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The Future is Female: The Meteoric Rise of Women in Hip-Hop

It has been nearly 50 years since the birth of hip-hop at an apartment birthday party in the Bronx, New York. Since then, the genre has gone on to birth some of the most recognized and legendary names in music and become one of the most popular music genres in the U.S. Yet, even with hip-hop’s increasing evolution and popularity, it has long remained a male-dominated genre. While women have always played a major role in hip-hop, they have never achieved the same level of success and acclaim as their male counterparts. For context, out of Forbes’ 2019 top 20 earners in hip-hop, only two were women. In the 24 years of the “Best Rap Album” category at the annual Grammy Awards, only one female solo act has ever won. However, with the recent emergence of several powerful female acts, it is apparent that hip-hop is ready for a change.

 

2019 marked a year of firsts and broken records for women in hip-hop. Cardi B’s Grammy win for her critically acclaimed album Invasion of Privacy marked the first time a female solo act had ever won the Best Rap Album category. Megan Thee Stallion, Tierra Whack, and Rico Nasty’s appearance on the coveted cover of XXL’s magazine Freshman Class Issue was the first time three women had ever appeared on the cover. Moreover, 2019 saw the most female rap entries in history on Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100 chart with a staggering 11 entries, beating out the previous 2002 record of five.

 

Megan Thee Stallion set the summer and internet ablaze, and created her trademarked phrase and song featuring Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign, “Hot Girl Summer.” Megan Thee Stallion, also known as “Hot Girl Meg,” describes a hot girl summer as “being unapologetically you, having fun, being confident, living your truth, and being the life of the party.” Hot girl summer embodies the rapper’s music and that of her peers.

 

2020 proved to be no different in terms of female rap domination. In just 2020 alone, female rappers hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart a record six times, and artists Nicki Minaj and Doja Cat made history on the Billboard Hot 100 by becoming the first two female rappers to secure the top spot on the chart with their remix of “Say So.” Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion not only topped the charts with their x-rated, smash hit “WAP,” but simultaneously broke the record for most opening week streams of a single with 93 million. Numbers don’t lie; women in hip-hop are more on top than ever before. 

 

Besides the accolades and achievements, the emergence of female rappers to the forefront of hip-hop brings diversity. Whether you listen to Megan Thee Stallion’s slow, hard-hitting, and braggadocious Southern flow, enjoy Rico Nasty’s unparalleled infusion of rock, screamo, and hardcore punk into candy-coated lyrics and melodies, or appreciate the immediately recognizable West-Coast swagger and sample-ridden beats of Bay-area beauty Saweetie, each act brings something unique and relatable to audience members of all backgrounds. These women tap into listeners who have never felt heard or seen before in hip-hop music, and bring larger-than-life personalities, inimitable fashion, and captivating performances that even give their male counterparts a run for their money.

 

Women in hip-hop still have a long way to go when it comes to closing the achievement and pay gap, but it is abundantly clear that they are more than able to do so now. The past two years have proven that women in hip-hop have only scratched the surface of what they are capable of.

Sophomore political science and international affairs major at Howard University from PG County, Maryland writing on all things political, cultural, and black!
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