names as well, Rah Digga managed to give us a gem with her debut album on Flipmode. Boasting a great lineup of production and showcasing Rah and her aggressive verses, the album allows you to get a feel of what she has to offer. As a result, the album has minimal guest appearances, as only Young Zee, Eve, Sonja Blade, Carl Thomas, Flipmode Squad, and Busta Rhymes appear on songs, so Rah handles the bulk of the lyricism here. Production wise, the album is solid, with key contributions from Nottz, Pete Rock and DJ Premier. The top songs on this album include "Just For You", "Lessons Of Today", and "Curtains", all of which show Rah at her lyrical best.

*Queen Latifah- Black Reign (1993)

-After her second album didn't ignite the world like her debut, Latifah hit hard with her third album, which was actually surprisingly more in your face and straightforward than the previous releases. It was an album that promoted more positivity in a more aggressive way and definitely contained pro black elements, which was rare to see in music at the time for female rappers. However, Latifah brought the ruckus, over classic 90's production, crafting amazing songs like "Black Hand Side", "Listen 2 Me", "Just Another Day", and of course, the infamous track "U.N.I.T.Y.", which is one of her most popular songs. Black Reign is without a doubt one of the best female rap albums and it's right on par with Latifah's debut, which you'll see later on this list.

*Da Brat- Funkdafied (1994)

-So So Def is one of the most important labels in the history of the music game. One of the biggest reasons for the success of the label was rapper and writer Da Brat. A Chicago native that came to Atlanta and became a bigger deal, Brat was essentially the tomboy female rapper who was lyrically gifted and had one of the best flows in the game at the time and an engaging rap voice. She was a groundbreaking MC, becoming the first solo female rapper to actually hit platinum, giving the world 9 songs over booming and G-funk inspired production by Jermaine Dupri. The title track is my personal favorite song on the album, but there are other solid songs like "Come & Get Some", "Ain't No Thang", and "Fa All Y'all", introducing the world to someone who would become one of the most important women in the genre.

*Missy Elliott- Supa Dupa Fly (1997)

-Of course. There's no way you can talk female hip hop without mentioning Missy and this album is definitely her greatest achievement. With Timbaland at the helm of production, the sound is almost futuristic in a way, with amazing melodies that allowed Missy to craft some classics. That album would prove to be a success, selling well over a million copies and setting Missy atop the female rap world for her innovative rhymes and her intriguing style choices (and her music videos). This album features appearances from Busta Rhymes, Lil Kim, Da Brat, 702, Aaliyah, and Ginuwine, as they help to assist Missy bring together a concise and cohesive listen. Tracks like "Best Friends", "Hit Em With The Hee", "Sock It To Me", and of course "The Rain" round out an album that took Timbaland and Missy both to new levels and elevated the creative level of women in the genre.

*Salt-N-Pepa- Very Necessary (1993)

-I will be honest. I was never the biggest fan of Salt-N-Pepa, but the music was never really for me, clearly. Still, I recognized the impact of their music and what they brought to the game, so when I went back to revisit their albums a few years ago, I was actually surprised how well their music aged. This album is one of the biggest hip hop albums of the 90's success wise, and with over 8 million copies sold worldwide, it stands as one of the best selling hip hop albums from a female act. The album itself is of course crafted by Herby Luvbug on production, assisted by the group themselves and with minimal guest appearances, the project gives you a window into the minds of the ladies. The best tracks on the album range from the hit record with En Vogue "Whatta Man", the massive hit "Shoop", "Break of Dawn", to "Groove Me", all of which have different vibes, making this a well rounded project and an enjoyable listen.

*Bahamadia- Kollage (1996)

-This will likely be the most slept on album on this list, as it doesn't get mentioned as much as some of the others, but this is a very solid album from one of the top unsung female hip hop voices in the 90's. The album was a hip hop head's dream essentially with some of the best production ever heard on a female rap album with contributions from DJ Premier, Da Beatminerz, N.O. Joe, and Guru, and surprisingly The Roots. Bahamadia was gifted with the pen and she would not disappoint over these beats, giving us great tracks like "Da Jawn", "Total Wreck", "Rugged Ruff", and more, making Kollage a very sound listen.
*Queen Latifah- All Hail The Queen (1989)

-There is absolutely no way to talk female hip hop without talking one of the greatest to do it, Queen Latifah. Her debut album is probably the most seminal release in hip hop for women, and I fully believe that. There were women in hip hop at the time who were successful, but Queen came in and made her name known instantly. The Jersey native carried herself a certain way and the album reflects that. With production from the DJ Mark The 45 King and Prince Paul, Latifah was blessed with a smooth late 80's soundbed that complemented her voice and style. Boasting features from KRS-One and De La Soul, as well as Monie Love, Latifah gave us gems like "Mama Gave Birth To The Soul Children", her huge single "Ladies First", and "Evil That Men Do" on an album that is an undeniable classic.

