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It's a rap: Hip Hop's first ladies
Who is the greatest female emcee of all time?
Published Thursday, March 14, 2013
by Kenneth Miller

In light of Women’s History Month, we are taking a look at some of the women who have made history in the male-dominated rap game and asking the question: Who’s the top female emcee?

If you ask hip-hop fans who the greatest male emcee of all time is, you’re more than likely to get about 20 to 25 different responses, but when it comes to the best female rappers of all time, the following nine ladies definitely make the list:

clientuploads/v38n13photos/MC Lyte_200.jpgMC Lyte

With gems like “I Cram to Understand U (Sam)” and “10% Dis” from her 1988 debut, “Lyte As a Rock,” MC Lyte changed hip-hop’s perception of female emcees without changing her outfit. Instead, she cloaked herself in dignity and integrity. Not to mention, she could also run circles around many of her male counterparts with her take-your-hats-off wordplay. Lyte’s originality, smooth flow, substance-packed content, and impeccable delivery make her the unquestionable queen of rap music.

Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah couldn’t have picked a more appropriate stage moniker. Thanks to a brilliant mesh of social commentary and political consciousness, this queen had no problem attracting a cult-like following from the jump off. Latifah was one of the first to demand self-respect and gender equality in hip-hop. Who can forget the Grammy-winning “U.N.I.T.Y.” (from the album “Black Reign”), where she made it clear that calling her out of her name is a quick way to get yourself “punched dead in the face?”

Lauryn Hill

Lclientuploads/v38n13photos/lhill_200.jpgong before she nabbed five Grammys for her debut, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” Hill was already in contention for the throne. As one-third of ‘90s super group The Fugees, L’Boogie quickly established herself as the focal point of the crew. By seamlessly blending jaw-dropping lyricism with social commentary, she helped make the album “The Score” the magnum opus of the Fugees’ catalog and, more importantly, a certified hip-hop classic.

On “Miseducation,” Hill unleashed the best fusion of hip-hop and R&B of the last decade. Her stellar songwriting flourished from song to song, whether grappling with spirituality (“Final Hour,” “Forgive Them, Father”) or stroking sexuality without exploiting it (“Nothing Even Matters”). Like Lyte and Latifah before her, Hill shines without drawing unnecessary attention to her sexual ambiance.

Missy Elliott

Not only is Elliott one of the best, she’s also one of the most versatile hip-hop artists, period. A multi-faceted entertainer, Elliott writes, raps, sings, and produces all her songs. Her music videos are consistently innovative and intriguing. To crown it all, no other female rapper has ever been able to match Elliott’s level of success.

clientuploads/v38n13photos/lil kim_150.jpgLil’ Kim

Lil’ Kim’s “The Naked Truth” was the first album by a female rapper to be awarded five mics in “The Source” magazine. Whether or not the accolades were deserved is another story. However, Kim’s impact on hip-hop is unquestionable. Since her “Hard Core” debut in 1996, Kim has spawned a slew of emulators who are eager to replicate her libidinous lyrics and in-your-face persona.


Before she went all Hollywood on us, Eve was often heralded for her superb songwriting. Hits like “Satisfaction,” “Gangsta Lovin’” (with Alicia Keys) and “Let Me Blow Your Mind” (with Gwen Stefani) showcased her unique ability to appeal to a broad audience without losing her edge.

clientuploads/v38n13photos/foxybrown_150.jpgFoxy Brown

Granted, Foxy gets plenty of backlash for her raunchy lyrics, but let’s not forget that she also contributed to some of hip-hop’s most notable hits. LL Cool J’s “I Shot Ya” and Jay-Z’s “Ain’t No N***a” would’ve never sounded the same without Fox Boogie’s catchy couplets. Brown has also managed to garner a measurable amount of success on her own three discs: “Ill Na Na,” “Chyna Doll,” and “Broken Silence.”

Da Brat

Discovered by Jermaine Dupri in ’92, Da Brat exploded onto the hip-hop scene at a time when female rappers were almost unheard of. Against all odds, her debut, “Funkdafied,” became the first platinum-selling album by a female rapper. Unlike Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown, Da Brat skewered sexuality early on in her career. Instead, she relied on her dashing delivery and double time flow.

Rah Digga

Rah Digga first showcased her lyrical tenacity by dropping verses here and there as a member of the Busta Rhymes-led Flipmode Squad. Digga eventually solidified her place with the electrifying “Dirty Harriet” LP. Rah’s ability to craft commercially viable tracks while still dropping hardcore gems makes her stick out from the rest.

Voice your opinion. Who do you think is the greatest female emcee of all time?


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