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Women in Hip-Hop History: From Salt-N-Pepa to Nicki Minaj

A compilation of album covers from female rappers Salt-N-Pepa, Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah, Lil Kim, Nicki Minaj, and Megan Thee Stallion.

Today, we are honoring the women that paved the path in hip-hop history. Since the beginning of hip-hop, all the way back in the Bronx in the 1970’s, women have played a pivotal role in the progression and creation of the genre we have all come to love today.

Female Rappers of the Past

In 1985, the New-York based hip-hop group, Salt-N-Pepa was formed. Consisting of Sandra “Pepa” Denton and Cheryl “Salt” James and Deidra “Spinderella” Roper, the group quickly gained traction and became one of the most recognizable faces of hip-hop. From smashing hits like “Push It” and “Let’s Talk About Sex,” Salt-N-Pepa is a group that has transcended time and is still relevant in the 21st century.

In addition to female-empowering hip-hop groups were individual rappers/MCs. Two women of prominence includes Queen Latifah and Lil Kim. Queen Latifah first emerged with her debut album, “All Hail the Queen.” A few years later, Lil Kim debuted her own album, “Hard Core.” Whereas Queen Latifah was known for her socially-conscious lyrics, Lil Kim had more of an explicit twist on her songs. Nonetheless, both of these albums held remarkable impact in the 90’s, earning a variety of awards and accolades. These achievements have since earned them a rightful place in hip-hop history.

Now, you can’t discuss women in hip-hop without honoring the work that Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott has done. As one of the most influential female MCs of all time, she is best known for songs such as “Get Ur Freak On” and “All N My Grill.” Not only was she a phenomenal rapper, but she also was a songwriter and producer for other artists like Aaliyah and SWV. Her debut album, “Supa Dupa Fly” released in 1997, topping charts both then and now. It is currently 93rd on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and 55th on their 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time.

The Next Generation of Hip-Hop

The hip-hop genre is still alive and well. In fact, there are many powerful woman dominating the charts in hip-hop, including artists like Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion. Thanks to the work put in by women 50 years ago, female rappers have earned a well-respected place in the industry. And they’re here to stay.

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Nicki Minaj debuted in 2007 with her EP, “Playtime is Over.” She later signed with Young Money Entertainment, founded by rapper, Lil Wayne. Minaj has many hit songs, including but not limited to “Super Bass,” “Starships,” and collaborations like “Bang Bang.” Celebrating achievements like being the first to win the BET Award for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist for seven consecutive years, Minaj is continuing the legacy of female rappers in the past. This work has proven to pay off for current artists like Megan Thee Stallion.

10 years after Minaj, Megan Thee Stallion entered the hip-hop scene with her first single, “Pull Up Late.” Since, she has collaborated with iconic artists like Beyonce, Cardi B, and Ariana Grande. Additionally, Megan Thee Stallion has achieved great feats, including winning a Grammy for Best New Artist in 2021, a BET Award for Video of the Year, and a Billboard Music Award for Top Rap Female Artist.

From iconic rappers like Salt-N-Pepa to Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion, women continue to be impactful in the world of hip-hop. It’s safe to say that the genre will continue to evolve and stand strong with the help of great female rappers of the past and the present.

Who’s your favorite female rapper? Let us know in the comments!

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