*MC Lyte- Lyte As A Rock (1988)

-A personal favorite female MC of mine, MC Lyte is one of the pioneers of female hip hop. Her style, her lyrical ability, and her aggressive flow made her one of the better female rappers to listen and in her prime, no one was better. During the golden age, Lyte enticed listeners with her ability to kick rhymes just like her male counterparts, and sometimes better than a number of them. At 10 tracks, the album is concise and to the point, with solid production from Audio Two, King Of Chill, and Prince Paul, which manages to complement Lyte's voice and flow. With classic tracks like "10% Dis", "Paper Thin", the title track, and "Lyte thee MC", she delivers an album that is forever etched in hip hop history.

*Lil Kim- Hard Core (1996)

-The era of the more raunchy sex symbol female rapper was being ushered in. There was little emphasis on the Lytes and Latifahs at the time, and apparently, this Bad Boy affiliated artist was the next wave. With a number of her songs written by Biggie and her style created by the foresight of Biggie and Puffy, Lil Kim came in with an image that enticed the male listeners and somehow liberated the female listeners in a way. She was expressive. Honest. All of this made her endearing to the public and with her debut album, her name was forever etched in history. Production on the album was handled by Stretch Armstrong, Ski, Stevie J, Jermaine Dupri, and the Bad Boy Hitmen, as Kim would enlist features from Biggie, Junior M.A.F.I.A., Puffy, Jermaine Dupri. and Jay-Z, keeping it mostly within the Bad Boy extended family. Tracks like the first single "No Time", the classic "Crush On You", the infamous "Big Momma Thang", and a few others elevate the album from the standard, and there's no way to make a list like this without including the most important album of one of the most important female MCs.

*Foxy Brown- Ill Na Na (1996)

-Brooklyn born MC Foxy Brown made her debut with one of the most important female hip hop albums ever. While the question of whether she wrote all of her own rhymes has come up enough, the fact is, Foxy delivered the rhymes in such an engaging manner that you couldn't help but listen. Her voice was the driving force and it was definitely a huge reason for the album's success, as it would end up going platinum domestically and selling over 3 million copies worldwide. With Trackmasters, Havoc, and Nice handling the production here, along with appearances from Blackstreet, Method Man, and Jay-Z, Foxy would give us an album that can still be enjoyed years later. Whether you play a track like "Get Me Home", "I'll Be", or "The Chase", you'll always hear the charisma and charm in Foxy's voice and style, as it carries the entire album.

*Rapsody- The Idea Of Beautiful (2012)

-The current best female rapper has a classic to her name that I rarely see mentioned in the mainstream. However, when Rapsody first broke onto the scene via mixtapes and EPs, she showed a lot of promise. Her official debut album came in 2012 during the summer, and it was one of the most concise projects I've heard from a female MC since the days of Missy and Lauryn Hill. With The Soul Council (9th Wonder, Khyrsis, AMP, etc) handling production, Rapsody doesn't disappoint, spitting her raw and honest introspective style lyrics over the mostly soulful beats. She has features on the album from big names like Raheem Devaughn, Ab-Soul, The Cool Kids, Mac Miller, as well as BJ The Chicago Kid, as they contribute to top tier tracks on the album like "Non Fiction", "Round Table Discussion", and "Good Good Love". All in all, Rapsody delivers in a major way here, and if you don't have this album, I suggest you give this a listen, as well as her new project, Laila's Wisdom. Both albums are amazing pieces of art.

*Lauryn Hill- The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (1998)

-Naturally, this is an album that has to make the list. One of the most impactful and important albums of the late 90's mixes the smooth soulfulness of R&B with the rugged and honest nature of hip hop to perfection. Lauryn Hill is my all time favorite female rapper, and this album is a true testament to why she is. With the blend of R&B and hip hop, Lauryn played to both sides of her talents, and as a result, we are treated to some of the best music we might have ever heard. It's raw and stripped down, as the album is one of the most real musical journeys to find yourself and learn lessons. Whether Lauryn was discussing fallen relationships on "Lost Ones", describing an unhealthy back and forth relationship that should be no more on "Ex-Factor", warning women of vital things on "Doo Wop (That Thing)", singing to her first born on "To Zion", or singing side by side with D'Angelo, she delivers a musical experience that is unlike any other album on this list, and because of that, I think this is the greatest album by a female MC in the genre. It has every element that you need for a classic album and then some. If only we had albums regularly that were of the quality of the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the genre would be in a much better place.



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