Women in Hiphop

DJ Kool Herc's crew The Herculords features some of the first female MCs: Pebblee-Poo, Sweet and Sour, and Smiley.
MC Sha Rock begins her career as one of the first female MCs, as part of the Funky 4 + 1 More crew.
Sylvia Robinson, dubbed by many to be the “Mother of Hiphop,” co-founds Sugar Hill Records. Robinson is credited as the driving force behind two landmark hiphop singles: "Rapper's Delight" (1979) by the Sugarhill Gang, and "The Message" (1982) by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.
Blondie, an American rock band, releases their song “Rapture,” which becomes the first song featuring ‘rap’ to reach #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. During her ‘rap’ Deborah Harry names Hiphop pioneers Fab Five Freddy and Grandmaster Flash. This song held the #1 spot for two weeks in January.
MC Sha Rock appears on Saturday Night Live alongside her group The Funky 4 + 1 More. Their appearance marks the first time a hiphop group ever appeared on national television.
Monica Lynch becomes the first employee at Tom Silverman’s newly formed Tommy Boy Records. Lynch would become president of the label during the 1980s and 1990s, helping to launch the careers of major hiphop artists such as Queen Latifah, De La Soul, Digital Underground, Biz Markie and Naughty by Nature.
The “Roxanne Wars” begin. Roxanne Shante (Lolita Shante Gooden) is recruited by the hiphop producer Marley Marl, radio DJ Mr. Magic, and Tyrone Williams to respond to UTFO's song "Roxanne, Roxanne." The song is essentially a diss track aimed at a woman named Roxanne, who did not respond to their advances. Shante’s track, entitled “Roxanne’s Revenge” set off a rivalry between herself and The Real Roxanne (the supposed “real” Roxanne referred to in UTFO’s original track). The Real Roxanne linked up with UTFO to record an answer track, and that is where things really took off. In the ensuing year, somewhere between 30 and 100 response records were produced (according to different sources), all making various claims about “Roxanne,” be it her family, her lifestyle, and even her sexuality.
The group Super Nature releases their first single “The Showstopper,” a response to Doug E. Fresh’s hit single “The Show.” The group consists of MCs Cheryl James and Sandra Denton, and DJ Latoya Hanson (later to be known as the group Salt-N-Pepa).
A sixteen-year-old MC Lyte records her first song "I Cram to Understand U (Sam)." Soon thereafter, she signs a deal with Atlantic Records.
Super Nature change their name to Salt-N-Pepa and release their debut album "Hot, Cool, and Vicious." Also, Deidra Roper replaces Latoya Hanson as DJ Spinderella. The album is nominated for a Grammy, and the group becomes the first all-female rap group to go platinum.
MC Lyte releases her debut album "Lyte as a Rock," becoming the first woman to release a solo rap album with a major label.
Dana "Queen Latifah" Owens bursts onto the scene with her debut album "All Hail The Queen". A pioneer on and off the mic, Queen Latifah made a point of showcasing female comradery in the game. This was made clear in her timeless classic "Ladies First" on which she collaborates with Monie Love and spits verses on Afrocentric feminism. She also collaborates with other 80s female MCs the likes of MC Lyte, Yo-Yo, and Salt-n-Pepa on her album.
Nikki D became the first woman to sign with Def Jam as a rapper. Her single “Daddy’s Little Girl”, released some two years later, reached" #1 on the US Billboard Hot Rap Singles Chart in 1991.
“PUMP IT UP!,” hosted Dee Barnes, premieres on September 16 on FOX. The former MC and radio host is the first woman to host a syndicated hiphop television show.
Twenty-year-old Queen Latifah takes over The Flavor Unit crew. Latifah transformed the group from a crew of MCs and DJs into a record label, management and multimedia production company with her mother Rita Owens and business partner Shakim Compere. Past management clients include Monica, OutKast, Faith Evans, Total, SWV, Groove Theory, LL Cool J, Zhane, Donell Jones and Naughty by Nature.
"Sisters in the Name of Rap," a Pay-Per-View concert event, is held at the Ritz in New York City. Hosted by Dee Barnes, the epic concert featured MC Lyte, Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, Yo-Yo, Roxanne Shante, Def Dames, Tam Tam, Silk Tymes Leather, Nefertiti, Nikky Kixx, Shelly Thunder, and more. The performances preach self-reliance and demand respect from their male counterparts.
Yo-Yo releases her debut solo album "Make Way For The Motherlode." The protégé of gangsta rapper Ice Cube, Yo-Yo dubbed her crew the IBWC, or the Intelligent Black Woman's Coalition.
Ain't No Other becomes Lyte's first album to go gold. She also stars in a movie titled “Fly by Night.” Her song “Ruffneck,” was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Single making her the first female solo rapper to be nominated for a Grammy.
