What’s good folks! Glad to have you rocking with me once again. It’s time for another list that will definitely cause discussion and even some controversy. Gotta love it!
This list will be giving love to the ladies. The femcees that have greatly contributed to Hip Hop and to the culture as a whole. Recently, I did a piece discussing the rise and fall of the ladies in Hip Hop.
This week, this is showing just how valuable the ladies are and have been to the game with compelling, classic releases. With that being said, let’s get right to it.
20. Foxy Brown - Broken Silence (2001)
Everyone’s favorite queen of beef starts this list off with her third album from 2001. Born Inga Marchand, Fox Boogie was seen as an alluring carbon copy of Lil’ Kim during her heyday, especially with her platinum-selling debut Ill Na Na.
On her third effort, she showed a lot more vulnerability and definitely brought one for the streets. Bangers like the reggae-tinged “Oh Yeah” and the confessional “Letter” put this album as her best overall work. Too bad a combination of her constant bridge burning, her legal troubles, and her losing her hearing ended her career. One wonders what would’ve been had she would’ve still been around.
19. Nicki Minaj - The Pinkprint (2014)
The head chick running things for the ladies in Hip Hop. Known for her sexually hinted lyrics, but also for her occasionally quirky styles and sometimes deliberately pop-trenched image, Nicki is as hated by purists as she is loved by her “barbies”.
Can the girl rap? Absolutely. Her third effort, The Pinkprint, was a healthy balance between her promising debut, Pink Friday, and her sickeningly pop Roman Reloaded. More of the positive than the negative. A far cry from her very hungry mix tapes of Beam Me Up Scotty and Playtime Is Over, she’s running things, and whether you like her or not, she’s smiling all the way to the bank.
18. Heather B - Eternal Affairs (2002)
Before she became Sway’s right-hand homegirl on Sway In The Morning, she was Heather B, a Brooklyn reality TV star-turned emcee that was actually quite nice on the mic.
Her sophomore effort, Eternal Affairs, was more personal and intimate than her hard-rocking debut, Takin’ Myne. Guests like Pete Rock, her future husband Horse of The Bravehearts, Nature, and an uncredited Kenny Lattimore assisted her in this dope follow-up to her debut. BTW, who could escape the CRAZY Premo-powered cut, “Steady Rockin”?
17. Missy Elliot - Supa Dupa Fly (1997)
Virginia rapper/singer/songwriter/producer Missy Elliot was something the likes of which the game had never really seen before in Hip Hop. She was a Jill of all trades, and as a female that was very impressive in this male saturated industry.
After working and doing appearances with the likes of Timbaland, Lil’ Kim, the late Aaliyah, Nicole Wray, and others, her debut was starting to buzz, and when it dropped, it was quite the fun album. Containing elements of Hip Hop, dance, and R&B, this was a very charming and pleasing album. Not to mention, it was the highest charting debut for a female rapper ever, debuting at number three on Billboard Top 200.
16. Heather B - Takin' Mine (1996)
Heather’s previously mentioned sophomore album, Eternal Affairs, was a very good album that was more personal and provided more introspective lyrics. However, her debut was just straight boom-bap, unapologetic Hip Hop.
Getting a buzz from her first single, “All Glocks Down”, she followed it up with the thumping “If Heads Only Knew”, and the album started to be in pretty good rotation. Produced by DJ Kenny Parker, this album was rugged as anything you would hear in ’96.
15. Rapsody - The Idea Of Beautiful (2012)
North Carolina’s resident B-girl Rapsody was known for her critically acclaimed mixtapes of Return Of The B-Girl, Thank H.E.R. Now, and The Black Mamba before putting out her debut full-length album, The Idea Of Beautiful.
With the backing of her 9th Wonder-led troop, The Soul Council, we started to see the rise of a femcee we haven’t heard on such a fundamentally complete level since MC Lyte. This album was soulful and would occasionally pull on heartstrings, but the cohesiveness of this album was just a sign of things to come.
14. Queen Latifah - Black Reign (1993)
This album by the Queen marked a turning point in the career of Dana Owens. Not only was this her highest-selling album, but this officially put her into more of a star status within the game.
Widely known for female empowerment from previous releases such as All Hail The Queen and Nation Of A Sista, she presented even more anthems of uplifting with anthems like “U.N.I.T.Y.”, but was still able to show that she was that around the way girl that the homies could kick it with on cuts like “Bring The Flavor” and “Black Hand Side” over some of her best production to this day.
13. Yo-Yo - Make Way For The Motherlode (1991)
Her debut, Make Way For The Motherlode, was filled with thumping production, and is considered among the most influential female rap albums ever, and rightfully so. We first heard from her on a national level on the emphatic collab with Cube, “You Can’t Play With My Yo Yo”, and from there, she helped define the ladies in the early nineties.
