Your Guide to the Sub-Genres of 2019 Female Rap
In 2019, it is time for us to collectively agree to leave this ridiculous notion that you can only pick the side of one female rapper.
It’s tired, regressive, and boring. American Hip Hop has become such a large and popular genre of music, it really is a super-genre at this point, with the members of its sub-genres creating wildly different styles of music that can be appreciated on different merits. Rihanna’s dope 2017 ‘Lemon’ verse was my sign that after a long drought since the ‘00s, the new era of female rap had finally wonderfully arrived.
Looking to freshen up your female rapper list? Below is an introduction to the five dozen or so women who are currently active in the rap scene. Instagram and the soundtrack of HBO’s Insecure have kept me on top of who is lyrical, who is catchy and who is so-bad-it’s-good and I’m here to summarize them into their sub-groups so you can determine what fits your taste. The bar for male rappers is depressingly low right now, and many of these women (and non-binary people) are putting in just as much creativity, writing and presentation to their craft as the most popular men in the genre. Unfortunately, sexism - internal and external to the Hip Hop community- continues to fuel the idea that they each have to wait their turn to reign, while multiple male rappers command the culture simultaneously. This rhetoric is perpetuated by record labels, fandoms and some of the reigning femcees themselves. Thankfully, with many of these women having popular features, appearances and viral singles, this retrograde notion is slowly being eroded. Colourism is also an unfortunate factor in the success of a female rapper. It is not a coincidence that almost all the commercially successful women in hip-hop and R&B are light skinned and/or ethnically ambiguous. Brown and dark skinned women have always been a major part of the Hip Hop scene, in terms of both the talent and fan base. I look forward to when the end-of-year Hip Hop sales and critics lists are filled with men and women; specifically an inclusive range of women that fairly reflects the creators and connoisseurs of the craft.
To summarize: no, Cardi B and Nicki Minaj do not make the same type of music and no, liking one does not mean you cannot like the other. As we enter the next great era of female rappers, let’s all do better in our conversation about them. You can listen to all the music referenced in this article, arranged according to their sub-genres, here.
The Traditional Spitters
Mostly East Coast MCs whose style is reminiscent of the creators of the genre. They mix pure bars with hooks about flexing and old school beats. Album and feature focused.
Nicki Minaj, despite the headlines you may have read, is not over. Her album Queen was slugged down with some filler and she had several incidents that were probable a nightmare for her PR team, but the last year has seen her releasing some of the best guest verses and pure Hip Hop singles of her career (‘Good Form’). Leikeli47 (‘Girl Blunt’) is an enigmatic new Brooklyn spitter who maintains a Sia-like anonymity with bandanas and facemasks has come to a lot of hip hop critic’s attention. Kash Doll (‘Ice Me Out’) has spent the last year enjoying success of her viral single and providing quality guest verses to her peers Dreezy (‘Chanel Slides’) and TokyoJetz (‘Ballin’).
See Also: Young M.A (‘Petty Wap’), Kamaiyah (‘How Does It Feel’) and Dej Loaf (‘No Fear’)
The Trap Queens
Heavily influenced by the current reigning Atlanta trap sound. Their output is very collaborative with their producers. Their money, drug and sex-ridden music is strip club and car speaker ready. Mixtape and single focused.
Cardi B (‘Money’) is not only the highest selling female rapper of 2018, but also one of the highest selling rappers full stop, landing in no 3. on Billboard’s 2018 year-end rap albums list. Her debut album, Invasion of Privacy still snaps and she has a new project coming in 2018. Her management team QC’s City Girls (Where the Bag At) are an incredibly explicit, lewd and addictive Miami duo who take inspiration from the likes of Khia and Trina. Their instantly memorable appearance on Drake’s smash hit ‘In My Feelings’ has shot them to the enviable position of having the attention of the mainstream Hip Hop audience very early in their career. Maliibu Miitch (‘Give Her Some Money’), whose Biggy-esque timbre and flow contrast her tiny frame produced one of the most addictive earworms of 2018. Meghan Thee Stallion '(‘Good At’) is also quickly rising with her unique flow and freestyling skills.
Also Check Out: Dream Doll (‘Pull Up’), DonMonique (‘Pilates’), Saweetie (‘Up Now’), Queen Key (‘My Way’), Melii (‘Icey’), Cuban Doll (‘Bankrupt’) and Sukihana (‘Drug Dealer’).
Made up of teenagers and early 20-somethings, lyricism is the least important factor in their output. Very producer-dependent, auto-tuned and full of ad-libs. They release music on a whim on Soundcloud, as well as other streaming services and social media.
