If “fuck bitches, get money” was the unofficial hip hop slogan of the past 5 years, hip hop might soon be on the lookout for a new spokesperson. There is an impending wave of female rappers that are, in our opinion, producing some of the best and most exciting music in the genre and looking more than capable of keeping the pace with even the biggest male names in the game. Until recently, hip-hop was very clearly a raucous all-boys club (notable exceptions like Erykah Badu and Missy Elliot notwithstanding), but this looks set to change. While Nicki Minaj’s name might be first to come to mind, this trend goes much further than her; think Tink, Dej Loaf, Rapsody, and relative newcomers like DonMonique, Jungepussy, and Chynna Rogers.
Though not necessarily surprising, its interesting to speculate why this changing of the guard has happened now rather of all times. Its far too simple, and simply wrong, to put it down to a lack of talent or interest from females in the past.
Lyrically, female rappers offer new perspectives and new stories that have been marginalised within hip hop, and this certainly has something to do with the appeal of the new contingent. Drake’s rise to the top through his emotional style may have made space for a more honest and open form of hip hop. And changes have arguably also taken place on the other end of the exchange – hip hop is no longer only listened to by young males but all demographics, making its fan base more open to new forms of the craft. Queer and trans-gender rappers are even making inroads into the mainstream, something that would previously have been unthinkable.
Musically, I like to think that this also has to do with broader and undoubtedly positive changes taking place in the landscape of contemporary music. Genres are melding and previously held paradigms about certain types of music are being challenged, opening room for experimental artists like Kelela and FKA Twigs to meld elements of R&B, hip hop, and electronic music to much acclaim. The sharing of sounds and culture through the internet, as well as the opportunities it creates for cross-cultural collaboration, may play a part. And its not only indie or underground artists occupying this space; even Beyonce and Rihanna, pop stars by nature, have had some of their biggest hits in recent years while singing over trap and hip hop instrumentals. The result is aurally fantastic, with the softer, fuller sounds of female voices contrastingly nicely over bass-heavy, trap influenced instrumentals.
This remains only speculation. But whatever the reason for it, this trend can only benefit hip hop lovers. Hip hop is an art, but also a sport – one in which anyone with a voice can compete. And now the competition has been doubled. We’re here to see what happens next.