Portrait of American pop and rhythm & blues musician Lauryn Hill, 1998.

20 Female MC's Who Changed the Game

20 Female MC's Who Changed the Game

Published Fri, March 1, 2024 at 12:37 PM EST

Female MCs hold a profound significance within the realm of Hip-Hop, serving as thought leaders, innovators, and powerful voices in a historically male-dominated genre. Their presence not only challenges societal norms but also diversifies the narrative and broadens the scope of representation within the Hip-Hop community.

Here are 20 female MC's who changed the game.

1 of 20

Queen Latifah

"Wrath Of My Madness" got Queen Latifah tremendous buzz in the New York area and built anticipation for her debut album. But it was her first video that introduced her to the mainstream.

The 45 King-produced "Dance For Me" flips Sly & The Family Stone's classic "Dance To the Music" into a late '80s dancefloor anthem. The music video announced Queen Latifah in sound and image, as she enters centerstage, rocking her soon-to-be-ubiquitous crown and rapping fiercely after an opening bit featuring the Flavor Unit and The 45 King himself.

2 of 20

Lil Kim

It's inaccurate to say that female sexuality was non-existent before K.I.M., but it is absolutely true that no one had asserted it so brazenly or masterfully prior to Kim.

3 of 20

Foxy Brown

Foxy Brown signed with Def Jam in ’96 at the age of 17, was mentored by JAY-Z ,and debuted with the platinum-selling album Ill Nana. As part of the Hip-Hop supergroup The Firm (with Naz, AZ and Nature), she then released The Album, followed by her own full-lengths Chyna Doll and Broken Silence.

History now hails Foxy Brown and Lil Kim as MCs who broke what Billboard called “the hypermasculinity” barrier, with lyrics as raw and images as sexy as they wanted to be.

4 of 20

Lauryn Hill

It was the success of the Fugees' second album, The Score, which solidified Lauryn Hill as an indelible artist in the music industry. It went 7x platinum in the US and sold 20 million copies worldwide. The group’s singles, a rendition of "Killing Me Softly," "Fu-Gee-La," and "Ready or Not" showcased Lauryn’s talent as a vocalist and MC.  

Following that success, she began recording The Miseducation... at 22. To date, it’s her only studio album.

5 of 20

Missy Elliott

A singer, songwriter, producer, visionary, and trendsetter to the core, Missy Elliott is a singular artist whose avant-garde creativity has inspired musicians across genres for decades. Her historic induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earned her the distinction of becoming the first-ever woman rapper to be inducted.

6 of 20

MC Sha Rock

From her work with the Funk Four and the Funky Four + 1, to her history-making TV appearance on SNL, to her impact on women MCs, Sha-Rock's influence is undeniable.

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Roxanne Shante

Roxanne Shante burst on the scene in 1984 with "Roxanne's Revenge," a response to UTFO's insanely popular "Roxanne, Roxanne." The song — and the dozens of responses that followed — represented an era in the mid 1980's where answer songs and diss records would flourish and help jump start the careers of many MC's.

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Trina has stepped out of her comfort zone from the moment she dropped her multiplatinum debut Da Baddest Bitch in 2001. She's built a career as an artist and performer, while also becoming a brand spokeswoman, radio host, and media personality.

9 of 20

Nicki Minaj

Rising to prominence in the late 2000s, Minaj revolutionized the rap landscape with her electrifying presence, versatile flow, and larger-than-life persona. Her debut album, Pink Friday, propelled her to superstardom, earning critical acclaim and commercial success.

10 of 20

Nikki D

There are certain irrefutable truths when it comes female empowerment in the culture, Specifically, who holds the title as the first women signed to Def Jam: Nikki D.

Within a short period of time, Nikki released her debut single, "Daddy's Little Girl," which shot to the top of the Billboard Rap Charts.

11 of 20

MC Lyte

Lyte As A Rock, Lyte's debut album, marks the first full-length album by a female MC.