My personal favourite is self-professed queen of teens Asian Doll (‘Island’), whose ad-libs, Gucci Mane endorsed swag and colourful beat selection make her stand out from her peers. Tommy Genesis, of Playboi Carti’s collective Awful Records is an excellent creative. She has a unique auto-tuned style (some believe Cardi B’s Bartier Cardi is a lift of her song ‘Tommy’). Bali Baby (‘WWW’) is an eccentric personality whose mixtape Baylor Swift gives you everything you’d expect from the title.
See Also: BIA (‘Whip It’), Molly Brazy (‘Tea Party’), Killumantii (‘Envious’), Kodie Shane (‘Start a Riot’) and 070 Shake (‘Accusations’).
The Lyricists and Poets
The musical children of Lauryn Hill, their lyrics are dense and require careful listening. Less intense production and sporadic release schedules than their peers in other modern sub-genres. Critical favourites and album focused.
NoName (‘Don’t Forget About Me’) continues to be bizarrely slept on, even though she is arguably the best lyricist of her age group across all genders. Her soft, ASMR-esque voice and poetic bars draw you into a world of its own in her two amazing projects. Rapsody (‘Sojourner’) is a favourite of J Cole and Kendrick for her quality writing and rhyming. Janelle Monae (‘Django Jane’) is as much an R’n’B star as she is a rapper, but when she is indeed in her MC mode, the power of her wordplay and content makes her one of the best.
See Also: Angel Haze (‘Impossible’), Tink (‘Ratchet Commandments’), Oshun (‘Solar Plexus’) and Kari Faux (‘No Small Talk’).
Grouping them together is more geographic than stylistic, as they vary in their grime, bashment, afrobeat and dancehall influences. Generally more lyrical and hard-hitting than their American peers.
Flohio (‘Watchout’) is about to be the next big thing in UK music. She is a very charismatic performer with great beat selection. Stefflon Don (‘16 Shots’) and Nadia Rose (‘Skwod’) continue to hold it down. MIA (‘Go Off’) is now more involved her activism and filmmaking, but her sound continues to be relevant and her 2016 project AIM was an excellent piece of work.
See Also: Little Simz (‘Offence’), Lady Leshurr (‘Queen’s Speech 4’) and Ms Banks (‘Come Thru’)
Characterized by eccentric personas and hands-on production. Intersecting with queer music, many of them are technically very proficient, with various flows they switch between. Release music in unique formats.
Tierra Whack (‘Black Nails’) released the best project of 2018 in Hip Hop and you need to watch the entirety of it if you haven’t already. The 15 track, 15 minute visual concept album, Whack World is a bizarre and stunning piece of art and she has quickly become a critic-and-fellow-rapper favourite. Rico Nasty (‘Bitch I’m Nasty’) is the Missy Elliot of our generation, with her larger than life outfits, stage set ups and speedracer flow. Junglepussy (‘Trader Joe’) whose JP3 album was a critical favourite is an unashamedly feminist and outro artist. The supervillain of female rap, Azealia Banks (‘Treasure Island’), whose most recent feud has escalated to a legal entanglement with Elon Musk and Grimes stays in messy headlines but also stays producing some of the most interesting and tight Hip Hop her side of New York.
See Also: Mykki Blanco and Princess Nokia (‘Wish You Would’) and Brooke Candy (‘Paper or Plastic’).
The still-active legends from the ‘90s and ‘00s who paved the way for the current wave to have autonomy over their careers. Strong lyricists who have collaborated with all the GOATs of Hip Hop.
Remy Ma and Lil Kim ended an age-old feud to come together for a modern banger (‘Wake Me Up’). Lauryn Hill (‘Ex-Factor’) was inescapable as a heavy sample in Drake’s smash 2018 hit ‘Nice for What’. Foxy Brown has also been featured in Nicki Minaj’s recent album cut Coco Chanel.
See Also: Trina (‘Paradise’), MC Lyte (‘Get It Started’), Missy Elliot, Eve and Trina (‘I‘m Better Remix’).
Colourful and polarizing internet phenomena.
Bhad Bhabie’s ‘Hi Bich Remix’ was in my Spotify ‘10 most listened of 2018’. I’m sorry.
See also: Cupcakke (‘Barcodes’), Iggy Azalea (‘Kream’), MariahLynn (‘Once Upon A Time’), Chinese Kitty (‘On Me’), LightSkinKeisha and Mulatto (‘Do It) and Doja Cat (Moo).
All graphics made by Desola Kazeem.