As Ms. Swift quickly realized last week, it’s hard out there for female musicians who do not look like her or her model posse. The Fader then backed up Nicki Minaj’s claim that black artists don’t get their due at the MTV Video Music Awards with some hard-to-ignore stats.
While Minaj is deftly dominating this conversation, there are new voices that deserve to be heard. Uncompromising artists like Azealia Banks and Angel Haze have recently made some glorious noise, but the hip-hop game has historically left little room for female emcees. So, in allegiance with Her Minajesty and forebears like MC Lyte and Salt ‘N’ Pepa (and we haven’t forgotten you, Spinderella!), here are five women aiming to crash rap’s boys’ club.
Garnering an opening gig on Minaj’s tour this summer, the 24-year-old Detroit artist released her major label debut on Columbia Records in July with the EP #AndSeeThatsTheThing, featuring guest spots from Big Sean and Future. She shares a knack for dark melodic rhyming with the latter as on “Been On My Grind”, a meditative track about the challenges of making it in the music biz: “I’ve been on my hustle/It ain’t too many people I look up to…”
One of the year’s most anticipated debuts comes via a 20-year-old from Chicago. She’s signed to Timbaland’s label and delivers rapid-fire rhymes, but can also double as an R&B singer—she samples Aaliyah’s classic “One In A Million” in her own “Million” while laying down effortlessly smooth vocal lines. The entirety of Think Tink (and a collab with Missy Elliott) lands this fall, but for now we have her new mixtape, as well as the Timbo-produced “Ratchet Commandments” in which she offers some straight-up real talk: “(Thou shalt not) pass up on the truth/If you know your rent due, get the f— out the club.”
Sure, Tyga invited this Ottawa-born rapper-singer of Cambodian descent to tour with him (after seeing a YouTube video of her covering one of his tracks), but she is by no means his “protégée” as some would say. Instead Toronto-based Honey Cocaine (née Sochitta Sal) is a pro in her own right, and not just for taking a bullet while riding in Tyga’s car. She’s appeared on a Tinashe remix, and tracks off her latest mixtape The Gift Rap teem with Sal’s liquid delivery and R&B hooks like on the charismatic pop number “Done Done” in which she rips into a cheating lover: “But I can do it for myself if a man can’t/Should have known my only love was Ben Frank.”
Listening to Lizzo’s 2014 debut Lizzobangers offers a pretty good idea of what the Minneapolis artist is all about: wildly expressive, genre-hopping tracks, shameless fun, and #winning as she does on “Pants vs. Dress” (“At South By Southwest I was put to the Johnny test/They wanted a freestyle battle, ok, pants vs dress/One little line and them boys was impressed”). She confidently won over a slightly different crowd this year, opening for punk rock vets Sleater-Kinney and was seen last year in the studio with Grimes. While we wait for the fruits of that partnership, we’re happy to indulge in her truly delightful “Batches & Cookies,” below.
She’s the North Carolina rapper who appears on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly album, helping him dismantle colorism on the track “Complexion (A Zulu Love)” (“Enforcin’ my dark side like a young George Lucas/Light don’t mean you smart, bein’ dark don’t make you stupid”). Last year she was named as one of hip-hop mag XXL’s “20 Best Female Rappers Of All Time,” yet failed to make the same publication’s annual Freshmen list, prompting a chorus of WTFs. (XXL has since made up for that female-less 2014 role call with both Tink and Dej Loaf on their 2015 honours). It’s Rapsody’s storytelling and realism we love, which she brings to the downcast domestic drama “The Man” from her Beauty And The Beast EP.
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