Lyte's debut single, 1987's Audio Two-produced "I Cram To Understand You"/"Take It Lyte" was an instant hit with its hard stripped down drums, and its metaphoric tale of her boyfriend Sam who was in love with "Ms. C," who it was revealed at the end of the song as crack. The drug in many ways changed Hip-Hop, and started to ravage the streets of urban America three years prior to Lyte's debut

12 of 20

Monie Love

After relocating to New York City in 1989, Monie Love connected with the Jungle Brothers; and it threw her into the mix with the Native Tongues collective. That crew included stars like A Tribe Called Quest, The Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, Queen Latifah, and now, Monie. Love's breakout appearance in the U.S. would be a scene-stealing guest verse on Latifah's hit "Ladies First." She would also guest on De La Soul's "Buddy," the Jungle Brothers' "Doin' Our Own Dang;" and Baby Bam of the J.B.'s would agree to help produce Monie's debut album. 

13 of 20

Salt N Pepa

Salt, Pepa, Spinderella, and Hurby "Luv Bug" Azor were the masterminds behind the album, Very Necessary, creating iconic hits like "Shoop," "Whatta Man" featuring En Vogue, and "None of Your Business." While their previous works had already established them as formidable forces, Very Necessary set them apart, further establishing them as pop stars.

14 of 20

Gangsta Boo

As a member of the Oscar-winning group Three 6 Mafia, Gangsta Boo played an instrumental role in the sound of Memphis and southern Hip-Hop, alongside Three 6 members Juicy J, DJ Paul, Crunchy Black, Koopsta Knicca and, Lord Infamous.

15 of 20

Da Brat

Da Brat's debut album, Funkdafied, showcased her unique style and earned her the distinction of being the first solo female rapper to go platinum.

Her significance lies in her role as a pioneering force for female representation in Hip-Hop, challenging gender norms and paving the way for future generations of women in the male-dominated industry.

16 of 20

Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes

Even within TLC, such a boldly innovative group, Left Eye stood out as her own voice. Her unique style and unrestrained persona would come to be touchstones for the next wave of pop divas: everyone from Cardi B to Nicki Minaj has shouted-out the influence of Lisa Lopes.

17 of 20


In 1996, Bahamadia dropped her debut album Kollage through Chrysalis/EMI Records at a time when hyper-sexualized rappers such as Foxy Brown and Lil Kim were just beginning their ascent and laying the blueprint for Nicki Minaj and Cardi B to follow decades later. Stark, honest, and unapologetic, Bahamadia gave backpackers someone to look up to.

18 of 20


Emerging onto the scene in the late 1990s, Eve swiftly captivated audiences with her distinctive flow, unwavering lyricism, and unapologetic authenticity. As one of the few prominent female MCs of her era, Eve shattered stereotypes and blazed trails, showcasing her prowess not only through her dynamic rhymes but also through her empowering presence.

Her debut album, Let There Be Eve...Ruff Ryders' First Lady, solidified her as a force to be reckoned with, earning her a Grammy Award and setting the stage for a groundbreaking career.

19 of 20


On March 14, 1991, Yo-Yo emerged with a warning — "don't try to play me out."

The L.A. native and mentee of Ice Cube, arrived on the scene, fierce and full of pointed ideology which she readily expressed on her debut, Make Way for the Motherlode. The project was led by the single, "You Can't Play With My Yo-Yo" produced by Sir Jinx and Ice Cube and featuring a prominent sample of Earth Wind & Fire's "Devotion." Immediately, Yo-Yo lets it be known that she's an "intelligent Black woman," an ideology she'd continue with her crew, IBWC, Intelligent Black Woman's Coalition, throughout her career as an activist.

20 of 20


With razor-sharp wit and an unparalleled ability to craft intricate narratives, Rapsody transcends the boundaries of traditional rap, delivering verses that resonate with profound depth and sincerity. What sets Rap apart is not only her remarkable skill on the mic but also her unwavering dedication to uplifting her community and empowering women in a male-dominated industry.


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