Hip-hop has long been a male-dominated space, despite the success and indisputable influence of female generational talents. From the jump, women have overcome gatekeepers and expectations, beginning with MC Sha-Rock, then via Salt-N-Pepa, Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, and more recently with Gangsta Boo, Nicki Minaj, City Girls and Noname have overcome gatekeepers and expectations. Contemporary acts such as GloRilla are continuing their efforts and reaching a demographic that had never been excessively marketed to in hip-hop: women who want to hear rap music from women.
Rap is slowly becoming a more inclusive space — with an audience that’s finally willing to carve out a space for diversity and sex-positivity for all genders — and open to a myriad of subgenres, with female rappers leading the pack. In 2021 did Cardi B became the first female rapper to acquire a diamond-certified single. Any club in America that doesn’t play Meg Thee Stallion should be considered a rarity. Ice Spice is the first female drill rapper to break into mainstream culture.
The stage has been set for a new generation of artists, largely thanks to the genderless, wide reach of social media platforms. Today, misconceptions which hide the grit of Gangsta Boo, the explicit sensuality of Lil’ Kim, and the lyrical and political expertise of Noname are beginning to dissolve. The glass ceiling has broken, giving into an exponential increase in the number of female artists: ramblers, trash talkers, storytellers and sexually-charged drill rappers.
Women are pioneering the future of hip-hop, and their styles have never been more pronounced. GRAMMY.com offers a list of 14 rising female artists that you should keep an eye on in 2023 and beyond.
Odds are, you’ve heard "Pound Town." If you haven’t, lie low for the next few minutes as the St. Louis rapper spares no detail from her sexual exploits.
Much like Lil’ Kim, Sexyy Red is not only sex-positive, but infamous: "My coochie pink, my booty hole brown, I just left Pound Town," she declares. Sexyy Red also encourages empowerment, uplifting women’s self-worth. On "Hellcat SRTs," she proclaims to her fellow compatriots: "Bad bitches, we like fast cars. We like n—s that sell drugs with fast cars."
In all seriousness, Sexyy Red is audacious, confident, and the next hottest rapper to come out of St. Louis. Keep your eyes peeled and listen to Hood Hottest Princess from earlier this year whenever you need to hype yourself up.
Ex-SURF GANG member Babyxsosa was one of the first viral rappers to breakout on TikTok during the pandemic, but her story goes much further than the bright tones and oddly-sporadic drums of "Everywhereigo." Her dainty, autotuned voice and lush soundscapes make her the Internet’s iteration of a soul singer. She’s warm and intimate, using simple lyrics in order to croon through feelings of desire and despair.
At heart, however, Babyxsosa is underground hip-hop’s Billie Eillish crossed with PinkPantheress. Beats mutate to the sound of her voice. Where her singles of the past four years have ranged from cacophonous, leady synthesizers to elevator music dapped with 808s, her recent EP, Bling Bling, is demonstrative of eery, melodic versatility, laying muted-verses to club beats, using range of different experimental digicore instrumentals to challenge herself as both a vocalist and songwriter.
Hook can’t be likened to any one sound in hip-hop. Some of her beats beep like 8-bit minigames, others are made of single oscillating synthesizer chords; generally, her production has a heartbeat that fades in and out and loops, giving each song its own life, and agitation thereafter.
The Riverside, California-raised rapper seethes in her verses, rambling out of frustration and joy and disappointment and confusion and anger and disgust and sadness and every emotion in-between. Still, Hook and her avant-garde approach to rap is erratic and hilarious and lyrically distinct in every way.
Armani Caesar is the first and only female rapper on Griselda Records, which has featured Boldy James, Mach-Hommy, Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine, Benny the Butcher and more. Like the latter three, Armani Caesar hails from Buffalo, N.Y. delivering gritty, tooth-and-nail stories of the streets, but with a bit more rhythm than a dusty ’45 record.
She incorporates pop rhythms and seeks more towards the disco-era and modern technology for a cadence that’s just a hair shy more uptempo than soul. Armani Caeser’s rhythm is infectious, but her lyrics are venomous. Look at the cover art to her single, "Diana," cover art, she’s Lil’ Kim had she hustled in Buffalo.
Though Little Simz is not necessarily a rising artist, her success has been exponential since the release of 2021’s Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. The UK grime-turned-amorphous rapper of equal parts technically flawless and lyrically awe-inspiring. Over garden party-esque orchestral swells she can deliver a poem penned to her own empowerment, but she can also rap a 16-bar verse with a live band almost breathlessly.
She’s punchy and energetic, sentimental and adamantly altruistic. A fire burns in Little Simz, and the spark is fanned with each beat of the drum.
Where hip-hop has begun to transition towards two extremes — heavy metal on one side and drumless beats on the other — Amaarae presents a hidden alternative. The Ghanaian vocalist ushers in a new conception of hip-hop, bringing an Afro pop influence that's reminiscent of Doja Cat’s debut album, Hot Pink.
Amaarae produces her own work, blending traditional Ghanaian instrumentation and polyrhythms with a digitally-created drum circle. As the music claps into double time, Amaarae’s voice speeds up and down, wavering between rapping and singing. She does it all, and after the viral success of "SAD GIRLZ LUV MONEY" and its remix with Kali Uchis, Amaarae dropped a new EP in July, Fountain Baby, scoring the scorching heat of the summer.
