meta-script5 Women Essential To Rap: Cardi B, Lil' Kim, MC Lyte, Sylvia Robinson & Tierra Whack |
Photo of (L-R): Cardi B, MC Lyte, Tierra Whack, Lil' Kim, and Sylvia Robinson
(L-R): Cardi B, MC Lyte, Tierra Whack, Lil' Kim, and Sylvia Robinson

Source Photos (L-R): Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy; Josh Brasted/FilmMagic; Scott Dudelson/Getty Images; Theo Wargo/Getty Images; Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images


5 Women Essential To Rap: Cardi B, Lil' Kim, MC Lyte, Sylvia Robinson & Tierra Whack

In honor of Women’s History Month, explores the thriving world of female rap, highlighting some of the culture-shifting women who have changed the course of the genre and spotlighting one artist who is moving the genre forward.

GRAMMYs/Mar 4, 2022 - 08:00 am

Women have always been essential to rap and, today, they’re getting their deserved recognition more than ever before. The world of female rap has continuously contributed to the genre’s sound, fashion, commercial success — not just in comparison to their male counterparts, but across the genre as a whole — increasing its global impact.

The lyrical prowess of early pioneers such as MC Sha-Rock and MC Lyte demanded respect in a male-dominated industry, while rappers such as Queen Latifah, Monie Love and Yo-Yo advanced conscious hip-hop and confronted misogyny. Salt-N-Pepa owned their sex appeal, while Lil’ Kim introduced a feminine perspective to a sex-positive narrative that had previously been controlled by men.  

The current and future landscape of women in rap appears even brighter. Gone is the genre’s unwritten rule that only one female superstar can exist at a time, and women are thriving in new ready-to-be-conquered rap territory. In 2020, Nicki Minaj and Doja Cat’s "Say So (Remix)" topped the Billboard Hot 100, marking the first time a female rap collaboration led the chart. That same year, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s "WAP" broke the record for the biggest debut steaming week in U.S. history. Today, more women rappers are finding success than ever before — from City Girls and Latto, to Saweetie and Flo Milli. 

In honor of Women’s History Month, highlights some of the pioneering, culture-shifting women who have changed the course of rap and one promising up-and-comer who is at the forefront of the genre’s future.

MC Lyte: The first GRAMMY-nominated female hip-hop artist and first woman to release a solo rap album

A 16-year-old MC Lyte broke onto the rap scene with the single, "I Cram To Understand U (Sam)" in 1987. The following year, she released her debut album, Lyte As A Rock, becoming the first female rapper to release a solo album.

Lyte’s first three albums spawned hits like "Cha Cha Cha," "Paper Thin," "10% Dis" and "Poor Georgie." In 1993, the acclaimed anthem "Ruffneck" became Lyte’s third No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart and was certified gold, making her the first female rapper to achieve the feat. "Ruffneck" was also nominated for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 36th GRAMMY Awards in 1994, designating Lyte as the first-ever GRAMMY-nominated woman rapper.

MC Lyte’s conscientious records and classic hits drew critical acclaim and commercial success, making her an influence on female rap for generations to come. A true pioneer, she was honored with the I Am Hip Hop Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 BET Hip Hop Awards.

Sylvia Robinson: Sugar Hill Records founder and "Mother of Hip-Hop"  

Rightfully nicknamed the "Mother of Hip Hop," Sylvia Robinson helped push rap into the public music arena. Robinson started out as a chart-topping R&B singer, releasing "Love Is Strange" in 1956 with her duo, Mickey & Sylvia. After a solo singing and songwriting career, Robinson founded Sugar Hill Records in the 1970s. With the label, she assembled Harlem rap trio the Sugarhill Gang and produced their 1979 hit, "Rapper’s Delight," which went on to be the first rap single to break the Billboard Hot 100 Top 40.

Besides having a hand in one of hip-hop’s first hits, Robinson was also instrumental in one of the genre’s most impactful records. In 1982, she co-produced "The Message" for Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. The track broke ground lyrically — detailing the gritty realities of growing up in poverty — and creatively, as it was the first rap song where the DJ was not involved in its creation, setting the stage for MCs to become the stars of hip-hop. In an interview, Grandmaster Flash conceded that without Robinson’s insistence and direction, "The Message" would never have been created.

