Yes, hip hop has seen a queer revolution in the last two years, and it was pretty exciting to see it happen. But unfortunately this shift had no actual effects on the gender balance in the hip hop business. It feels more like the opposite – while hip hop music performend by women was pretty successful in the late 90s/early 2000s with artists like Missy Elliott, Lil Kim, Eve or Foxy Brown, it is nearly invisible in today’s mainstream hip hop. But of course it’s not like there are no great female MCs out there. How big the gap is I realized when I started researching music for my DJ evenings at the Berlin based SISSY party, where only female hip hop and R’n B is played. Before the first gigs I actually believed that it would be a tough job find enough music by female artists to fill a 2-hours set. But I just needed to do my homework to find out how many amazing artists are there and how ignorant I have been, especially as someone who believes to have a feminist mindset.
It is really not my aim to re-establish the term “female hip hop” with the following list or claim that there is a new female movement, this is something my music journalist colleagues would do. But I really want to share the experience I made in the last few weeks, because it has changed my perception of what contemporary hip hop is like. Some of you might already know the following artists, because many of them have been around for a while. Please feel free to use the comment section to extend this list. For others I hope this list can be an inspiration to dig a little deeper and reconsider their hip hop listening habits. And happy International Women’s Day by the way.
Brooklyn based rapper Junglepussy is definitely one of the most exciting female MCs at the moment. Her style is weird, sexy and suberversive, her rhymes are bold and straight-in-your-face, her beats are as dark, hypnotic and might remind you of NYC rapper LE1F, who also works with with producer Shy Guy. After releasing two videos in 2013 and opening for Lil Kim at the WestGay party in June 2013, Junglepussy just recently has announced a debut album Satisfaction Guaranteed, which will released this month. Check out her Soundcloud page for the laid-back title track of the new record.
22-year old Brianna Perry from Miami has started her rap career at the age of 10, when rapper Trina featured here on the track “Kandi” from her 2002 album Diamond Princess. This caught the attention of Missy Elliot, who signed her to her label “The Goldmind Inc” and invited her to support her on tour. But due to “creative differences” Brianna resigned from her contract and since then has regularly been releasing free mixtapes, which are all still availale online. I especially recommend Symphony No. 9 from 2012 and Face Off from 2011. Her debut album Girl Talk is still TBC.
3. Reema Major
Reema Major is based in Toronto, signed to the G7 label and has released a pretty exciting mixtape entitled I Am Legend in 2011 – you can still download it via DatPiff. It is Reema’s third tape after Youngest In Charge (2009) and 15 Going on 25 (2010), and was supposed to be followed by a new release entitled #IDGAF, which was announced for 2013, but isn’t out yet. In summer 2013 Reema had a guest appearance on the track “Go Your Own Way” by Canadian Rapper Karl Wolf – check it out and you will hope that she will return to doing her own stuff very soon.
4. Masia One
The music of Canadian rapper Masia One is “globalized” in the best sense of the word: Since 2003 she has released albums that transcend the boundries between different music genres from Dancehall to Reggeaton. The rapper’s last record Bootleg Culture was released in 2012 and features guests like RZA, Pharrell and The Game, and it remains a mystery to me why the single “Warriors Tongue” wasn’t a huge international hit (altough I should mention that she won the award for the best hip hip song at the South East Asian Music Awards with it). Masia One is part of the 411 Initiative for Change, a profit organization that brings artists to schools to promote topics like women’s rights, HIV/AIDS awareness and art.
Both with her 2012 album The Idea of Beautiful and the 2013 mixtape She Got Game the rapper from Snow Hill, North Carolina combines smart, playful lyrics with laid-back beats with an old-school vibe. Rapsody is signed on the Jamla label, which belongs to the It’s A Wonderful World imprint by founded by producer Patrick Douthit aka 9th Wonder, who has produced most of Rapsody’s songs.
Lady‘s hyper-sexual rhymes and videos are raw and 100% in your face, which is why her music can is even played in hip-hop-free contexts like the Howard Stern show (“Pussy”) or HBO’s Girls (“Yankin”). Some people might consider this internalized sexism, but you only need to follow the 24-year old on Facebook to know that there’s more to this woman’s work than a few vulgar lines. Her last mixtape was “Bout Dat Life” from 2011 and is still available online, a new mixtape entitled Lip Service is supposed to come out this year.
7. Lady Leshurr
Birmingham based rapper Lady Leshurr has released EPs and mixtapes since 2009 and is especically known for her hit “LEGO” and her freestyle skills, which she proved on the song “Upset” and the respective video, which was released about a year ago (see below). Her latest mixtape Mona Leshurr combines dark, deep hip hop beats with grime and (some) dancehall influnces and is available via iTunes and on Spotify. All her other tapes can be downloaded from her website. You should also check the website for the dates of her current Europe tour.
