100 Essential Hip Hop Albums By Female Artists: Hip Hop has always been a male-dominated genre and sometimes it seems like the women in Hip Hop don’t get enough credit and are often overlooked when it comes to top ten and greatest rappers lists. In this piece, you will find 100 Hip Hop albums – no compilations, no mixtapes, and no EPs (or albums under 30 minutes) – we consider to be essential works by female emcees, not ranked but presented in release year order.
A special shout goes out to Sha-Rock – part of the Funky Four + 1, often considered the first female emcee and certainly the first with a record deal, but she never released an LP so she will not appear anywhere on the list. That said – let’s get into it. What do YOU think? Are your favorite albums by female emcees here? Do you think any essential records are missing? Share your thoughts in the comments!
The Sequence - Sugarhill Presents The Sequence (1980)
The Sequence was an all-female trio from Columbia, South Carolina, that formed in 1979. The Sequence is noted as the first female Hip Hop group signed to the Sugar Hill Records label in the late–1970s and early–1980s. The group consisted of Cheryl Cook, known as “Cheryl The Pearl”, Gwendolyn Chisolm, known as “Blondie” and lead singer/ rapper Angie Brown Stone, as Angie B. The trio was noticed when they bum-rushed a performance by the Sugarhill Gang and sang for them and Sylvia Robinson backstage. Their most notable single was “Funk You Up” (1979), which was the first rap record released by a female group and the second single released by Sugar Hill Records. Sugarhill Presents The Sequence can be considered the first Hip Hop LP in Hip Hop history released by female artists – in fact, it’s one of the first Hip Hop albums ever PERIOD, together with the first Sugar Hill compilation and Kurtis Blow’s debut album that both were released in 1980 too.
Salt-N-Pepa - Hot Cool Vicious (1986)
Salt-N-Pepa was the second all-female rap group to drop a full-length album. Hot, Cool, Vicious is kind of rough around the edges, and the teenaged Salt and Pepa hadn’t reached their skill peak yet, but this is a classic album nonetheless – a fun listen with iconic tracks such as “Tramp”, “I’ll Take Your Man”, “I Desire”, and “The Show Stopper” on it. (Salt-N-Pepa’s worldwide monster hit “Push It” did not appear on the original version of Hot, Cool, Vicious. “Push It” was first released as the B-side of the “Tramp” single in 1987 (and as its own single in 1988) and was part of the album’s 1987 re-issue.)
MC Lyte - Lyte As A Rock (1988)
MC Lyte‘s debut album Lyte As A Rock is the first full-length solo album by a female emcee in Hip Hop history. This album was hugely influential, and one of the best albums released in what arguably is Hip Hop’s greatest year ever. Even if it sounds a bit dated now in places, Lyte As A Rock is still a classic piece of work that belongs in any Hip Hop fan’s collection. “Paper Thin”, “10% Diss”, “I Cram To Understand U” – some truly iconic tracks on this album. Lyte As A Rock is broken down track-by-track by MC Lyte in Brian Coleman’s must-read book Check the Technique.
Sparky Dee - This Is Sparky D's World (1988)
Sparky Dee gained some notoriety from her beef with Roxanne Shante, when she responded to Roxanne Shante’s “Roxanne’s Revenge” with “Sparky’s Turn (Roxanne, You’re Through)” in 1985. The single sold well – around 300K copies – and was an important piece of the Roxanne Wars. The year 1988 saw the release of her first full-length album on B-Boy Records, This Is Sparky D’s World. It’s a forgotten album (maybe because it’s a mixed bag, to put it mildly), but there really are a few decent tracks on here (like “Never Ran Never Will”, “Grand Creator K-Wiz”, “This Is Sparky D’s World”, and “Sparky’s Back”) and it deserves a mention on this list for being one of the first LPs by a female emcee.
Sweet Tee - It's Tee Time (1988)
Few people ever mention Sweet Tee when pioneering Hip Hop is discussed, but there’s no denying that along with MC Lyte’s Lyte As A Rock, her debut album It’s Tee Time was a trailblazing one for female emcees. It was a solid album too, with a few iconic tracks on it: “On The Smooth Tip”, “I Got Da Feelin'”, and “It’s My Beat” all are Hip Hop classics.
Salt-N-Pepa - A Salt With A Deadly Pepa (1988)
With their second full-length album, Salt-N-Pepa managed to capitalize on the popularity of “Push It”. Including a couple of pop-friendly songs such as “Shake Your Thang” and “Twist and Shout” kept Salt, Pepa, and Spinderalla on the pop charts and in the public eye. A Salt With A Deadly Pepa eventually went gold, and while it’s not as good as Hot Cool Vicious is, it is an essential part of Hip Hop history.
JJ Fad - Supersonic (1988)
J.J. Fad began in 1985 as a quintet comprising Juana Burns (MC J.B.), Dania Birks (Baby-D), Anna Cash (Lady Anna), Fatima Shaheed (O.G. Rocker), and Juanita Lee (Crazy J.). It was one of the original acts signed to Ruthless Records by Eazy-E. In 1987, this line-up released its only recording, the single “Anotha Ho” backed with “Supersonic” (“Anotha Ho” was the A-side), both produced by N.W.A.affiliate Arabian Prince.
Due to management and financial disagreements, Cash, Shaheed and Lee quit the group, leaving J.J. Fad as a duo. The remaining original members (Burns and Birks) were joined by Michelle Franklin (Sassy C.) and DJ Train, and together they re-recorded and re-released “Supersonic” in 1988, this time as the A-side. It sold 400,000 copies independently before Eazy-E and Jerry Heller secured the group a major-label recording contract with Atco Records.
The single was followed by the album Supersonic, produced by Arabian Prince, who made J.J. Fad accessible to pop audiences—unlike many West Coast rappers of the day—by including electro elements in their music. Due to their involvement with Ruthless Records, co-producer credits were added for Dr. Dre and DJ Yella.
Both the single “Supersonic” and the album Supersonic were certified gold.
The Real Roxanne - The Real Roxanne (1988)
Roxanne Shanté was way superior as a rapper and she was the winner of their beef (which was part of the Roxanne Wars), but The Real Roxanne’s debut album is a better LP than the two albums Shanté would release in her career. The infectious “Respect” is the big single off The Real Roxanne, but the rest of this hour-long album is surprisingly consistent – also thanks to the input of Jam Master Jay, Howie Tee, and Full Force on the production side.
Antoinette - Who's The Boss? (1989)
Who’s the Boss? is the debut album by Antoinette, whose main claim to fame is her beef with MC Lyte. Who’s the Boss? is not a classic, but it is a fun late 1980s Hip Hop album, that just didn’t have what it took to compete with all the other albums that dropped in that period of time.
Roxanne Shanté - Bad Sister (1989)
Bad Sister is the debut album by Roxanne Shanté, released in 1989 on Cold Chillin’ Records. The quality of the album doesn’t reflect the significance of Roxanne Shanté in Hip Hop history – like so many pioneers she never released an album befitting her status. That said: Bad Sister is not a bad album at all. Marley Marl’s beats do the job, and Roxanne Shantéś natural talent is obvious – but this album came out a couple of years too late. That said: Roxanne Shanté was an influence on pretty much everybody – her importance in Hip Hop history cannot be overstated.
Queen Latifah - All Hail The Queen (1989)
Queen Latifah‘s debut album was a great success upon its release. The album is universally regarded as a Hip Hop classic; though it contains a couple of filler tracks, and it has a bit too much of a crossover feel (with even some house, techno, and reggae influences) to be considered Queen Latifah’s best. There’s no denying Queen Latifah’s ability and star power though – and this album is a powerful start of an impressive career, with classic Queen Latifah cuts on it like “Wrath Of My Madness”, “Evil That Men Do”, “Mama Gave Birth To The Soul Children”, and the iconic single “Ladies First”.