"Living Single" starring Queen Latifah alongside Kim Coles, Erika Alexander, John Henton, Kim Fields and T.C. Carson premieres on FOX. The show would run for five seasons, concluding in 1998 as one of the most successful African American shows of the 90s. Queen Latifah also wrote and performed the show’s theme music.
Sylvia Rhone is appointed chairwoman and CEO of the Elektra Entertainment Group, marking her as the only African American, and first woman in the history of the recording industry to attain such a prominent title. Rhone guided the merger of Elektra, EastWest (of which she was formerly CEO) and Sire Records into one of the Warner Music Group's most diverse and competitive labels. Rhone was directly involved in the launch and guidance of multiple best selling artists, including Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Tracy Chapman, Yolanda Adams, Metallica, Natalie Merchant, Gerald Levert, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Fabolous, Jason Mraz, and Third Eye Blind, among others. Long recognized as a developer of musical talent, she was also instrumental in transforming the staff at Elektra, with Time Warner chairman and CEO Dick Parsons noting: "The Elektra Entertainment Group was one of the most actualized examples of diversity in action at a company that I've ever seen."
Da Brat drops her debut album “Funkdafied” via Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def label. Debuting and peaking at number 11 on the Billboard 200, the album sold over a million copies, making her the first woman in hiphop to do so with a solo album and the second overall female act (solo or group) after Salt-N-Pepa. Da Brat received five Billboard Award nominations that year, taking home the awards for Top Hot Rap Single, Top Hot Rap Artist and Top Hot Female Rap Artist. “Funkadafied” also won Best Rap Album at the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards.
Salt-N-Pepa become the first women in hiphop to win a Grammy. The group took home the award for Best Rap Performance for the single “None of Your Business” off their 1993 album "Very Necessary."
Lil' Kim, Brooklyn native and member of Junior M.A.F.I.A., releases her debut album "Hard Core." The album featured three consecutive #1 rap hits—“No Time”, “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix)”, and “Crush on You”—and has since been certified double platinum by the RIAA. Choosing to tackle men in the industry through her claiming power over her overt sexuality, Kim became one of the prototypes for many women in hiphop during the 2000s and 2010s who also use their sexual bravado to combat men both in music videos and cyphers.
Seventeen-year-old Brooklyn native Foxy Brown signs with Def Jam in March 1996 after a slew of features on several platinum singles from 1995 to 1996 including LL Cool J’s “Who Shot Ya,” Total’s “No One Else” remix of Jay-Z's “Ain’t No...,” Toni Braxton’s “You’re Making Me High” remix and Case’s “Touch Me Tease Me.” Later that year, Foxy would release her debut album “Ill Na Na” exactly after Lil’ Kim’s debut “Hard Core.” Produced by Track Masters, “Ill Na Na” debuted at #7 on the Billboard and sold 109,000 copies in the first week. Since then the album has sold over a million copies and been RCAA certified platinum. Foxy Brown was infamous for her uncompromising embrace of her sexuality. For this reason, among others, many pitted her and Lil' Kim against one another.
Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot releases her debut album Supa Dupa Fly, featuring the hit single “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly).” The album debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200, the highest charting debut for a female rapper at the time.
Lauryn Hill becomes the first woman to win in the Best Rap Album category at the Grammys, taking home the award with The Fugees for their sophomore album, “The Score.”
Lady of Rage releases her debut solo album “Necessary Roughness” via Death Row Records. The album peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hiphop/R&B Album chart and reached #32 on the Billboard 200. Rage’s album came after nearly ten years in the game and dozens of appearances on soundtracks and high-profile, critically-acclaimed Death Row Records releases – including Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” and Snoop Dogg’s “Doggystyle.”
Former MC Nikki D becomes the vice president of A&R at Flavor Unit Records.
Lauryn Hill releases her debut solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill to critical acclaim. The album debuts at #1 on the US Billboard Hot 200 chart and goes on to sell 8 millions copies. In addition, Hill was nominated for 10 Grammys, taking home 5, including Album of the Year in 1999. Hill was the first hiphop artist to win Album of the Year. She was also the first woman to ever be nominated ten times in one year and the first to win five Grammys in one nights.
Sylvia Rhone is named to Fortune magazine’s inaugural list of the “Fifty Most Powerful Women.”
Filmmaker Rachel Raimist releases Nobody Knows My Name, which tells the story of women whose lives revolve around hiphop: Asia One, DJ Symphony, Leaschea, Medusa, and T-Love. The film explores how all these women struggle to get their “voices” heard in such a male-dominated industry. Nobody Knows My Name received critical acclaim, and was screened at various film festivals across the US.