8. Quay Dash
Quay Dash gained a lot of attention on Social Media last year when she was featured on the website of Original Plumbing magazine with an interview and amazing pictures by photograper and OP editor Amos Mac. Her first single Satan’s Angel was released shortly before the feature, since then she is constantly releasing new demo tracks on the Soundcloud page of Brookly based label Cuntmafia.
9. Angel Haze
Angel Haze was one of the few artists identifying as female who actually profited from the “queer hip hop” hype, although I have a feeling that it must have really gotten on her nerves to be always described as a “pansexual rapper”. In January, after many difficulties with her record company, she finally has released her debut album Dirty Gold, which is much more calm and less rough than many people expected. But it proves that she has an independent mind and doesn’t bother to do what is expected from her. Her latest single “Battle Cry” features Sia, the video was released a month ago and like Angel Haze’s famous version of “Cleaning Out My Closed” deals with the topic of child abuse.
10. Sharaya J
Before she was discoevered by Missy Elliot, who signed her to her label “The Goldmine” in 2010, Sharaya J (picture on top) worked as a dancer and choreographer for artists like Ciara, Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, The-Dream and Rihanna. Last year she was all over the Social Median channels with the videos for her singles “Banji” and “Smash Up The Place” (directed by Missy), which also caught the attention of designer Alexander Wang, who invited her and her crew to perform at the after show party of his show at the New York Fashion week earlier this year. There is still no official release date for Sharaya’s debut album, but I have a feeling it won’t take long until we hear something new from her.
11. Paigey Cakey
London based rapper Paigey Cakey has started rapping at the age of 10 and is signed to the Alwayz Recording label founded by British rapper Chipmunk. In late 2013 she has released her debut mixtape The Next Paige, and especially her song “Same Way” got a lot of attention in the British hip hop scene and beyond. In this interview from December Paigey, who also works as an actress under her real name Paige Meade, announced a new mixtape and a tour for this year, so it seems like we have something to look forward to.
12. Micah Tron
Micah Tron is a hip hop artist based in San Francisco and has already been playing over 200 shows, mostly around the Bay Area. In autumn we have posted the video for her grooving track “Bumper” which was shot in San Francisco and Oakland during the SF dyke march and the Santa Cruz pride, and it’s still one of my favorite posts from last year. During my research I found hout that Micah Tron just started a Kickstarter campaign for the recording and promotion of her debut EP, a 3-track-record that is yet untitled. A great opportunity to support an artist who has managed her career completely on her own from the beginning and deserves a push from the community.
13. Lucy Love
Danish artist Lucy Love is not only a rapper, but also has a wonderful singing voice – maybe this is the reason why her music is both rough and catchy at the same time. Both sides can be discovered on her album Desperate Days of Dynamite, which was released last year via Superbillion Records and combines hip hop and electro beats with Ninties synths. The video to her latest track “Colours” was released a few days ago, watch it below.
14. Ms. Toi
The rapper from Los Angeles has a very classical hip hop approach, referencing idols like Tupac or Lil Kim. She debuted in 2007 with her Not Yo Average Chick mixtape and since then has released two albums – Corporate Thug from 2009 and I Am A Warrior in 2012. A new album seems to be in the the making, since Ms. Toi has constantly been releasing new songs via Reverb Nation.
15. Nina B
Nina B was born in the Bronx and raised in Brooklyn and started her career in 2008 with a pretty entertaining mixtape entitled The Icon, in which she combined Madonna hits with with her own rhymes (still available on DatPiff). Since then she has released six mixtapes, the most recent is “Titles Are Played Out!” from 2012.
Shawnna, daughter of the blues musician Buddy Guy and former member of the Chicago rap duo Infamous Syndicate, is one of the first female rappers signed to the legendary Def Jam label. She’s been around for a while and has been featured by artists such as Ludacris, Diddy and T-Pain. Her debut album Worth tha Weight was released in 2014, since then the rapper has been releasing four mixtapes – and aside from the last one “She’s Alive” is from 2012 I especially recommend “Block Music” from 2006.
Birmingham based rapper and bag pack fan RoxXxan has released a pretty strong debut mixtape entitled Prepare For When I Land in 2012, combining raw rap with grimey hip hop beats. The tape was accompanied by videos for the songs “Too Fucking Facety” and “Power” and a UK tour in 2013, after that things have quieted down. But RoxXan is still active: She just recently played a gig in London and also released a series of freestyle videos on her Instagram page.