Lil’ Kim: The "Queen of Rap" who reinvented hip-hop fashion

Salt-N-Pepa introduced feminist sex appeal to hip-hop, but Lil’ Kim took it a step further. The Brooklyn native burst onto the rap scene in 1996 with her solo debut album Hard Core, quickly gaining attention with her raunchy lyrics and feminine style. Prior to Kim, rappers like Queen Latifah and MC Lyte had gained entry to the male-dominated hip-hop space with masculine swagger and fashion. Choosing instead to steal the spotlight with jaw-dropping and sexy styles, Kim created a new avenue for women rappers — owning their sexuality — which is still mimicked today.

"[Lil' Kim]  was the first time for me that I saw that much sexiness in female hip-hop," Trina, whose own explicit lyrics catapulted her to success in the late '90s and early 2000s, recounted in "The Real Queens of Hip-Hop," TV special. "She created and started that." 

Kim also pushed the boundaries for female rap music success. Her debut album Hard Core debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard 200, the highest-ranking debut for a woman MC at the time. Kim was also the first female rapper to have three consecutive No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot Rap Tracks chart; her GRAMMY-winning collaboration with Christina Aguilera, P!nk and Mýa, "Lady Marmalade," was the best-selling single of 2001.

Cardi B: Pushing female rap to new commercial heights

Cardi B’s commercial success ushered in a new era of mainstream domination and profitability for female rappers. Creating her own celebrity through social media and reality TV, the Bronx native made history with her 2018 debut album, Invasion of Privacy. The record was the best-selling female rap album of the 2010s and won Best Rap Album at the 61st GRAMMY Awards in 2019, making Cardi the first solo female rapper to win the award. Her breakout hit, 2017’s "Bodak Yellow," also became the first diamond-certified single by a woman rapper. She’s since tacked on two other diamond records: Maroon 5’s "Girls Like You" and "I Like It" featuring Bad Bunny and J. Balvin.

Cardi’s commercial success, brand partnerships and social media appeal helped break hip-hop’s one woman superstar at a time mold by proving female rap’s lucrative potential to the masses. As Cardi tweeted in 2019, "I didn’t say I pave[d] the way for female rappers, but I deff gave the hood and women hope. Nikkas wasn’t collabing with female rappers. Labels where [sic] signing female rappers and putting them in a shelf and not focusing on them, not giving them proper attention… How many female rappers before me where [sic] getting chances or getting pushed? They wasn’t believing and now they are!"

Tierra Whack: Rising rap artist leading the next generation 

Tierra Whack continues to push the envelope with both her eclectic style and lyrics. At a time when sex-positive femcees rule the charts, Whack instead leads with creativity and quirkiness. Innovative and wildly eccentric music videos ( à la Missy Elliott) are an artistic staple for the 26-year-old, who earned her first GRAMMY nomination for Best Music Video with her 2017 "Mumbo Jumbo" visual.

Whack first gained fame for her freestyling and battle rap skills in her native Philadelphia , but her 15-minute debut album, Whack World, skyrocketed her to viral acclaim. By blurring genre lines — most recently through her Rap?, Pop? and R&B? EPs —Whack is poised to remain at the forefront of hip-hop’s future and brings a fresh wave of variety and uniqueness to the female rap landscape.

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Wendy Carlos sits in front of a keyboard and modular synths at work in her New York City recording studio, October 1979.
Wendy Carlos at work in her New York City recording studio, October 1979.

Photo: Leonard M. DeLessio/Corbis via Getty Images


5 Essential Women Synth Icons: From 'Tron' Composer Wendy Carlos To LCD Soundsystem's Nancy Whang

Women have long used the synthesizer to create new sonic worlds and inspire the next generation. Read on for five pioneering artists, including Suzanne Ciani and Gillian Gilbert, who have created a unique sound with synths.

GRAMMYs/Mar 28, 2024 - 04:08 pm

A synthesizer is a revolutionary musical instrument that creates (synthesizes) a wide variety of sounds using electricity and a combination of different frequencies. 

The synthesizer now exists in many different forms, but really soared to fame in the '70s and '80s, powered by visionary women. Born from the 1922 debut of the Theremin, an invention popularized by pioneer Clara Rockmore, the synthesizer has since become a staple across all musical genres.