At the height of the Ruff Ryders, Eve emerges as the sole female voice in the crew with the release of her debut album "Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryder’s First Lady." The album debuts at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, and is certified double platinum by the RIAA.
Queen Latifah stars in her own daytime talk show, "The Queen Latifah Show," from 1999 to 2001 and then from 2013 to 2015. The show was hailed as the "Dear Abby for the Hip-Hop Generation,” featuring celebrity interviews, human interest stories, musical performances and pop culture takes from Latifah herself. It was nominated for two NAACP Awards for Outstanding Talk Series in 2014 and 2015.
Sylvia Rhone is recognized by Ebony Magazine as one of the “Ten Most Powerful Black Women In America,” alongside Oprah Winfrey and Condoleezza Rice.
Eve wins the award for Best Female Hiphop Artist at the inaugural BET Awards held at the Paris Las Vegas resort on the Las Vegas Strip.
Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, of the four-time Grammy award-winning group TLC, dies in a devastating car crash just a month shy of her 31st birthday.
Julie Greenwald becomes the President of Island Records/Executive VP of Island Def Jam Record Group. Greenwald got her start working as Lyor Cohen’s assistant at Rush Management. She moved with Cohen to Def Jam and helped to shape the company into a powerhouse through her work with artists such as LL Cool J, Jay-Z, Public Enemy and DMX. Greenwald rose through the ranks, taking over the entire marketing department of the new Island Def Jam following the 1998 merger. In 2004, she would go on to become the president of Atlantic Records and, in 2009, take over as the Chairman/COO, playing a key role in the careers of artists such as Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Lil Uzi Vert, Migos and Cardi B. She was named the most powerful woman in music by Billboard in 2012 and “Executive of the Year” at the Billboard Women in Music Awards in 2017.
The Grammys split the Best Rap Solo Performance into two to recognize Female and Male Rap Solo Performances. Missy Elliot took home the award two years in a row for her songs "Work It" and "Scream a.k.a. Itchin'."
Sylvia Rhone is appointed president of Motown Records and executive vice president of Universal Records.
Missy Elliott's double-platinum fourth studio album "Under Construction" receives Grammy Award nominations for Best Rap Album and Album of the Year. Missy is the second woman in hiphop to be nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys. Two songs, "Gossip Folks" featuring Ludacris and "Work It,"from the album were also nominated for Grammys. "Gossip Folks" was nominated for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. "Work It" was nominated for Best Rap Song and Best Female Rap Solo Performance, winning the latter.
The Center for Race, Politics, and Culture at the University of Chicago hosts the first national conference on hiphop and feminism. Cathy Cohen, David and Mary Winton Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago organized the conference, which explored the manner in which hiphop’s imagery and culture has impacted the normalization of violence against women. Additionally, the conference provided a forum for dialogue and debate that not only examined the misogyny of hiphop, but also afforded participants and attendees the opportunity to express empowering thoughts, messages, and approaches to hiphop feminism.
The Grammys eliminate the Best Female Rap Solo Performance category in favor of the previous structure of a single Best Rap Solo Performance Award. Recording Academy Vice President Bill Freimuth claimed “[there] wasn’t enough competition essentially, due to the lack of the number of releases in the category.”
The documentary "Be-Girl Be" is released. The documentary celebrates women in the many areas of hiphop culture and features graffiti writers, clothing designers, MCs, break-dancers, photographers, and journalists from across the country as well as international venues.
The inaugural BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Award Show is held at the Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn. The show meant to celebrate Black women who are trailblazers, change makers or dynamos in their respective fields. The first two honorees were MC Lyte and DJ Jazzy Joyce.
Queen Latifah receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, making her the first hiphop artist ever to do so. During the unveiling, Latifah said, “I think the reason I am here to inspire African-American women who are rappers, full-figured women to know that they can do it too.”
Both VH1 and BET’s Hiphop Awards Shows do not include any female rappers in the nominations, citing “numbers” as the reason for a lack of representation.
Nicki Minaj wins the BET Award for Best Female Hiphop Artist. She would go on to win for the next six years straight. Nicki is the first and only artist to win the award seven years in a row.
Nicki Minaj’s debut studio album Pink Friday is certified platinum – the first solo rap album by a woman to do so in 8 years.
Nicki Minaj makes MTV's Annual Hottest MC's List of 2010, reaching the number 6 spot and being the first woman to be elected to the list since its creation.
Director Nirit Peled releases the documentary "Say My Name: Women. Hip Hop. Life." The film highlights social issues such as class, race, and gender through the lens of female MCs from established rappers such as MC Lyte, Monie Love, Erykah Badu, and Roxanne Shante to up-and-coming talents like Chocolate Thai, Invincible, Jean Grae, and Miz Korona.