MC Lyte - Eyes On This (1989)
MC Lyte’s second album was a confirmation: with Lyte As A Rock she made her name, with Eyes On This she cemented it. With Lyte on the mic and production from EPMD’s Parrish Smith, Brand Nubian’s Grand Puba, Audio Two, and Marley Marl, you should know you can’t go wrong with this album. “Cha Cha Cha”, “Cappucino”. “Shut The Eff Up! (Hoe)”, and “Not Wit’ A Dealer” all are classic MC Lyte joints.
Oaktown 357 - Wild & Loose (1989)
Oaktown’s 357 was a trio formed by MC Hammer in 1989, its members included Sweet L.D., Lil P, and Terrible T. Wild & Loose is their debut album. It’s kind of lightweight and forgettable, but no matter which way you look at it, this was a pioneering album in West Coast Hip Hop.
Tairrie B - Power Of A Woman (1990)
Power Of A Woman is the debut studio album by Tairrie B (who would go on as frontwoman for a number of metal bands), released on Eazy E’s Ruthless Records. This album is undeserving of its low rep. The production is solid as f, and Tairrie B’s bars are fun. Short vocal appearances by the likes of her ‘sponsor’ Eazy E, as well as from Dr. Dre, The D.O.C., Everlast, and Schoolly D add extra value and credibility. “Murder She Wrote” with its killer drum track is the stand-out song, but there’s are more strong cuts, such as “Anything You Want”, “Packin’ a Punch”, “Player”, and “Ruthless Bitch”. This album is kind of a forgotten oddity now, also because Tairrie B didn’t really have a career in Hip Hop, but this is a well-produced LP with more than a handful of banging tracks.
Salt-N-Pepa - Blacks Magic (1990)
Even if their third album eventually reached platinum status, we feel Black’s Magic is kind of underrated – in fact, we think this is Salt-N-Pepa’s best album. Better than any of their other albums Black’s Magic strikes the perfect balance between a 90s street Hip Hop attitude and mainstream appeal. “Let’s Talk About Sex” is the big hit on this album, but Black’s Magic has much more to offer.
Monie Love – Down To Earth (1990)
Monie Love is a British emcee who gained international fame after her appearance on Queen Latifah’s hit song “Ladies First” and for her affiliation with the Native Tongues movement. Monie Love has an awesome flow and a charismatic personality – and she shines on this upbeat and ‘poppy’ debut album. With “Monie In The Middle” and “It’s A Shame” the album contains two classic tunes too.
Shazzy - Attitude: A Hip Hop Rapsody (1990)
Attitude: A Hip Hop Rapsody is one of the most slept-on albums on this list. Shazzy was a skilled female emcee, with a powerful voice and a dope flow. The production is on point too, with great beats and scratches – it all works. This album is one of the best (early) 90s releases by a female emcee. Few people picked up on it though, the album flopped – and that’s a shame.
Yo-Yo - Make Way For The Motherlode (1991)
Make Way For The Motherlode is the debut studio album by Compton native and Ice Cube protege Yo-Yo. The album featured production by Ice Cube, Sir Jinx, and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien. and had two singles, including “You Can’t Play with My Yo-Yo” and “What Can I Do?”, both of which featured Ice Cube. Make Way For The Motherlode is a classic, with delicious early 90s production and self-empowering lyrics plus dope flows from Yo-Yo.
Nikki D - Daddy's Little Girl (1991)
Daddy’s Little Girl is Los Angeles rapper Nikki D’s one and only album. It is far from the best album on this list, but it is an essential one – if only for the fact it was the first rap album by a female to be released on Def Jam Recordings. The album is also notable because of the involvement of some high-profile producers, such as Prince Paul, Large Professor, and The Bomb Squad‘s Eric Sadler.
Queen Latifah – Nature Of A Sista (1991)
Class, style, intelligence, strength, and versatility are words that describe Queen Latifah as a person, and that also characterize her sophomore album Nature Of A Sista. Her best album would follow two years after this one, but Nature Of A Sista is a class act in and of itself. Always positive, without being preachy: Queen Latifah is a Hip Hop icon.
BWP - The Bytches (1991)
Lil’ Kim avant la lettre. BWP (Bytches With Problems) was a Los Angeles-based female rap duo that consisted of Lyndah McCaskill and Tanisha Michele Morgan, who became well known for their sexually explicit lyrics, mixing the hardcore attitude of N.W.A with 2 Live Crew levels of sexual explicitness. The Bytches is never talked about these days but is actually quite good- if you’re not offended by the content of course. In 1991, Hip Hop just wasn’t ready for BWP.
MC Lyte - Act Like You Know (1991)
MC Lyte is a Hip Hop icon and one of the best and most important female emcees in the game ever. Her third album is not as strong as her previous two are, however. Act Like You Know is overlong and a bit of a mixed bag too – some really strong tracks that do justice to MC Lyte’s lyrical skills, but also some filler tracks and a couple of so-so attempts at ‘poppy’ songs. That said: “Poor Georgie” is a great track, and there are more stand-outs such as “Kamikaze”, “Act Like You Know”, and “Search 4 The Lyte”.
Roxanne Shanté - The Bitch Is Back (1992)
Roxanne Shante is another one of those Old School Hip Hop legends, who sadly never was able to transfer her considerable live emcee abilities to wax and therefore never was able to release a really dope, classic album deservedly of her status. This is her second and last album. With production from the likes of Kool G Rap, Large Professor, Mister Cee, Grandmaster Flash, and Granddaddy I.U. and considering Shante’s mic skills, this album should have been better. As it is, it’s an OK album that’s worth checking out for Hip Hop history purists.
Yo Yo – Black Pearl (1992)
Black Pearl was a strong follow-up to Yo-Yo’s formidable debut album Make Way For The Motherlode. For us, Black Pearl is even better. Yo-Yo speaks about women and their place in society. Whether if it is about relationships, about living with drugs and crime, or about dealing with female drama, she covers it all on this album. Production duties are taken care of by Sir Jinx and DJ Pooh, with some assistance from DJ Muggs (from Cypress Hill) and a couple of others. “You Should Have Listened”, “So Funky”, “Hoes” (featuring Deadly Threat, “You Will Be Mine”, “Cleoparta”, “I Can’t Take It No More”, “A Few Good Men” – no shortage of great songs on Black Pearl, this is Yo-Yo’s best album as far as we are concerned.
Queen Latifah - Black Reign (1993)
Although her debut album may have been more important as a trailblazer for female emcees, this dark and jazzy album is Queen Latifah‘s best record. Latifah’s charismatic and powerful personality really shines on this album, as well as real and heartfelt emotion in some of the songs (partly due to personal tragedy prior to the recording of Black Reign). Most famous for the Grammy-winning anti-misogynist song U.N.I.T.Y., Black Reign has much more to offer – like “Winki’s Theme”, a song for her late brother with instrumentation from a live jazz quartet.
Salt-N-Pepa – Very Necessary (1993)
This five-times platinum mega-seller is not even Salt-N-Pepa’s best album, but it’s infectious en charming all around – with some of Salt-N-Pepa’s biggest hits on it, including “Shoop” (their first top-five single on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number four), and “Whatta Man” (featuring En Vogue, their highest-peaking single at number three).
The Conscious Daughters - Ear To The Street (1993)
Ear To The Street is the debut studio album by Bay Area-based duo The Conscious Daughters. Production was handled solely by San Francisco rapper Paris, who also wrote some of the lyrics. The album spawned two singles, “Somethin’ to Ride To (Fonky Expedition)” and “We Roll Deep,” both of which made it to the Billboard charts.
Bo$$- Born Gangstaz (1993)
Born Gangstaz is the only studio album by gangsta rapper Bo$$. It was produced in part by Def Jef, EPMD’s Erick Sermon, Run DMC’s Jam Master Jay, and 3rd Bass’ MC Serch. The album features guest appearances from Erick Sermon, AMG, and group Onyx, as well as from dancehall performers Papa Juggy and Admiral D. If N.W.A had had a female rapper, Bo$$ would have been a perfect fit (even if she hails from Detroit). She has the attitude and the lyrical skill, it helped to make Born Gangstaz a way above average gangsta rap album that kind of got lost in the 1993 wave of now-classic Hip Hop releases. The beats are dope, and Boss’ lyrical performances are on point – this album needs to be on this list.
