Female rappers are finally having a moment.
There are tons of them these days.
And the best female rappers are excellent and being recognized for it, too.
Sadly, that was rare only a short while ago.
Back in the 80s and 90s (and even the 2000s), few female rapper got much airplay.
Even fewer found the type of success many of todays rapping women enjoy.
But there were some. And along with the top lady rap stars of today, they all garnered a spot on our list of the best female rappers of all time. Let’s start with arguably the most important of them all.
Best Female Rappers Of All Time
As mentioned, the following list of the best female rappers ever is populated by some of the genre’s pioneers, along with some of the greatest women rap stars of today.
We simply have to start our list of the greatest female rappers of all time with Lauryn Hill. After all, this super-talented woman was instrumental in breaking barriers for female rappers, and also in redefining hip-hop and melodic rap.
Lauryn Hill is a four-time NAACP Image Awards winner and 5-time Grammy Award winner. She is known for her innovative style that melds different genres of African-American music, like reggae, hip-hop, and soul.
Hill’s diamond-certified album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, is considered one of the most iconic female rap albums of all time. It is talked about even today, more than 25 years after its release.
In addition to being one of the greatest female rappers, Hill has founded many philanthropic projects, including the Refugee Project, to help underprivileged youth.
Nicki Minaj (real name Onika Tanya Maraj-Petty) wears many hats. She is not only a top-selling female rapper but also an actor, songwriter, TV personality, and businesswoman.
The Trinidadian-born musician started her rap career with a group called the Hoodstars and soon caught the attention of rapper Lil Wayne. The two collaborated on several projects, which helped increase Minaj’s exposure to rap.
Known for her unique style of combining different accents and animating her flowing rap style, Minaj has given us several hits like Super Bass (see video above), Anaconda, and Pink Friday.
Megan Thee Stallion
Megan Thee Stallion is a Texas native who started rapping on Instagram and other social media channels. She soon became famous for her freestyle rapping and her confident, fun personality.
Megan’s unapologetic deliveries and flawless, fearless flow have made her one of the greatest female rappers of this decade.
Her albums Suga and Tina Snow made it onto the US Billboard charts, and she is also a two-time BET Award and MTV Video Music Award winner. Megan’s 2020 remix of Savage, featuring Beyonce, is considered one of the best songs of her career.
Cardi B was a stripper before she started rapping, a fact she does not hide. In fact, she says that stripping saved her life.
Cardi first became famous for her rants on Vine and Instagram, which helped her amass a huge following. She also became a popular contestant on the reality TV show Love & Hip Hop: New York for two seasons.
In 2018, Cardi B released her track Bodak Yellow, which became a huge hit and reached the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in July of 2017. Cardi is the only black female rapper since Lauryn Hill to have achieved this milestone.
Today, the singer has five number 1 hits to her credit. Her net worth is estimated to be over $80 million.
MC Lyte is considered one of the pioneers of female rap. She came on the scene in the 1980s. Born Lana Michele Moorer, Lyte started her career as a DJ. By 18 years of age, she had become the first female rapper to release a full solo studio album (Lyte As Rock).
MC Lyte is also a TV personality and has appeared in several movies as well. The talented artist also has other claims to fame, including being the first female rapper to be nominated for a Grammy Award (for the track Ruffneck), the first female artist to win a gold single, and the first rap artist to perform at Carnegie Hall.
Missy Elliott is a talented rapper, songwriter, and music producer. She has collaborated with top names in the music industry, including Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, etc.
The Virginia native began her journey as a choir singer and has overcome many challenges, including being molested by a cousin and physically abused by her father.
Missy rose above all of it and went on to release six studio albums and 24 singles. She even performed at Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 and is the first female rapper to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Missy has won several awards, including four Grammys.
Her song Work It! showcases her immense talent and innovative style and is considered one of the top rap songs of the era.
Pitchfork lauds Queen Latifah as the “most recognizable female rapper of all time”. After all, the multi-talented artist is said to have redefined the predominantly male genres of hip-hop and rap and also paved the way for the genre’s golden era.
Born Dana Elaine Owens, Latifah is credited with encouraging and inspiring other female rappers. Latifah herself started rapping when she was a high school student and released her debut album All Hail the Queen, at the young age of 19.