Ava DuVernay debuts her documentary "My Mic Sounds Nice: A Truth About Women and Hip Hop" for BET. The film examines the manner in which various female MCs navigate their existence and art in an industry that all too often glamorizes a lifestyle and attitude regarding women that is misogynistic and toxic in nature.
MC Lyte becomes the first African American female president of the LA Chapter of the Recording Academy, aka the Grammy organization.
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea becomes the first female, and first international rapper, to appear on XXL magazine’s annual Top 10 Freshman cover.
Nicki Minaj releases the song and video for “Anaconda”, which then proceeds to break the 24-hour streaming records on video hosting website Vevo. The video accumulates 19.6 million views in just one day.
Iggy Azalea’s single “Fancy” hits #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart; Azalea is only the fourth solo, female MC to do so
Lauryn Hill’s debut album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998) is selected by the Library of Congress as part of their annual selection process of 25 recordings to be inducted into the National Recoding Registry. Hill’s album is the first released by a black woman to be inducted since 1970 and the first ever released by a female hiphop artist to be included.
Missy Elliott performs at the Super Bowl Halftime Show with Katy Perry. After the show, all three songs Missy performed entered the top twenty singles list on iTunes, later peaking in the top ten.
Azealia Banks becomes the first female rapper to be featured on the cover of Playboy magazine. Although the publication was first printed in 1953, a black woman was not featured on the cover until 1071. Azealia Banks joins the ranks of Naomi Campbell, Mariah Carey, and Latoyah Jackson, as one of a handful of black women who have been featured.
MC Lyte receives a prestigious W.E.B. Du Bois Medal from the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. The W. E. B. Du Bois Medal is Harvard's highest honor in the field of African and African American studies. It is awarded to individuals in the United States and across the globe in recognition of their contributions to African and African American culture and the life of the mind. Recipients have included scholars, artists, writers, journalists, philanthropists, and public servants whose work has bolstered the field of African and African American studies.
VH-1’s Hiphop Honors airs for the first time since 2010 and focuses on celebrating the accomplishments of women in hiphop. Titled “All Hail The Queens,” the show commemorated the contributions of Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, Lil’ Kim and Missy Elliott with speeches, tributes and performances by the legends themselves and their peers and collaborators.
Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” reaches the #1 spot on Billboard, making her the first female hiphop artist to do so with a solo single since Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)” in 1998.
Cardi B shatters Beyonce’s record for most simultaneous Billboard Hot 100 entries by a female artist and most simultaneous Billboard US Hot R&B/Hiphop Top 10 entries by a female artist, according to Guinness World Records. Twelve of the thirteen songs featured on the chart came from her debut album “Invasion of Privacy.” Cardi is also the first woman in hiphop to have three #1 songs in the Billboard Charts.
Rapsody’s album “Laila’s Wisdom” is nominated for Best Rap Album at the Grammys. She is the fifth female nominee ever in the 23-year history of the category.
Queen Latifah receives an honorary doctorate from Rutgers University in New Jersey. She is the first woman in hiphop to receive such as honor. In her speech she explained the significance of being honored in her home state: “I’m a Jersey girl born and bred. So when it comes to homecomings, I’ll take the words of Garden State’s own Jon Bon Jovi who wrote: ‘Who said you can’t come home? That’s the only place where they call me one of their own....This place has shaped me. Whether it’s been your home for four years or 40 years, or something in between, you carry it with you. Just as I have. Long before Living Single and Set It Off and Chicago, it’s lessons I learned right here at home that made me the person I am.”
Akua Naru is granted the Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellowship at the Hiphop Archive and Research Institute for the 2018-2019 academic year. Akua is a hiphop artist, producer, activist, and scholar, who theorizes the myriad experiences of Black women through rhyme along a sonic spectrum from Jazz to Soul.  She has released four albums: “...the journey aflame (2011)”, “Live & Aflame Sessions (2012)”, “The Miner’s Canary (2015)”, and “The Blackest Joy (2018)”--three of which were on the label she co-founded, The Urban Era.  Established in 2013, the Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellowship at the Hiphop Archive and Research Institute at Harvard University is the result of a generous anonymous gift in the name of Nas. The Fellowship provides those selected with a chance to show that “education is real power” by building off of their achievements in an effort to make advancements in hiphop scholarship.
Missy Elliott becomes the first women in hiphop and the third hiphop artist ever to be inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.
Cardi B wins the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album for her debut album “Invasion of Privacy.” She is the first solo female artist to win the award. Cardi was also nominated in four other categories – Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, Best Rap Performance. She is the third woman in hiphop to be nominated for Album of the Year.