Yo-Yo - You Better Ask Somebody (1993)
With You Better Ask Somebody Yo-Yo completed her threepeat: You Better Ask Somebody is her third album and it’s just as good as Make Way For The Motherlode (1991) and Black Pearl (1992) are. On this LP, Yo-Yo covers her usual topics of standing up for and defending oneself, not being used by bad men, and taking care of business. Yo-Yo’s content is as strong as ever, and once again she was provided with the right beats to match her rhymes. Her later work would be less strong, but the first three are essentials.
MC Lyte - Ain't No Other (1993)
MC Lyte followed the 1993 NYC trend and went for a harder – both lyrically and sonically – sound on her fourth album. The result is a little hit-or-miss. Lyte dropped two albums in the late 80s that are universally recognized as Hip Hop classics, especially her debut Lyte As A Rock. Her third album had more commercial sound and was somewhat less acclaimed. It looks like she tried to come back hard on this album, and overdid it a bit. Lyte will always be one of the finest (f)emcees to ever do it, but the beats on this album just do not always do her service. When it’s good, it’s great, but the album is a bit too long with a few tracks that don’t really work. Overall it’s a solid work though, and a must-have if only because it’s an MC Lyte album.
Da Brat - Funkdafied (1994)
This funky album is historic if only because it was the first album by a female emcee to sell over a million units. At 9 tracks (and not all of them great) Funkdafied is a little too short and inconsistent to be considered a classic, but it is an essential release nonetheless.
Heather B - Takin' Mine (1996)
Heather B first gained fame as a member of KRS One’s Boogie Down Productions before becoming a cast member on The Real World: New York, the 1992 inaugural season of MTV’s reality show The Real World. It’s kind of a shame she’s better known now for that TV show because she was a bad-ass emcee. This debut album is the best (of the two) she released. Heather B brings an aggressive delivery to classic boom-bap beats – this is a 90s Hip Hop album in all aspects, an album that got lost in the shuffle of one of the strongest years in Hip Hop ever, but an album that deserves its props nevertheless.
Bahamadia - Kollage (1996)
Philadelphia‘s Bahamadia is one of the most underrated emcees in the Hip Hop game. She has a smooth and hypnotizing style of rapping, and lyrics worth listening to. In an era where Lil Kim-like ‘explicitness’ was the marketable thing, Bahamadia’s intelligent strength and female empowerment just wasn’t as easy to ‘sell’. That’s a shame because the jazzy Kollage is an excellent album.
MC Lyte - Bad As I Wanna B (1996)
Bad As I Wanna B is MC Lyte’s most polished and most pop-friendly album, arguably a little soulless because of it – it lacks the raw power of earlier MC Lyte albums. “Keep On, Keeping On” and “Cold Rock A Party” are classic MC Lyte cuts though, and there are more strong songs here. At 11 tracks with 2 remixes the album is on the short side, but even if this is far from MC Lyte’s best, all early MC Lyte albums have to considered essentials as she is the GOAT female emcee.
Lil' Kim - Hardcore (1996)
Lil Kim definitely was a talented emcee, whether you like this album or not no doubt is up to personal preferences – this is not of those albums pretty much everyone can get with. Some will say her mic skills deserve lyrics that have more substance than Kim’s sexpot mafia queen-type lyrics, others are perfectly happy with the ‘nasty ‘lyrics she drops here. Like the title suggests, the album is hardcore – but totally commercial at the same time. Puff Daddy was involved, so you know the controversial nature and the shock value of the lyrics are more than a small part of the marketing plan. This album was hugely influential as it opened the door for a host of Lil Kim clones, most of whom didn’t do Hip Hop any favors.
Foxy Brown – Ill Na Na (1996)
Foxy Brown’s debut album is a classic. Foxy Brown began working on the album after being discovered by the production team Trackmasters and appearing on a number of singles by other artists, such as LL Cool J, Case, and Jay Z. The immediate success of the singles led to a bidding war at the beginning of 1996, and in March, Def Jam Recordings won and signed the then 17-year-old rapper to the label. Mostly produced by Trackmasters, Ill Na Na features guest appearances from Blackstreet, Havoc, Method Man, Kid Capri, and Jay Z.
Lyrically, the album mainly focuses on themes of fashion, sex, and mafia – serving as a ‘spiritual’ counterpart for Lil’Kim’s Hardcore that was released just a week earlier in the same year. Three million units were eventually sold worldwide, and a couple of songs off the album can now be considered classics: the timeless “Get Me Home” (with Blackstreet) most prominent among them. Other stand-outs include “Foxy’s Bells”, “(Holy Matrimony) Letter To The Firm” and “Ill Na Na” (with Method Man). For better or for worse, it was Foxy Brown along with Lil’ Kim who with their debut albums paved the way for unabashed female sexuality in Hip Hop.
Lady Of Rage - Necessary Roughness (1997)
Necessary Roughness is the first and only official studio album from The Lady of Rage. The album was largely produced by Daz Dillinger, with contributions from Easy Mo Bee and DJ Premier. The Lady Of Rage made her name with unforgettable guest verses on Dre Dre’s The Chronic (1992) and on Snoop Doogy Dogg’s Doggstyle (1993). In 1994, she released the well-received single, “Afro Puffs”. Necessary Roughness should have been released in 1994 to capitalize on the hype surrounding her at the time, but due to Death Row label woes, the album was pushed back no less than three years. The delay cost her the momentum she had, and even if it didn’t bomb, it wasn’t nearly as successful as it could have been had it seen a well-timed release. A shame, because Necessary Roughness is a strong album and The Lady Of Rage’s lyrical prowess is second to none.
Mia X – Unlady Like (1997)
New Orleans native Mia X was the first female emcee to get a contract with Master P on his No Limit Records. She has been called the Mother of Southern Gangsta Rap and is known for collaborations with several No Limit Records artists, including Master P on the seminal No Limit albums Ice Cream Man (1996) and Ghetto D (1997).
Unlady Like is her second and best album. In patented No Limit style, Unlady Like is a LONG album, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Fellow No Limit Soldiers Master P, C-Murder, Silkk the Shocker, Mr. Serv-On, Fiend, Mac, Kane&Abel, KLC, Mystikal, Mercedes, Mo B Dick, O’Dell, and Big Ed are featured, along with Foxy Brown, to keep things entertaining. This is an influential and therefore an essential album in Southern Hip Hop – together with emcees like Gangsta Boo and Trina, Mia X has to be recognized as a trailblazer for other female emcees from the South.
Missy Elliott - Supa Dupa Fly (1997)
Missy Elliott started her music career as a member of R&B girl-group Sista in the early-mid 1990s and later became a member of the Swing Mob collective along with childhood friend and longtime collaborator Timbaland, with whom she worked on projects for R&B acts Aaliyah, 702, Total, and SWV. Following several collaborations and guest appearances, she launched her solo career with her debut album Supa Dupa Fly.
Supa Dupa Fly very much is a crossover album with a lot of pop/R&B influences. The revolutionary and super recognizable production by Timbaland combined with Missy‘s extravagant talent make for a classic album – admittedly with some filler tracks, but with some unforgettable classics on it too, “Sock It 2 Me” and “The Rain” most prominent among them.
Paula Perry – Tales From Fort Knox (1998/2015)
People first heard Paula Perry as a member of Masta Ace Inc, where she proved to be far more than simply a token female crew member. She struck out on her own with her debut single “Paula’s Jam,” which was a monster underground hit. And she soon released a slew of singles, including “Extra, Extra” produced by DJ Premier. She eventually wound up on Motown Records, but her first (and only) album, Tales From Fort Knox, got lost in the system. Tales From Fort Knox (the 17-track advance promo) has been available on streaming platforms since 2015 though. Pay special attention to “Six Pack”, the album’s posse cut with guest verses from Nikki D, Rah Digga, Bahamadia, Precious Paris, and Heather B.
