Women who shaped rap music through the decades

Women who shaped rap music through the decadesWithout a doubt, men have always had protagonism in uhm… practically everything. In this case, rap music. But they certainly can't take all the credit for making this genre popular. Women have made a significant impact on it through the years.

In fact, many women have shaped rap music in the way we hear it now, mainly through the 80s. They have made history. You've probably heard of Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion. And that's just three of them.

Let's talk about women who have shaped rap music through the decades.


Origins of rap music


Rap, as a music genre, first originated in hip-hop culture during the late 70s, In the inner cities of New York. Especially the Bronx. Where the black and Latino communities lived for many years.

It’s considered one of the greatest revelations of urban music for its lyrics. The first rappers combined poetic and artistic lyrics to expose the violence and struggle they had to live through the years. 

But where did women appear in the rap scene?


First female rapper


The first female rapper in the history of rap music was Sharon Green, aka MC Sha-Rock, born in 1962 in Wilmington, North Carolina. However, she grew up in the South Bronx, New York City. She has been known as the "Mother of the Mic" within the hip-hop community, implying her significant role as a prominent female figure among rappers.

She started as a local b-girl or breakdancer during the earliest days of the South Bronx hip-hop scene and culture in the late 70s. She has been active since 1977 to this day. Unbelievable, right?

The group she was in, The Funky Four Plus One More (her being the Miss Plus One), wrote significant songs that made it into national television.

Including a woman in an only-men group genuinely shook that culture since this style was being led by men… until Sha-Rock came in. But for her friends and partners, she was just one of them. She was actually never excluded by her homies. They were always rooting for her. She took this as an opportunity to take her place as a rap music pioneer.

But it wasn’t until 1979 that Funky Four Plus One More released their single Rappin and Rocking The House that people actually started paying more attention as they began earning their place in the spotlight. It was a big moment for the community. 


Due to the big impact of their first single, they caught the attention of Sugar Hill Records. In 1980, they became the first rap music group to have a legitimate record deal. After that, they released their greatest hit, That’s The Joint.


Women who shaped rap music through the decades


After Sha-Rock, the door was open for other women to express their art and do what they love in rap music. But some of them made huge impacts in hip hop and rap culture.




Here are some of the biggest female rappers in the 80s.


MC Lyte


She was the first rap artist to release her own full-length solo album, Lyte as a Rock, which dropped in 1988. She gained attention in the industry because of her great lyrical precision and refusal to self-censor.

She described the scene as competitive but not gender-biased.




Queen Latifah


She's the only rapper with awards and accolades spanning music, film and television. Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1970.

Latifah began informal singing and rapping in the restrooms and locker rooms during her first year of high school. In her junior year, she formed a rap group with her friends called Ladies Fresh. The group was making appearances whenever and wherever they could.

Since Queen Latifah’s mother was a catalyst, she was in touch with the students and the trending music. A turn of events took place when Latifah’s mother invited Mark James, DJ known as D.J Mark the 45 King. This is where the group and Mark James met.

His basement, which was full of electronic and recording equipment, became the main hangout place for Queen Latifah and her friends. They soon started to call themselves Flavor Unit.

After releasing her first single, Princess of the Posse,  in 1988, recorded in the same basement, Queen Latifah gained a lot of fame. In 1991, as she began to earn money, she organized and became chief executive officer of The Flavor Unit Records.

By 1993, the record label had signed about 17 rap groups. 


Foxy Brown


One of the most distinctive female rappers of the 90s. She entered the scene at only 15 years old. Her first appearance was through LL Cool J’s album Mr. Smith, rapping over the remix for ‘I Shot Ya’.

In 1996, she appeared with Lil Kim, Total, and Da Brat in a remix for No One Else by Bad Boy. In that same year, she was signed to Def Jam. This was also the year of her debut album, Ill Na Na. Even though the reviews and critics were mixed, her sales were solid. She definitely made an impact.

She was frank and outspoken about her sexuality while still demanding respect.


Missy Elliott


Without a doubt, one of the most representative rappers in the 90s. Missy has had a unique style since the very beginning. She literally changed the game back then.

It only took her two weeks to make her debut album, called Supa Dupa Fly. Her song 'The Rain' made it to a radio hit. This song also had one of the most innovative videos of all time. Her next album, Da Real World, was extremely successful as well. And with her third album, Miss E… So Addictive, she gave us 'Get Ur Freak On', one of the most streamed songs at the time and made history.




Lil’ Kim


She remains, to this day, one of the best female rappers of all time. She entered the rap and hip-hop scene in the early 2000s. She has made five successful studio albums, showing her incredible talent. She was a hugely influential female rapper and definitely helped shape this scene.




Also known as the decade, women took rap back.


Cardi B


She entered the spotlight as a rap and hip-hop artist in the late 2010s but definitely changed hip-hop music. Raised in the Bronx.

Her career started in 2013 after she worked as a stripper when she began gaining a lot of relevance in social media. Two years later, Cardi B achieved fame by starring in the sixth season of the reality show Love & Hip Hop: New York.

She signed her first record deal in 2017 after releasing multiple demos that caught the attention of bigger labels.


Iggy Azalea


Born in Sydney on June 7th, 1990. She started her career in 2011 and gained fame very quickly.

At the beginning of 2011, she released her first independent song Pu$$y. Years later, she revealed that her debut album, The New Classic, would be released as soon as she found a record label.

She later signed with Grand Hustle Records. In February 2014, she released the fourth single of The New Classic, 'Fancy', which quickly gained popularity and became one of the year's most streamed songs.


Nicki Minaj


She had her rise to fame with Pink Friday in 2010 and 2011. She signed with Young Money Entertainment a bit earlier.

In October 2010, Nicki Minaj became the first artist to simultaneously have 7 songs on the Billboard Hot 100.

Who's your favorite female rapper? Let us know!

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