In a genre defined by hypermasculinity, profanity, and the sexualization of female bodies, it’s not surprising that there has never been a historically high concentration of women in rap. When it came to hip-hop, women were always tied to the role of “featured” artist, or contributing harmonies and hooks, but rarely verses. However, things are finally changing in the rap world and we have many genre-defying female artists to thank for that. We rounded up a list of the most up-and-coming female rappers on the rise that you should not be sleeping on this year.
If you haven’t heard Cardi B’s breakout single “Bodak Yellow,” then you must be living under a rock. The overarching message of the song is obvious from the first few lines: Cardi B thinks she’s better than you, and she wants to be the one to tell you. The song takes cues from classic rap culture surrounding money, glory, and celebrity. It also subverts the classic rap narrative because Cardi is a woman—the antithesis of the tough, black male rapper stereotype. She’s effortlessly breaking boundaries, and she’s doing it in a way you can dance to.
Starting out as a slam poet in Chicago, Fatima Warner (Noname) broke out onto the rap scene when she was featured by Chance the Rapper on the Acid Rap mixtape. Since then, she and Chance have collaborated a few more times (Surf, Coloring Book), but she was also busy recording her own debut album, Telefone. An uncompromised look at the experience of growing up a black woman in Chicago, this album is a triumph. Not only does she experiment with unconventional jazz-influenced beats, but she also uses her background in spoken word to craft extremely smart and personal verses.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Young M.A. (also known as Katorah Marrero) has rap running through her veins. Beginning to rap as early as age 9, the 25-year-old has accomplished a lot in her short life thus far; she’s released more than a few viral tracks (“Brooklyn Chiraq,” “Body Bag”) and two mixtapes (Sleepwalkin’, Herstory,) and the latter two received critical acclaim. Her single “OOOUUU” has over 100 million streams on Spotify alone, and it was featured on basically every party playlist in the country for a few months. Her songs aren’t just mindless bangers, either; she also uses her music as an outlet to discuss social issues and her identity as a black lesbian woman.
Called “Oakland’s Best New Rapper” by MTV, Kamaiyah is definitely one to watch. Her debut album A Good Night in the Ghetto is a cross-section of everything she represents as a rapper: confidence, clarity, and charisma. Her verses are sharp, but they’re also fun. Heavy bass lines and catchy hooks make the tracks perfect for parties without compromising who she is. She’s not a singer, she’s a rapper—and she’s not afraid to say it. If you’re still unconvinced that she’s the next big thing, just remember she also shared a feature with Drake on the YG track “Why You Always Hatin’” in 2016.
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Female Rappers on the Rise: Featured image courtesy of CardiB/Faceboook