MC Lyte - Seven & Seven (1998)
Seven & Seven is MC Lyte’s sixth studio album. Like all of her albums outside the first two, it is a bit of a mixed bag, but essential alone for a banging remake of Audio Two’s iconic hit single “Top Billin'”, with vocals from Audio Two’s Milk D to support those of MC Lyte.
Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (1998)
The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill is one of the greatest albums of all time. This genre-bending album incorporates styles such as Soul, R&B, Jazz, Rock, Gospel as much as it does Hip Hop – so while it’s a stretch to categorize this masterpiece as Hip Hop, we included it here anyway because not including Lauryn Hill on a list like this one is an impossibility, of course. Lauryn Hill was never afraid to experiment, and here she allowed her talent to go wherever it needed to go to produce the album that suited it. The result is an all-time classic. “Ex-Factor”, “Every Ghetto, Every City”, “Lost Ones” and “Doo Wop (That Thing)” are the centerpieces of an all-around monumental album.
Gangsta Boo - Enquiring Minds (1998)
Enquiring Minds is a superb solo debut from Three 6 Mafia’s Gangsta Boo. Shortly after the release of the successful – and best – Three 6 Mafia album World Domination (1997), it was time for Gangsta Boo to shine. Fans of Dirty South Hip Hop and of Three 6 Mafia will know not to pass on Gangsta Boo’s Enquiring Minds, for others, it’s never too late to catch up. Banging beats (Three 6 Mafia colleagues DJ Paul and Juicy J were responsible) and uncompromising lyrics – Gangsta Boo deserves her props for being a pioneer in (Southern) Hip Hop.
Foxy Brown - Chyna Doll (1999)
Chyna Doll is the ‘worst’ album of Foxy Brown’s first three, but it is not as bad as some critics would have it now. In fact, it is not bad at all – if it’s judged for what it is and not for what it is not. This is not a lyrical masterpiece with intelligent and conscious content, but an exponent of its time: lots of materialism, posturing, and sexual self-exploitation. This is a fine party album, nothing more, nothing less. “Hot Spot” still is a strong song and there are more bangers on Chyna Doll. Again: not her best, but essential if only for the fact it was only the second album by a female emcee in history to debut on the number 1 spot on the Billboard 200, after Lauryn Hill’s masterpiece The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Eve - Ruff Ryders' First Lady (1999)
Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryders’ First Lady is the debut studio album by Philadelphia rapper Eve. Eve became the third female Hip Hop artist to have her album peak at number-one on the Billboard 200 (Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, being the first to top the chart in 1998 and Foxy Brown’s second album, Chyna Doll achieving the feat earlier in 1999). Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryders’ First Lady signified an impactful debut, in a post-2Pac and Biggie era in which DMX and his Ruff Ryders clique were top dogs in mainstream Hip Hop for a while.
Because of its impact Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryders’ First Lady is an essential album, even if we feel it is overrated a bit (also because we’ve never been big Swizz Beatz fans) and it’s not aging as well as some of the other albums on this list. There’s no denying Eve’s talent and charisma though, any best-of list for female rappers is incomplete without Eve on it.
Missy Elliott - Da Real World (1999)
Da Real World, Missy Elliott’s second album, is probably the most divisive in her entire catalog. Some people knock it for being ‘too dark’ or for being boring even, others hail it as Missy’s a top-three Missy album. We belong to the latter group. We think this album contains some of the best instrumentals Timbaland ever crafted for Missy, and we like the darker vibes, plus the fact Hip Hop sensibilities don’t take too much of a backseat to Timbaland’s R&B and dance sounds. “She’s a Bitch” is the obvious highlight on Da Real World, but there’s plenty more to enjoy: “Beat Biters”, “All N My Grill”, and “Stickin’ Chickens” just a few of the great tracks on display here. For us Da Real World is underappreciated in Missy’s catalog, we think it is one of her best albums.
Rah Digga - Dirty Harriet (2000)
Dirty Harriet is one of the best albums to come out of Busta Rhymes’ Flipmode Squad. Rah Digga is underrated as an emcee, she is one of the best female emcees to ever do it. Commendable for never resorting to Lil Kim/Foxy Brown-type ‘sex sells’ marketing tactics, Rah Digga delivers battle-ready rhymes, hard-hitting punchlines, metaphors, and stories in superior style. Production is not always up to par with her bars, but all in all, this is a great album, with stand-out tracks such as “Straight Spittin’, Part II”, “Lessons Of Today”, “Tight”, and “Do The Ladies Run This”.
Lil' Kim - The Notorious K.I.M. (2000)
The Notorious K.I.M., Lil’ Kim’s second LP is a little long a 76 minutes, but it’s still a damn good album. Like Harcdcore (1996) this album is filled with ATTITUDE – sexually explicit, bold, but above all: fun. Lil’ Kim’s influence on the rap game should not be understated (for better or for worse), as countless rappers working today (like Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, and Megan Thee Stallion) wouldn’t be where they are now if it weren’t for Lil’ Kim and albums like The Notorious K.I.M.
Trina - Da Baddest B***h (2000)
Da Baddest B***h is Miami-native Trina’s debut album, released after she established her name with a raw guest verse on Trick Daddy’s “Nann N***a”. Da Baddest B***h is hard as f in all regards. Whether you can get with Trina’s unfiltered content or not, there’s no denying the significance of this project. The beats don’t always hold up, and there’s a bunch of skits that do nothing but annoy – but despite its flaws, Da Baddest B***h is an essential piece of Hip Hop history anyway.
Foxy Brown - Broken Silence (2001)
Broken Silence is Foxy Brown’s third LP and arguably her most complete, most balanced, and most mature album, offering a good mix of mainstream-friendly and street tracks, and of lighthearted and more serious content. After Broken Silence, her career would go downhill, but here she was still at her peak.
Missy Elliott - Miss E... So Addictive (2001)
Miss E… So Addictive is Missy Elliott’s third and commercially most successful album. The album sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, making it the second best-selling album ever by a female rapper after The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Miss E… So Addictive is more upbeat and more ‘poppy’ than its (underappreciated) predecessor Da Real World, and it spawned the club hits and Missy classics “One Minute Man” (featuring Ludacris and Trina), “4 My People” (with Eve), and the iconic “Get Ur Freak On”. Missy perfectly balances strong Hip Hop flows with classy R&B balladry, making for what essentially is a dance-rooted album that still is unique in its sound – an album that bent and expanded Hip Hop boundaries just as Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation did. Miss E… So Addictive is a majestic work, the album that established Missy as one of the biggest female Hip Hop stars of all time.
Eve - Scorpion (2001)
With Scorpion Eve capitalized on the success of her classic debut Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryders’ First Lady (1999), earning another platinum plaque. On this sophomore album, the self-proclaimed ‘pitbull in a skirt’ showed her debut was not a fluke. Eve sounds even smoother and more confident here, she truly was a great rapper. Lots of Ruff Ryders anthems on Scorpion, and with “Who’s That Girl? ” and “Let Me Blow Your Mind” Eve’s two biggest singles too. The follow-up Eve-Olution (2002) was a bit of a let-down, Eve would never reach Scorpion levels of quality anymore.
Gangsta Boo - Both Worlds *69 (2001)
Both Worlds *69 is the second solo studio album by Three 6 Mafia rapper Gangsta Boo. Production was handled by fellow Three 6 Mafia members DJ Paul and Juicy J, so it’s pretty much a Three 6 Mafia sound and attitude. Thick syrupy Memphis beats and hard-as-nails bars: nothing new on this album, but what’s on offer is executed really well – fans of Dirty South Hip Hop will know Gangsta Boo’s first two solo albums are essentials.
Trina - Diamond Princess (2002)
Trina was the Dirty South’s own answer to Lil’ Kim. Her debut was hard-as-nails in all aspects, Trina has ATTITUDE. Diamond Princess is more polished than her debut Da Baddest B***h, but Trina’s uncompromising and sexual-liberated demeanor is still on full display. Trina would go on to release four more albums after this one, but none of them were as good or as impactful as her first two.