12. Rapsody - Beauty & The Beast (EP) (2014)
Once again we have Ms. Marlena Evans on here and for good reason. She dropped arguably her best work to date in 2014 with her EP, Beauty & The Beast. From the ridiculously dope “Hard To Choose” to the ever-lyrical slicing of “Godzilla” and her empowerment ode “Waiting For It”, the only sincere flaw to this album was that this was only an EP.
Many say it was this album that propelled Dr. Dre and Kendrick to wanna work with her on Kendrick’s masterpiece, To Pimp A Butterfly, on the exceptional cut “Complexion”, where she honestly stole the show. The dangerous thing is, she’s not even getting warm yet.
11. Bahamadia - Kollage (1996)
From the musically rich city of Philly came an afro-centric b-girl who had a monotone to her similar to a female version of the late Guru. Bahamadia‘s debut, Kollage, was just that: a collage of concepts and classic Hip Hop stylings similar to the likes of Lyte or Latifah before her.
Production-wise, this album was dope as it could get, with lots of help from Da Beatminerz, N.O. Joe, Ski Beatz, and Premo, who crafted the CRAZY “3 the Hard Way” featuring Mecca Starr and the late K-Swift. Lyrically, production-wise, conceptually, and in terms of a true Hip Hop spirit, there aren’t many albums out to this day that are as complete and fluid.
10. Jean Grae - Attack of the Attacking Things (2002)
If there was a true heroine for female emcees in the underground throughout the late nineties into the millennium, it was Jean Grae. Separating herself from her former crew, Natural Elements, the artist formerly known as Whut? Whut? shut it all the way down with her debut, Attack of the Attacking Things.
Although the production was pretty decent, it was her ability to slice the mic in half lyrically that was the key to this album. Her talent immediately garnered a cult following that did nothing but steadily grow. While she’s released great projects like Jeanius, Bootleg of the Bootleg EP, and This Week, this was the album that started it all off, and we knew that we were seeing the growth of one of the most feared emcees around, male or female.
9. Lil' Kim - Hardcore (1996)
While the eighties and early nineties were establishing positive women in Hip Hop that solidified strength, empowerment, and the uplifting of our young ladies through self-awareness and education, there was a young lady from Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn that wanted to set new rules of her own.
Kim Jones, who was a protege of Biggie Smalls, felt that ladies shouldn’t be afraid of their sexuality and started an entire new movement, accentuating sex and sensuality into the mix. Her debut, Hardcore, was audio porn that empowered the women on a different level and made every man listening to the album dream about her every night.
However the case may be, raunchy lyrics over overall pretty dope production made for platinum magic and made for one of the most imitated albums ever.
8. Eve - Ruff Ryders' First Lady (1999)
Another Philly girl with tremendous talent blesses this list. During the late nineties, while sex was starting to be the staple point to sell for female rappers such as the aforementioned Lil’ Kim, Foxy, Trina, and even one-hitters like Khia and Jackie-O, there was one that just wanted to rhyme. No quills, no fronts, and no filters. Eve
Eve Jihan Jeffers was that young lady. A former Dr. Dre protege, Eve went from Aftermath to the Ruff Ryders family, and she didn’t just hit, she exploded. Armed with a ferocity within her delivery, she let it be known she wasn’t playing.
Her debut, Ruff Ryders First Lady, was what we thought it would be. We saw the arrival of a new star, without having to be overtly sexually charged to do so.
7. Rah Digga - Dirty Harriet (2000)
Raw, uncut, back to basics. Those were some of the comments used to describe the debut of Flipmode Squad’s first lady Rah Digga, Dirty Harriet.
Bringing up visions of MC Lyte‘s Lyte As A Rock, this album de force pounded your ears, and cause quite a few sound ordinance tickets to be distributed. With a no-holds-barred style about her, this Jersey native presented one of Hip Hop’s hardest overall sounding albums in ’98. Even the intro of the album was tough as hell. This was just plain and simple Hip Hop, period.
This album remains a treasure regardless of sex, and even touches Busta‘s When Disaster Strikes as Flipmode’s best album.
6. Da Brat - Funkdafied (1994)
Goodness grief! Hip Hop’s “female Snoop Dogg” was something we had never seen in the game before ’94. Laid-back, yet she had an addictive style and flow about her, we knew we were on our way to seeing a new star, and when she finally dropped her eagerly anticipated debut, Funkdafied, she lived up to those expectations and then some.
Although categorized as a full-length album, at nine tracks deep, it’s actually an EP. No matter, from top to bottom, this was seen as a Chi-town Doggystyle, only without the misogyny and violence. She also became the first femcee to ever sell over a million units with the album.
In the year that saw Illmatic, Ready To Die, and Stress: The Extinction Agenda, you better not be crazy and exclude this groundbreaking album for all female rappers.
