From MC Sha-Rock to MC Lyte, women have been infiltrating hip-hop’s boys' club for as long as the genre has existed.

MC Sha-Rock, known as the “Mother of the Mic,” was one of the founding members of the Funky 4 + 1 in the 1970s. She often played alongside hip-hop pioneers DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash during the earliest years of hip-hop culture in New York. Meanwhile in 1987, Monie Love and Queen Latifah became the only two female members of the storied Native Tongues crew alongside Jungle Brothers, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. A year later, MC Lyte became the first solo female rapper to release a full-length album with 1988’s critically acclaimed Lyte as a Rock. These early female hip-hop pioneers broke barriers with their slick rhymes about race, gender and female empowerment.

As the 1980s rolled into the 1990s, Lauryn Hill, Foxy Brown, Da Brat, Lil' Kim, Trina, Missy Elliott, Bahamadia, Angie Martinez and countless others continued to pave the way for women in hip-hop, proving that it was possible for female rappers to gain mainstream attention and commercial success.

Fast-forward to the present day, and there are even more women in hip-hop finally getting their much deserved flowers. Nicki Minaj currently wears the crown for having the most Billboard Hot 100 hits among women of all genres. And last year, Cardi B became the first female rapper to snag Best Rap Album at the 2019 Grammy Awards for her Invasion of Privacy album.

As for the newer ladies in hip-hop, Megan Thee Stallion delivered an unforgettable Hot Girl Summer last year and a string of subsequent bangers, joining Rico Nasty and Tierra Whack in 2019’s XXL Freshman Class.

In celebration of female excellence across decades, XXL shares 60 essential songs from the most influential and innovative female rappers in hip-hop.

  • “Doo-Wop (That Thing)”

    Lauryn Hill
  • "No Time"

    Lil' Kim Featuring Puff Daddy
  • “Let Me Blow Ya Mind”

    Eve Featuring Gwen Stefani
  • “Get Ur Freak On”

    Missy Elliott
  • “Get Me Home”

    Foxy Brown Featuring Blackstreet
  • “Bodak Yellow”

    Cardi B
  • “Moment 4 Life”

    Nicki Minaj Featuring Drake
  • “Ladies First”

    Queen Latifah Featuring Monie Love
  • “Cold Rock a Party”

    MC Lyte Featuring Missy Elliott
  • “Ex-Factor”

    Lauryn Hill
  • “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”

    Missy Elliott
  • “Who’s That Girl?”

  • “Afro Puffs”

    The Lady of Rage
  • “Lost Ones”

    Lauryn Hill
  • “Conceited”

    Remy Ma
  • “Pull Over”

  • “Magic Stick”

    Lil' Kim
  • “Soujourner”

    Rapsody Featuring J. Cole
  • “Gangsta Lovin”

    Eve Featuring Alicia Keys
  • "Queen Bitch"

    Lil' Kim
  • "Act Up”

    City Girls
  • “Roxanne’s Revenge”

    Roxanne Shante
  • "OOOUUU"

    Young M.A
  • "Lip Gloss”

    Lil Mama
  • “Cash Shit”

    Megan Thee Stallion Featuring DaBaby
  • “If I Could Go!”

    Angie Martinez Featuring Lil Mo and Sacario
  • "U.N.I.T.Y.”

    Queen Latifah
  • “Work It”

    Missy Elliott
  • “Itty Bitty Piggy”

    Nicki Minaj
  • “My Story”

    Jean Grae
  • “Oh Yeah”

    Foxy Brown Featuring Spragga Benz
  • “Killing Me Softly"

    The Fugees
  • “212”

    Azealia Banks Featuring Lazy Jay
  • “Let’s Talk About Sex”

  • “My Neck, My Back (Lick It)“

  • “Hungry Hippo”

    Tierra Whack
  • “Feeling Myself”

    Nicki Minaj Featuring Beyonce
  • “Big Ole Freak”

    Megan Thee Stallion
  • “It’s a Shame (My Sister)”

    Monie Love
  • “Ice Me Out”

    Kash Doll
  • “I Like It”

    Cardi B Featuring Bad Bunny and J Balvin
  • “I’ll Be”

    Foxy Brown Featuring Jay-Z
  • “Supersonic”

    J.J. Fad
  • “All the Way Up”

    Remy Ma and Fat Joe Featuring French Montana and Infared
  • "You Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo”

    Yo-Yo Featuring Ice Cube
  • “Say So”

    Doja Cat
  • “Smack A Bitch”

    Rico Nasty
  • "Funkdafied”

    Da Brat
  • “Everything Is Everything”

    Lauryn Hill
  • "Bling Bling”

  • "Rapping and Rocking the House"

    The Funky 4 + 1
  • "Where Dem Dollas At”

    Gangsta Boo Featuring DJ Paul and Juicy J
  • “Uknowhowwedu”

  • "Try Me”

    Dej Loaf
  • “Big Momma Thang”

    Lil' Kim
  • “To Zion”

    Lauryn Hill
  • “Ruffneck”

    MC Lyte
  • “Super Bass”

    Nicki Minaj
  • “Lighters Up

    Lil’ Kim
  • "Two Minute Brother"


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