Jean Grae - Attack Of The Attacking Things (2002)
Attack Of The Attacking Things is the debut album by NYC underground rapper Jean Grae, one of the most underappreciated on this list. In the tired world of misogynistic raps and female rappers talking about sex and money, Jean Grae was a breath of fresh air. On her debut she comes with lyrical depth, sharp intelligence, and empowering content – this is Hip Hop for thinking people. Kind of obscure now, also because of its unavailability on streaming services, Attack of the Attacking Things is becoming more and more of a cult classic.
Heather B - Eternal Affairs (2002)
Eternal Affairs is Heather B’s second and last album. Heather B is an underrated emcee, who didn’t get the beats here that could have elevated her to that next level. DJ Premier and Pete Rock each produced one track on this album, the rest of the kind of forgettable instrumentals were crafted by lesser gods. Even taking into account the mediocre beats, this is a solid enough boom-bap record, carried by Heather B’s powerful voice and flow. Her debut album was better, but we included this one too because of Heather B’s skill – a lyrical female emcees with battle-style rhymes and metaphors for days.
Missy Elliott - Under Construction (2002)
Following three groundbreaking platinum-plus albums, Under Construction is Missy Elliott’s fourth studio album – and it maintains the high standards Missy set with her first three. As always Timbaland comes with exciting, energetic backdrops for Missy to do her thing – once more striking the exact right balance between pop-sensibilities and street Hip Hop attitude. Like the album cover, the content has kind of a throwback feel in places too as Timbaland and Missy pay homage to the old school and the golden era by the use of beats, samples, and lyrical references – best evidenced by the stand-out “Funky Fresh Dressed”. “Gossip Folks, (with Ludacris)” “Bring The Pain” (with Method Man), “Back In The Day” (with Jay-Z), “Slide”, and of course “Work It” are other highlights on this album, but overall Under Construction is a super consistent album – there are zero skips necessary on this album. At this point, with four classic albums on her name, it was safe to proclaim Missy Elliott one of the GOATs.
Jean Grae - The Bootleg Of The Bootleg (2003)
The Bootleg Of The Bootleg is billed as a 6-song EP, but with over an hour of music (the 6th track is a 45-minute compilation of freestyles and stray material, most of which sound like fully realized songs) we are going to consider it an LP, just like we consider projects under 30 minutes to be EPs, even if they are billed otherwise. Anyway, The Bootleg Of The Bootleg is a strong project. Not Jean Grae’s best, but pretty much anything she is involved in is better than the work of most other artists, so we need little excuse to include a Jean Grae project if possible.
Lil' Kim - La Bella Mafia (2003)
La Bella Mafia is Lil’ Kim’s third album, and it’s as good as the first two are. The album starts out strong with a great take on Beastie Boys’ classic “Paul Revere” song and doesn’t let up for the following hour. The album strikes a successful balance between street attitude and pop appeal, and Lil’ Kim’s flows and rhymes are on point. Because she would turn into something of a caricature later on in her career, sometimes all of her work is derided by haters – but her first four albums all are strong, and La Bella Mafia is no exception.
Missy Elliott - This Is Not A Test! (2003)
Timbaland’s production on This Is Not A Test! is great as always, and his sound once again brings out the best in Missy. She kills it with her flow and delivery, evidenced on standout tracks such as “Let It Bump”, “Pump It Up”, “Pass That Dutch”, “Spelling Bee”, “I’m Really Hot”, and “Let Me Fix My Weave”. Fresh Hip Hop, mixed with dance, pop, reggae, and RnB flavors – Missy Elliot is on a lane of her own when it comes to this kind of sound.
Psalm One - Bio: Chemistry II: Esters and Essays (2004)
Before she made her Rhymesayers debut dropped this low-profile debut project. Bio: Chemistry II: Esters and Essays is one of the most slept-on albums on this list – it’s one of the better albums on this list in any case. Refreshing beats and rhymes over 18 tracks and over one hour of music – this is a fully realized project that deserves your attention if you missed out on it up to now.
Apani B Fly - Story 2 Tell (2004)
Hard to find, but Apani B Fly’s Story 2 Tell is worth looking out for. Some might know Apani B Fly for being an original member of Polyrhythm Addicts, or from her appearances on projects with Organized Konfusion, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch, Nujabes, and MF DOOM. Despite her low profile, Apani B Fly is a great emcee, who shines on whatever project she appears on. Story 2 Tell is her only solo LP and one that deserves more recognition than it got. Top-notch bars and beats – here’s to hoping we will be able to find Story 2 Tell on streaming platforms one day.
Jean Grae – This Week (2004)
This Week is the second studio album by Jean Grae, an icon of the NYC underground Hip Hop scene. This Week is raw and smooth at the same time – and still stands as her best and most complete and most polished album.
Lil' Kim - The Naked Truth (2005)
The Source gave this album five mics (it remains the only album by a female rapper to be rated the coveted five mics), which is ridiculous, but the personal The Naked Truth IS a pretty good album – on par with its three predecessors. The album was released just before Lil’ Kim’s one-year prison sentence (for perjury) and it marked the end of an era. After her stint in prison, Lil’ Kim would go full plastic, the mixtapes she dropped were all mid at best and her 2019 comeback album 9 was quite bad. The Naked Truth is a fine album though, and with close to 3 million units sold a big commercial success too.
Missy Elliott - The Cookbook (2005)
The Cookbook is the sixth studio album by Missy Elliot. According to Missy, the meaning of the album title is that each record has its own “spices and herbs”. The album spawned three singles; “Lose Control”, “Teary Eyed”, and “We Run This”. The album was a success, peaking at #2 on the Billboard 200, receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album, and is certified Gold by the RIAA.
Missy Elliott’s unique talent has always been creating music with her own unique sound, mixing in musical styles like R&B, dance, and neo-soul while keeping things Hip Hop at the same time. The Cookbook is not her most innovative nor her best album, but since Missy is one of the GOATS it’s an essential piece of female Hip Hop history nevertheless.
Psalm One – The Death Of Frequent Flyer (2006)
Chicago emcee Psalm One is an interesting artist, there is definitely something unique about her sound. The beats on her Rhymesayers debut The Death Of Frequent Flyer are fine, but this album is all about Psalm One’s dope flow, and her clever observations (like on “Rapper Girls”), and excellent storytelling abilities – this is an album with HEART and SOUL.
Remy Ma – There’s Something About Remy (2006)
There’s Something About Remy: Based on a True Story is the debut studio album by Bronx rapper Remy Ma. The album’s release date served as the sixth anniversary of her mentor Big Pun’s death. The title and cover art coincide with the 1998 film There’s Something About Mary. The album was much-anticipated but was only moderately successful commercially – even if there’s enough commercial appeal, with plenty of street sensibilities thrown in the mix too. There are a couple of strong introspective tracks towards the end of the album that can feel out of place with the ‘gangsta chick’ lyrics that make up the rest of the album – but overall this is a solid enough album, composed of that typical early 2000s slightly over-produced bombastic NYC/Terror Squad sound.
Remy Ma is one of only nine female rappers to ever top the Billboard Hot 100 chart (as a member of Terror Squad on “Lean Back”), and one of only four multiple winners of the BET Award for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist, which she won in 2005 and 2017.
M.I.A. - Kala (2007)
Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam better known by her stage name M.I.A. is a British rapper, singer, record producer, and activist. M.I.A.’s songs are marked with evocative political and philosophical commentary. Her music combines elements of alternative, dance, electronic, Hip Hop, and world music with eclectic instruments and samples.
Kala is M.I.A.’s second studio album, and while her debut album Arular (2005) was impressive enough, with Kala she steps her game up even further. Kala is less pop-friendly than its predecessor – it’s more abrasive, noisier, harder-hitting: politically charged catchy raps with a punk electronic finish.
“Paper Planes” is the obvious stand-out, but there’s plenty of other heat on Kala with tracks such as “BirdFlu”, “Boyz”, “Hussel”, “Mango Pickle Down River”, “20 Dollar”, “World Town,”, and “Come Around”. Kala incorporates prominent influences from South Asian music, featuring samples of Bollywood and Tamil cinema. Additionally, the album draws on various other musical styles, from electro-pop and funk carioca to noise and African folk – so many different musical influences all rolled in one album can be overwhelming at first, but after a couple of listens it all comes together beautifully.