The talented singer and actor has several awards in her trophy case, including a Grammy, an Academy Award, a SAG Award, a Golden Globe Award, and some Emmy Awards.
U.N.I.T.Y. remains Latifah’s greatest Grammy-winning hit. It is one of the few rap songs with a positive message, as she raps against female abuse, disrespect of women on the streets, and domestic violence. It is every bit as relevant today as it was back in the 1990s.
Eve began her singing career as a choir girl in Philadelphia and later joined an all-girls band. She also worked at a strip club to pay her bills, which led to a chance meeting with American rapper Ma$e.
Ma$e encouraged Eve to focus on rapping, and thankfully for us, she took his advice seriously. Eve has given us several hits, including Let Me Blow Ya Mind with Gwen Stefani.
The Wall Street Journal once described Doja Cat as a skilled technical rapper with a strong melodic sense and a bold aesthetic presence.
Cat first went viral for her TikTok sensation Mooo!, and while the song is wholesomely childish, it forms the very essence of all of the rapper’s songs: fun, authentic, and spontaneous.
Iggy Azalea is an Australian model, hip-hop artist, and rapper who began rapping at the tender age of 14. In 2006, she moved to the USA, where she had to work illegally for a while, until her visa issues were sorted out.
Iggy became famous for her YouTube songs Pu$$y and My World. She is the first female international rapper on XXL’s Top 10 Freshman List. She is also the only singer, aside from the Beatles, to conquer the number one and number two spots with her first two Hot 100 hits.
British rapper M.I.A. is the stage name for Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam. The acronym is a play on her middle name.
M.I.A. moved to the UK at the age of 11 after experiencing displacement due to the Civil War in Sri Lanka. Those early years influenced the rapper’s style and art. She frequently talks about war in her music and openly supports the displaced Tamilians in Sri Lanka.
She is also famous for her politically charged dance music. In Paper Planes, her most famous song, M.I.A. expresses her frustration at the American treatment of immigrants from war-torn countries.
An interesting fact about M.I.A. is that she is the first Asian person to be nominated for a Grammy and an Academy Award in the same year.
Born in the Bronx, NY, Remy Ma stormed the rap scene in the early 2000s. Her breakout hit Lean Back by Terror Squad (of which she was a member), showcased her fiery delivery and lyrical prowess.
Remy is also known for other hits like Whuteva and Conceited. She has won the BET Awards for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist multiple times, a rare feat that she shares with only three other singers.
Foxy Brown, born Inga DeCarlo Fung Marchand, is an African-American rapper, model, and actor. She is known for her electrifying dance moves, glamorous fashion choices, and tremendous sex appeal.
Her songs have a risqué quality, but her sharp rhymes and distinctive flow have won her many fans. Foxy started rapping at the young age of 17, signing with Def Jam. Later, Jay-Z mentored her.
Her track I’ll Be peaked at number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, and she won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance in 2003.
Lil’ Kim is the stage name for Kimberly Jones, a moniker she earned due to her short stature. She is only 4’ 11”. In the years since, countless rappers have copied the use of the “Lil'” moniker.
Kim started her rapping career with Junior M.A.F.I.A, but in 1996, embarked on her solo career with the release of her album Hard Core.
What sets Lil’ Kim apart from all other female rappers is her supreme confidence. She gives the message loud and clear: ladies, be comfortable in your bodies.
She has won multiple awards including the 2019 BET Hip-Hop Award and the Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration for Lady Marmalade with Christina Aguilera, Pink, and Mya.
Born Shawntae Harris, Da Brat was noticed by music producer Jermaine Dupri (of Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys fame) when she won a local rap contest sponsored by Yo! MTV Raps.
1994 was a great year for the rapper as her debut album Funkdafied sold a million copies and topped the Hip-Hop Charts. Check out Ghetto Love, featuring T-Boz, which is Da Brat’s most popular song to date (it’s the video above).
Greatest Female Rappers Of All Time
This list of the best female rappers of all time would have been easier to write if I had limited it to the early years of rap. Of course, then it would not have had 15 entries.
The pioneers are clear. But there are so many great modern female rappers, that it was difficult to whittle the list down. Naturally, my choice are not likely to also be yours.
If you disagree with one of my picks, or if you feel I missed an important female rap star, please feel free to let me know in the comments below. And if you want more outstanding female vocalists, check out my article on the top African-American female vocalists of the 1970s.