5. MC Lyte - Eyes On This (1989)
Let’s talk about Lana Moorer for a second. This B-girl from Brooklyn has been considered a pioneer in feminist Hip Hop and one of, if not the, best female emcees of all-time.
After her classic debut, Lyte As A Rock, she followed it up with Eyes On This, which rocked almost every bit as hard. Working this time with the likes of PMD and Marley Marl, this album delivered one of the coldest Hip Hop tracks ever heard on wax, “Cha, Cha ChaCha Cha”, but also delivered just flat out dope cuts like “Cappucino”, “Stop, Look, Listen”, and “Survival Of The Fittest”.
This was just a continuance of how ahead of her time she was and how much of a true pioneer she was to become.
4. Queen Latifah - All Hail The Queen (1989)
What a hell of a debut for a woman who soon become an icon. This prodigious debut by Dana Owens introduced us to a new form of woman empowerment and uplifting.
During the time of ’88/’89, it was not typical for a female to be very successful, but this album went Gold and spawned the feminist anthem “Ladies First” as well as the house-infused “Come Into My House”. This was an album that strongly represented during the early years of the “Golden Era”, and was an album that deserves its place as one of the true best ever, and definitely the most influential of her career.
3. Salt-N-Pepa - Blacks Magic (1990)
In the eighties, this was the female act to beat. Commercially, they were selling and making lots of noise. They were the first female act to sell gold units and they were clearly blazing new trails. With the mega success of “Push It”, they were on their way to becoming the leaders of the femcee movement in the mid-eighties.
While they were the most commercially successful female rap act of all-time with Very Necessary, it was Blacks Magic that stands as quite possibly their magnum opus. On top of infectious hits like “Do You Want Me” and “Expression”, they went the social and personal route in various states on this one. They did a brave act in being frank, yet PG, with the at-that-time controversial “Let’s Talk About Sex” and its subsequent, and even more controversial, remix “Let’s talk About AIDS”. This was a career shifter for SNP and was their first platinum album.
2. MC Lyte - Lyte As A Rock (1988)
The album that started it all for females in Hip Hop on a mainstream level. Lyte became the first female to release a full-length album, and the debut itself was nothing short of incredible. A landmark album, this album contained classic tunes such as the title track and the vicious “10% dis”, as well as one of Hip Hop’s best beats with “Paper Thin”. Who could dare forget “Hot damn ho, here we go again” on “10% dis”? WOOO!!!
This album laid the groundwork and the blueprint for all femcees to follow, and became a trailblazer to show that this was no longer just a man’s game.
1. Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (1998)
This group was responsible for creating one of music’s finest moments with the Diamond-plus selling, The Score. When they broke up, the highest buzz was for that of Ms. Hill. This multi-talented woman was oozing with star appeal and an artistic ability the likes of which we hadn’t seen in that generation or of that particular era.
After releasing the massive singles of “Lost Ones”, “Doo Wop”, and “Ex-Factor”, there wasn’t an anticipation any higher in years than for her debut, and when it dropped, it became clear that this was arguably the most important and artistic Hip Hop album of that generation. Dealing with the perils and pain of love, and finding solice in God, this was an album that marked the beginning of an enigmatic career for an icon. Whether it was categorized as Hip Hop, Pop, or neo-soul, this was one of the single finest moments music has ever been blessed with.
Very similarly to today’s generational masterwork, To Pimp A Butterfly, Lauryn reached deep within for inspiration and her pain and social commentary made us all cry and pray with and for her. While we wait with limitless anticipation for her official sophomore effort, this will always be the crowning jewel, even if we never get another one from her.
Mia X – Unlady Like No Limit’s first lady dropped one of the label’s most underrated and unappreciated albums
Infamous Syndicate – Changin’ The Game Chi-town duo that introduced us to DTP’s Shawnna, as well as some of Kanye’s early work, was a fantastic album. Too bad there was no formidable sophomore effort.
Jean Grae – This Week Jean’s most complete effort to date
Remy Ma – There’s Something About Remy Terror Squad’s first lady showed the rest of the boys that she could her own and then a lot more
Lady Of Rage- Necessary Roughness The inventor of the afro puffs went hard on her debut on Deathrow. With tracks from Premo as well, this was supposed to be her ticket to a long-standing career.
Salt-N-Pepa – Very Necessary The most successful female rap album before The Miseducation.
Rapsody – She Got Game Very formidable mixtape from arguably this generation’s version of MC Lyte
As you can see, the ladies came to slay as well, and their influence within this culture is very rich in itself. Here’s to all those women and all up-and-comers. Let these albums be your guides to making timeless, innovative, and influential music to last for generations. That’s
That’s all for now, kiddies. Come back with me next time!