Blue Sky Black Death & Jean Grae - The Evil Jeanius (2008)
The Evil Jeanius backstory is problematic, maybe we shouldn’t have included it here because of it. Neither Jean Grae nor Blue Sky Black Death authorized this album. Babygrande Records used ‘old’ Jean Grae vocals without her permission and matched them with some Blue Sky Black Death beats and went on to release this album anyway, without consent from Jean Grae or BSBD, and without paying them a dime. Years later, Jean Grae responded to a question about the album by writing, “It was a sh*t thing to do. F**k Babygrande.”
The people at Babygrande Records obviously are a shady bunch, as Jean Grae and BSBD are hardly the only artists to complain about getting cheated. A lot of great Hip Hop albums were released on Babygrande though, and this is one of them – even if the artists involved did not authorize or approve it. Shady label politics aside: The Evil Jeanius IS a great project that deserves its audience (as Jean Grae and BSBD deserve their money for it). The BSBD beats are great as always, as are Jean Grae’s rhymes.
Invincible – Shapeshifters (2008)
Shapeshifters by Detroit artist Invincible is the most underrated and slept-on album released in 2008. Invincible is a superb emcee, her flow and her technical abilities are top-notch: her wordplay is packed with internal rhyme schemes and with meaning too – she proves she has an astute sociopolitical mind and something to say. Maybe the beats could have been better here and there – but Shapeshifters is all about Invincible’s rhymes. Don’t sleep on Invincible and Shapeshifters.
Jean Grae – Jeanius (2008)
Jeanius is the third studio album by Brooklyn rapper Jean Grae. She worked on it with producer 9th Wonder and intended to release it in 2004, but the album leaked prematurely and spawned various pirated versions of the unfinished project. After Grae’s record deal with the label, Jeanius was released on July 8, 2008, by Talib Kweli’s Blacksmith Records. Unfortunately, we will never know what the status of this album would have been if it had seen a ‘propper’ release at its scheduled date. As it is, is it often overlooked and that’s a shame. Jeanius is packed with dope beats and clever songwriting, and it easily is on par with This Week (2004), the album that is now often labeled Jean Grae’s best album.
Rita J – Artist Workshop (2009)
Rita J is an emcee/songwriter who ascended from Chicago’s south side and whose music is influenced by the sounds of 70s black music while being rooted in Hip Hop’s Golden Age. This debut project is a little bit rough around the edges here and there, but what stays with you is Rita J.’s power and intelligence – this is an empowering Hip Hop album.
Tiye Phoenix - Half Woman Half Amazin' (2009)
Tiye Phoenix first appeared on the scene as a Rawkus signee on Reflection Eternal’s classic Train Of Thought album (2000). She later replaced Apani B Fly as a member of Polyrhythm Addicts and was co-responsible for one of the most underappreciated Hip Hop albums released in 2007: Polyrhythm Addicts’ Break Glass. In 2009 she dropped her debut solo LP, Half Woman Half Amazin’.
Half Woman Half Amazin’ is a well-rounded and refreshing album with a 90s-centric feel, dope flows, and catchy hooks. Tiye Phoenix raps about her skills as an emcee, social conditions, relationships, and such – this is an intelligent and empowering album. Except for an annoying flow-breaking 3-minute skit in the middle of the tracklist, there are no skippable tracks on Half Woman Half Amazin’. The title track is a stand-out, but the rest of the album is pretty good too. Half Woman Half Amazin’ is available on streaming services, so no reason not to check it out if have never done so before.
Rah Digga – Classic (2010)
Rah Digga is one of the most naturally talented emcees in the game, regardless of gender. Sadly, she never put together a catalog that adequately reflects her skill set – this short second album (her last one to date too) dropped a full ten years after her semi-classic debut, Dirty Harriet. Classic is a thoroughly solid effort, with dope beats crafted by Nottz and sharp-as-ever bars from Rah Digga – but at a mere 33 minutes, it’s just a little too breezy and lightweight to count a classic. Never doubt Rah Digga’s skills though, she can bar-for-bar with anyone, and come out on top.
Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday (2010)
Pink Friday is the debut studio album by Trinidadian-born Nicki Minaj. After a much-anticipated release as the result of Minaj’s extensive featured appearances on the singles of other artists, Pink Friday debuted at number two, and eventually peaked at number one on the US Billboard 200, selling 375,000 copies in its first week, marking the second-highest sales debut for a female rapper since Lauryn Hill. Pink Friday album mixes elements of pop and rap in a pretty good way and is carried by Nicki Minaj’s charisma and extravagance all the way through, a couple of throwaway tracks (like” Did It On Em”) notwithstanding. “Moment 4 Life”, “Right Thru Me”, and “Fly” are the best tracks on the album, too bad the best song – “Super Bass” – doesn’t belong to the standard version, but only to the deluxe edition. Whether you like her or not, there’s no denying Nicki Minaj is a great vocalist both as a rapper and as a singer, and Pink Friday is a more than solid pop-rap album.
Boog Brown (with Apollo Brown) - Brown Study (2010)
Boog Brown is an emcee from Atlanta by way of Detroit, and she’s one of the most slept-on artists of the 2010s. For Brown Study, she hooked up with Detroit’s then-upcoming beatsmith Apollo Brown. Boog Brown‘s laidback street poetry and Appolo Brown’s soulful boom-bap beats prove to be a potent combination. Boog Brown shows she’s an in-depth writer, with a sick flow and great voice. Apollo Brown does what he would be doing for the rest of the decade: creating lush bass-heavy beats for his collaborative artists to shine on. No weak tracks on Brown Study, if you slept on this gem for some reason go check out tracks like “Masterplan”, “Carpe Diem” or “Understanding”- and you’ll find yourself adding this one to your library real quick.
Dessa - A Badly Broken Code (2010)
As much a singer and spoken-word poet as a rapper, Doomtree’s Dessa is a multi-talented performer whose solo work cannot be pigeonholed. How she goes from singing to rapping and back is so organic and seamless, you hardly notice the difference – and she does both equally well. “Dixon’s Girl” and “Into the Spin” are easy favorites from this 2010 release, tracks like “Matches to Paper Dolls”, “Alibi”, and “The Bullpen” are excellent as well, showing off her flow. For us, Dessa’s A Badly Broken Code falls into the same category as Lauryn Hill’s monumental masterpiece The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill – just like L-Boogie’s classic, A Badly Broken Code is an album that should appeal to almost everybody – at least those with an open attitude to different musical styles and those who like something that is not run-of-the-mill.
Akua Naru - The Journey Aflame (2011)
The Journey Aflame is the title of New Haven, CT native, Akua Naru’s debut album. One can describe the album’s musical spectrum covering a range from soul tradition-conscious rhymes to classic head-nod Hip Hop mixed with elements of Blues, Jazz, and West-African sounds. With a collection of 14 diverse songs and 3 interludes, Naru’s first official release shows her true craft as a lyricist and self-described ‘Poet of Passion’.
Those who slept on this gem should go and check it out now and come back here later to thank us for pointing you in the right direction.
Rapsody - The Idea Of Beautiful (2012)
The Idea Of Beautiful is the debut studio album by North Carolina’s Rapsody. The album was released after the critical acclaim of her mixtapes such as Return of the B-Girl (2010), Thank H.E.R. Now (2011) and For Everything (2011); as well as her The Black Mamba EP (2012). The Idea Of Beautiful album includes the production by the members of The Soul Council (9th Wonder, Khrysis, E. Jones, AMP, Eric G., and Ka$h). The album features guest appearances from Big Rube, Raheem DeVaughn, Ab-Soul, Mac Miller, The Cool Kids, Buckshot, Childish Gambino, GQ, Big Remo, Heather Victoria, Rocki Evans, BJ the Chicago Kid, and Nomsa Mazwai.