Creating an electronic collage of house, club, drum n bass, afro beats, and live drum breaks, Tkay Maidza exceeds the term "multi hyphenate." Whether she’s collaborating with JPEGMAFIA or Flume, Tkay creates dystopian worlds in her soundscapes, cut with screeching basslines and glitching snares. Her music is neo-R&B as she deems fit, soulfully calling on Kari Faux for over articulation on "Don’t Call Again;" it’s rage rap on the industrial track, "Grasshopper;" it’s even a derivative of EDM in her latest single, coyly titled, "Silent Assassin."
Flo Milli is the young, happy-go-lucky artist within this new crop of talent. Her voice is an alto and her lyrics are just conceited enough to radiate excellence while delivering some of hip-hop’s most clever remixes for Gen Z listeners.
Whether she’s rapping to Ethereal’s beat on Playboi Carti’s "Beef" or to Too $hort’s "Blow the Whistle," Flo's enfranchising rhymes drive confidence and sexual prowess into her listeners. On "Roaring 20s," she playfully takes on the role of Daisy from The Great Gatsby, fascinated by ragtime-inspired production and men who would give up anything to spend a few minutes with her. That’s the magic of Flo Milli: she’s animated, fluidly jumping to whatever style and aesthetic she deems worthy of her exhibition.
In her many lives, CLIP has graduated from NYU, had a flourishing career in journalism, and ended up in Los Angeles amongst the next generation of Soundcloud artists. Her music is a melting pot of these cultures and influences. On her recent PERCEPTION EP, she includes drum n bass-inspired beats on songs like "Happy;" her breakout single, "SAD B!TCH," border on cloud rap with their ethereal mixing; her recent single, "sunset blvd" incorporates the croons of emo rap. CLIP has already become a rising star without releasing a single full-length project.
Her voice is soft and melodic like Babyxsosa and her production matches the mild psychedelia of Hook’s use of filter. CLIP incorporates the downtempo eeriness of Houston chopped-and -screw tapes, drowning out her own braggadocio through internet-coded soundscapes.
Hailing from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, TiaCorine has the swagger of a Gangsta Boo, coloring her lyrics with braggadocio and slick, staccato phrasing. Her instrumentation is wavy and pompous, featuring warped 808s and the glossy sparkle of xylophones and high-pitched synths.
TiaCorine stands out for the way she meshes her Southern cadence with disjointed, bubblegum beats, drum machine hi-hats and Jersey club-style kicks. She’s erratic yet sweet; she’s cutesy like pluggNB yet arrogant like JT and Yung Miami.
Compared to Hook or CLIP or Babyxsosa, Vayda would be their prodigal child of the forthcoming generation of digital media consumers, aiming for an even more stimulating derivative of industrial hip-hop: hyperrap. Vayda creates starkly genreless hip-hop, jumping from Jersey club to sample-based beats to trap hi-hats for short, digestible tracks typically landing at under 90 seconds. Her music is uptempo and comes in waves of focused attention, etched with sporadic bass drum kicks similar to Evilgiane’s in SURF GANG and Cash Cobain’s hyper focused, sample drill 808 patterns.
Vayda isn’t concerned with regionalism and having a sound attributable to any one place. Her beats sparkle and shimmer, they dash like bodies towards the DJ at a club, and Vayda is at the forefront, leading the new school.
Akin to the Southern, tongue-twisting legend Young Thug, Doechii’s vocal inflections twist and contort, wringing out sonically and lyrically emotive verses. For the Tampa-born artist's stuffy intonation squirms in your ear on tracks such as "Stressed," and genuinely evoke the emotion.
Alongside labelmates Isaiah Rashad and SZA at TDE, Doechii stretches her syllables for zig-zagging hooks against everything from double-time drums on "Crazy" to dancehall on "Persuasive."
Bktherula is hip-hop’s response to grunge and punk rock. Her aesthetic varies from neon colored braids to skull tees, each in a slightly different shade of black. The Atlanta rapper references punk's yearning screams and whispers in her own groaned melodies on songs such as "Tweakin’ Together" and "FOREVER, PT. 2 (JEZEBEL)."
On tracks such as "TAN," however, that Bktherula’s music matches the aggression of punk, using warbling synthesizers and arcade-sounding, drive-heavy snare. Bktherula flexes, showcasing not only technique but preemptively taunting anyone with the audacity to diss her.
Last but certainly not least is America’s most talked about drill rapper since Pop Smoke (RIP). Arriving from the Bronx, Ice Spice became popular after coining the term "munch," referring to selfless, sexually-pleasing men. Her sex appeal, her gospel of female empowerment and her creative free-spirit enabled by SpongeBob SquarePants samples and Zedd flips, puts Ice Spice as the queen of virality in 2023.
How is she wielding her superstardom? With now-refined drill beats, melodic collaborations with UK-sensation PinkPantheress, and working with some of the most influential women in hip-hop from New York — including her idol-turned-peer, Nicki Minaj.
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