Rapsody is one of the MVPs of the 2010s – with three near-classic albums and a couple of top-quality EPs on her name. The Idea Of Beautiful sonically continues in the vein of her mixtapes, with the Soul Councils smooth instrumentals gelling perfectly with Rapsody’s clever lyrics. As always, Rapsody puts her mind, heart, and soul into her music – and it makes for a timeless gem of an album.
M.I.A. - Matangi (2013)
This potent blend of Hip Hop and electro-pop from the incomparable M.I.A. is an album with mainstream sensibilities and underground vibes in equal measures. The musical weirdness of M.I.A. is in full force on Matangi, and it works beautifully. Hard beats and fearless lyrics – M.I.A. is in a class all by herself. “Warriors”, “Come Walk With Me”, “Exodus”, “Bad Girls”, “Sexodus”, and the banging “Bring The Noize” – no shortage of fire tracks on Matangi. M.I.A.’s catalog is incredibly consistent, but along with Kala (2007), this is her absolute best project.
Yugen Blakrok – Return Of The Astro-Goth (2013)
Yugen Blakrok is an emcee from South Africa and her debut album Return Of The Astro-Goth is one of the best albums on this list. Hypnotic instrumentals and empowering content, complemented by Yugen Blakrok’s powerful voice and silk-smooth flow – Return Of The Astro-Goth is a totally immersive experience, an atmospheric masterpiece to get well and truly lost in.
Boog Brown – The Late Bloom (2013)
Boog Brown is a Detroit native who has made her mark in the Atlanta underground Hip Hop scene. She hasn’t adopted that typical Southern Hip Hop sound though – Boog Brown brings soulful boom-bap fused with jazzy vibes on The Late Bloom. It’s a shame really that so much trashy pop-rap out of Atlanta dominated the mainstream in 2013 while a gem like The Late Bloom hardly got any attention at all. Never too late to get into it though.
Nitty Scott - The Art Of Chill (2014)
The Art Of Chill is the debut studio album from Brooklyn (by way of Orlando, Florida) artist Nitty Scott. The Art Of Chill is a delicious presentation of jazzy boom-bap beats and smooth flows – slept-on by most, but a must-listen nevertheless.
Nicki Minaj - The Pinkprint (2014)
The Pinkprint is Nicki Minaj’s third studio album. Looking to depart from the dance-pop elements of her second studio album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (2012), the double-platinum The Pinkprint is a record influenced by Nicki Minaj’s traditional Hip Hop beginnings. Commercial as f and 100% mainstream-oriented, but better than some Hip Hop purists would have you believe.
Tiff The Gift – Better To Give (2014)
Better To Give is the sophomore album from Tiff The Gift, a follow-up to her Cool, Calm, Chill debut LP that was released in 2010. Clever content, dope flows, and smooth 90s centric boom-bap production – don’t sleep on Better To Give.
Sa-Roc - Nebuchadnezzar (2014)
Sa-Roc has carved out her own lane through a combination of airtight wordplay and intelligent concepts. Nebuchadnezzar is one of her best albums; an hour of great beats and lyrics.
Little Simz - A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons (2015)
British rapper Little Simz’s official debut album A Curious Tale Of Trials + Persons is a little rough around the edges production-wise, but full of potential and promise – Little Simz is one of the most exciting artists to come of the UK in the past decade. A Curious Tale Of Trials + Persons is essential if only for the incredible “Dead Body”, the stand-out song here and one of Little Simz’s best. Awesome cover art too.
Georgia Anne Muldrow - A Thoughtiverse Unmarred (2015)
A Thoughtiverse Unmarred is an exceptional album, lyrically and sonically. Listening to Georgia Anne Muldrow you can hear echoes of giants like Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill, but Georgia Anne Muldrow has her distinct own sound.
In the words of Mos Def:
“She’s incredible. She’s like Flack, Nina Simone, Ella, she’s something else. She’s like religion. It’s heavy, vibrational music. I’ve never heard a human being sing like this. Her voice is wildly, finely expressive. It’s so singular. It’s hip-hop, the way that she approaches it rhythmically, she’s got so many jazz influences. It’s something else and you can just feel it. With “Georgia Anne Muldrow Presents Ms. One” (Someothaship) she’s like J. Dilla, the legendary producer. She makes her own beats, she rhymes, she sings, and she plays. If people love Amy Winehouse, they’re going to get their minds blown when they hear Georgia Anne Muldrow.”
If you’re looking for a companion to Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation, you need to get this conscious and affirming gem from Georgia Anne Muldrow.
Little Simz - Stillness In Wonderland (2016)
Stillness In Wonderland – her second full-length studio album – is not Little Simz’s best record, but it is an intriguing listen nonetheless. A variety of production styles make for an album that gets somewhat muddled at times, but when you allow the vibe and the concept of the album to catch you, this is a quality listen from front to back. Stand-out songs include “King Of Hearts”, “Poison Ivy”, “No More Wonderland”, “Our Conversations”, “Backseat”, and especially “Doorways + Trust Issues”.
Tiff The Gift - It Gets Greater Later (2016)
Like most of the albums coming out off the Don’t Sleep Records camp, Tiff The Gift’s It Gets Great Later is excellent – a worthy follow-up to her underrated Better To Give (2014) album. Unfortunate is that the opening track “Resolutions” is the weakest song of the album, with let’s say a ‘difficult’ hook to get in to. First impressions are important and the one given here could turn listeners off the album altogether. With better sequencing choices “Resolutions” would have been the last on the tracklist, it’s more of an ‘outro’ song. That’s the only criticism, though. Tiff The Gift is a great emcee, and after that first track the album takes off. It Gets Greater Letter offers 45 minutes of smooth, soulful Hip Hop, with a few well-placed guest spots by labelmate Dephlow and of course by Tiff The Gift’s husband Awon.
Ill Camille - Heirloom (2017)
Heirloom is Ill Camille’s third full-length solo LP, and arguably her best – even if The Pre Write (2011) and Illustrated (2012) are strong albums that could have made this list too. Soulful instrumentals, thoughtful bars, and great vibes – this is an album to check out if you slept on it up to now. Heirloom offers well over an hour of seductive Hip Hop with great vocals from Ill Camille and with good features from the likes of Camp Lo to Georgia Ann Muldrow to Damani Nkosi (and many others) too.
Rapsody - Laila's Wisdom (2017)
On Laila’s Wisdom, Rapsody tackles a wide array of topics personal to her, over lush jazzy soundscapes mostly produced by Jamla-chief 9th wonder. Rapsody is a tier-A emcee with diverse delivery skills and she’s lyrically potent enough to carry an hour-long album with ease, even if there are some great guest appearances by heavyweights such as Black Thought, Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak, and Busta Rhymes to spice things up some. The album does lose some steam toward the end of the playlist, but no matter: Laila’s Wisdom is an essential modern Hip Hop album that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Kendrick Lamar’s good Kid M.A.A.D. City and To Pimp A Butterfly.
Noname - Room 25 (2018)
Room 25 is the official debut studio album by Chicago poet and rapper Noname, dropping two years after her excellent mixtape Telefone and five years after her standout feature on Chance the Rapper’s classic Acid Rap mixtape. Room 25 is a self-released project chronicling the two years since the release of Telefone, most notably Noname’s move from Chicago to Los Angeles and an intense, short-lived romantic relationship. The album’s title is in reference to Noname’s lifestyle while in Los Angeles, living out of different hotel rooms, and that she was 25 years old at the time.
Noname expertly mixes jazzy neo-soul vibes with her conversational rap style, the result is a mellow-sounding journey – overseen by fellow Chicagoan and multi-instrumentalist producer Phoelix – where Noname guides the listener through her light and dark thoughts, being consistently compelling all the while.
Little Simz - Grey Area (2019)
British-Nigerian rapper Little Simz dropped a real gem with Grey Area. Grey Area is her third album after the release of four mixtapes and five EPs, her debut album A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons (2015), and her second studio album Stillness in Wonderland (2016). Grey Area was her best effort yet up to then, and a career-defining one. Nice and tight at ten tracks, Grey Area is utterly consistent and cohesive: all killer and no filler.
Yugen Blakrok - Anima Mysterium (2019)
Yugen Blackrock’s underrated debut album Return Of The Astro-Goth (2013) is one of our favorite albums on this list. Anima Mysterium is her second album and it’s just about as good as her first one is. Dark, brooding, and atmospheric beats, with Yugen Blakrok’s abstract lyrics laced with mysticism and sci-fi-like subject matter – this album will not be for everyone, certainly not for the mainstream rap listener. But for those who are a little more adventurous in their Hip Hop tastes, Anima Mysterium will be a quick favorite.
Haviah Mighty - 13th Floor (2019)
Maybe best known as part of Canadian Hip Hop quartet the Sorority, Toronto-born Haviah Mighty’s full-length debut solo album 13th Floor is her best project so far. Poignant reflections about the challenges presented to her for being a black woman make this a narratively ambitious project, backed up by great bass-heavy instrumentals. Haviah Mighty is a bad-ass emcee with a dope flow and she has a great singing voice as well – 13th Floor is an album well worth checking out if you appreciate musicality and lyrical depth.
Rapsody - Eve (2019)
The word (instant) classic gets thrown around much too much, and it remains to be seen how an album that seems to be something special upon its release holds up as the years pass – but it looks unlikely Eve is misjudged when the instant classic label is put on it – everything about Rapsody’s masterful ode to black women screams MASTERPIECE.
Class, confidence, style, intelligence, attitude, skill, power – Rapsody has it all and on Eve it all comes together to result in an album that easily ranks among the decade’s best. On Eve Rapsody continues her exploration of black empowerment and female strength, cleverly conceptualized by naming all 16 tracks after strong and inspiring black women. Rapsody’s lyrics are compelling throughout the whole album and the smooth and classy soundscapes (with some excellent sampling) are on point too. Holding momentum throughout a 16-track album is not a given, but Eve is sequenced perfectly – not a second is wasted and there is no filler. Outstanding and resonant – Eve is one of 2019’s best albums.
Che’ Noir (with Apollo Brown) – As God Intended (2020)
The synergy between Apollo Brown’s majestic boom-bap instrumentals and Che’ Noir’s engaging flow and lyrics make As God Intended a total winner. Che’ Noir is incredible. Her voice, her diction, her flow, her personality – she really is an emcee’s emcee, who has the skill to seemingly effortlessly carry an album, and who has something to say too. Che’ Noir’s views on topical societal issues and her personal stories are unfiltered and no-holds-barred – her pen game is as powerful as her delivery.
As God Intended comes equipped with14 tracks, with no interludes or other filler. As God Intended features collaborations with Black Thought, Skyzoo, Planet Asia, Ty Farris, and Blakk Soul – definite proof of Che’ Noir’s power is that their presence is hardly noticeable (even if especially Black Thought shines with a killer verse on “Hustle Don’t Give). There are no weak tracks on this album, but a couple of standouts nevertheless – including “Daddy’s Girl” (a poignant account about growing up without a stable father figure), “’94” (a trip down memory lane about Che’ Noir’s Hip Hop influences), the Skyzoo-assisted “Follow The Money” (check what Apollo Brown does with Scarface’s “My Block” on the hook), and “Money Orientated” (which brilliantly incorporates part of AZ’s classic verse on Nas’ “Life’s A B****”).
As God Intended is another jewel in Apollo Brown’s crown and the official arrival of Che’ Noir to the Hip Hop Majors.
Sa-Roc - The Sharecropper's Daughter (2020)
The Sharecropper’s Daughter is Sa-Roc’s long-awaited debut album for Rhymesayers since signing with the label in 2015. Washington DC-born and Atlanta-based Sa-Roc is of the most interesting artists of the past decade, with a bunch of great but underappreciated projects on her name before signing with Rhymesayers (especially Nebuchadnezzar (2014) is an awesome album). The Sharecropper’s Daughter was led by the singles “Deliverance”, the self-love anthem “Forever”, and “Goddess Gang” – enough to raise anticipation levels to the max. Does the album live up to expectations? The answer is an unreserved yes. No doubt this is Sa-Roc’s highest-profile project yet and the album that should be her real breakthrough to wider audiences.
From Sa-Roc’s Bandcamp page: “Speaking on the meaning of the album’s title and inspiration, Sa-Roc shares, “The Sharecropper’s Daughter speaks to my father’s actual beginnings on a Virginia tobacco farm where his family sharecropped. The title is meant to signify that both my father’s and my upbringing, though so different, are linked by a shared history that informs the way I move through the world. Although his formative years were spent in the Jim Crow era of the south, where he suffered through poverty and racial oppression, and mine were shaped in the heart of DC, amidst the war on drugs and the effects of its fallout, the album finds points of connection in two very different yet tragically familiar stories of Blackness in America. It’s a sonic reflection of the things we inherit. About the emotional weight that we unknowingly bestow upon the next generation; the genetic transfer of both trauma and triumph that we, both donors and beneficiaries, are tasked with reshaping into a future of our own.”
The Sharecropper’s Daughter album is entirely produced by a veteran renaissance man from the Atlanta Hip Hop scene, Sol Messiah, with the exception of “Deliverance” produced by Evidence and co-produced by Al B Smoov. And, while Sa-Roc’s crafty wordplay, razor-sharp delivery, and exceptional writing are the prominent highlight, this undeniable quality is only further enhanced by stellar guest performances from a small, but formidable, all-star cast of guests, including Saul Williams, Styles P, Ledisi, Chronixx, and Black Thought.”
The Sharecropper’s Daughter is an excellent album, one of the best of the year. Refined production, with soulful and musical boom-bap beats, serves as the perfect backdrop for Sa-Roc’s powerful vocals – she once again proves she’s an elite emcee and a great singer as well. Her lyrics are intelligent and thought-provoking – The Sharecropper’s Daughter is just one of the 2020 albums that mark the return of consciousness to the forefront of Hip Hop – fitting right in with the latest projects from Arrested Development, Public Enemy, Paris, Run The Jewels, and others.
15 tracks and 50 minutes of music on The Sharecropper’s Daughter and not a moment is wasted. No weak tracks on this album, but a special mention goes out to the timely “The Black Renaissance” which is a SOTY contender – Sa-Roc and Black Thought both kill it, and their back and forth on the last verse is great. The Sharecropper’s Daughter is grown-people Hip Hop of the highest order – it doesn’t get much better than this.
Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (2021)
British-Nigerian emcee Little Simz had one of our favorite albums released in 2019 with the punchy GREY AREA – her third LP and international breakthrough project. Now she’s back with her fourth full-length studio album: Sometimes I Might Be Introvert.
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is an astounding album, absolutely Little Simz’s magnum opus. It’s an album to listen to over and over again, an album that will easily survive today’s short hype circles, an album people will have on rotation for years and years to come. With a runtime of 65 minutes Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is not a second too long – Little Simz effortlessly manages to captivate from start to finish with her superior flow and personable lyricism, dealing with topics such as race, womanhood, self-esteem, and family.
The album’s 19 tracks are sequenced perfectly – picking “Introvert” as the album opener was cleverly done, as it sets the whole thematic and philosophical scene of what Little Simz set out to do with this record. Production on Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is virtually flawless – straddling numerous genres from hard-hitting Hip Hop to R&B-and neo-soul, to Afro-beat and even synth-funk, going from orchestral and bombastic to smooth and laid-back seamlessly. So many different influences crammed into one record resulting in an entirely cohesive package: this is an album unlike any other.
“Introvert”, “Woman”, “Little Q, Pt 2”, “Two Worlds Apart”, “Speed”, “Standing Ovation”, “I See You”, “Rollin Stone”, “Point and Kill”, “How Did You Get Here”, “Miss Understood”, and especially the symphonic “I Love You I Hate You” – nothing but stand-outs on Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. Even the interludes work and add value to the album, which is unusual.
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert echoes Lauryn Hill’s masterpiece The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (1998) in ambition, scope, musicality, and timelessness – there can be no higher praise. This is a phenomenal album, the kind of album you will want to replay the moment you finish it. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of the better Hip Hop albums released in the last five years, a future classic without a doubt.