In 1964, Bob Moog introduced the first modular voltage-controlled synthesizer and radically changed the sound and composition of music — the Moog Modular remains one of the most sought-after synths to this day. It was another female synth pioneer, Wendy Carlos, then a music composition graduate student at Columbia University, who worked closely with Moog to refine and develop his iconic namesake synth. Six years later, Carlos brought the Moog to a much wider audience with her GRAMMY-nominated debut hit album, Switched-On Bach.

Thanks to producers like Giorgio Moroder, who transformed disco with space-age sounds on Donna Summer's 1977 dance hit "I Feel Love," synths — then still bulky, complex and incredibly expensive — burrowed their way into popular music. Synths became essential instruments in the burgeoning sounds of the '80s with new wave, synth-pop, house, and techno bringing them to different audiences.

Read on to learn about five women synthesizer legends of past and present: pioneering synth composers Wendy Carlos and Suzanne Ciani, New Order's Gillian Gilbert, LCD Soundsystem's Nancy Whang, Nation of Language's Aidan Noell.

These are not the only women who've made the synthesizer their own and used it to bring us to new sonic worlds and inspire the next generation of pioneering artists, but they are essential names you should know. (Check out the 2021 documentary Sisters with Transistors for further learning.)

Suzanne Ciani

Dubbed the "diva of the diode," Suzanne Ciani is a pioneering electronic composer and modular synth wizard. She's been active since the late-60s creating countless unforgettable and otherworldly sounds with synths, from the iconic Coca-Cola fizz sound to experimental ambient music with younger generations of electronic composers such as Jonathan Fitoussi and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. Ciani performs mesmerizing live modular synth shows, and back in 1980, blew David Letterman's mind with her trippy demonstration of the legendary Prophet-5 synth and her vocoder setup.

In 1968, while getting her Master's degree in composition at UC Berkeley, Ciani met Don Buchla, the creator of the keyboard-less Buchla analog modular synthesizer. She went on to work with his company after graduation, soldering synth parts so she could afford her own Buchla synth. While working there, she asked the founder to teach her and her fellow curious coworkers synth lessons, but after the first class, Buchla told her they didn't want women in the class. The blatant sexism didn't stop Ciani, who put out her debut album in 1970 and moved to New York City in 1974 with her Buchla, soon after landing solo performance gigs at art galleries.

Her groundbreaking career revolutionized sounds in music, advertising, and entertainment. In addition to her iconic Coke sound, she composed jingles for AT&T, General Electric, Energizer and other major companies, as well as sound effects for a Star Wars disco album, and used her vocoded voice to give sound to the Xenon pinball game. Over the years she's put out tons of studio and live albums and has earned five GRAMMY nominations in the Best New Age Album category, demonstrating the genre represents so much more than flutes and chimes.

Wendy Carlos

You can't talk about synthesizers without talking about the GRAMMY-winning pioneering electronic composer Wendy Carlos

Long before Kim Petras became the first openly trans woman to take home a GRAMMY for "Unholy" with Sam Smith in 2023, Carlos took home three golden gramophones for her debut album Switched-On Bach in 1970 (nine years before she came out as trans). The groundbreaking album consists of short pieces of Bach's music played on the then-new Moog synthesizer, an electronic instrument she helped develop with Bob Moog, that would radically change the sound of popular music forever. All three of her Switched-On Bach wins were in the classical category, including Classical Album of the Year and Best Engineered Recording, Classical.

Switched-On Bach was a true labor of love and a smash hit. Working with classical musician Rachel Elkind, Carlos spent over 1,100 hours in the studio — synths then could only play one note at a time. After it was released in October 1968, it hit No. 10 on the Billboard 200 and held the No. 1 spot on the Classical Albums chart for a whopping three years. It introduced people to the future of synthesized music, and also brought new listeners into classical music. Eighteen years later, it was certified platinum by the RIAA, the first synthesized album and only the second classical album to do so.

When Carlos was working on The Well-Tempered Synthesizer, a classical synth album featuring Bach, Beethoven and others, she read A Clockwork Orange and found that her music fit the book's dystopian eeriness of the book. She shaped "Timesteps" to fit the story and sent it to director Stanley Kubrick, who hired Carlos and her long-time producer Elkind to create the soundtrack for his film adaptation of the book. 

The trio reunited in 1980 for The Shining soundtrack. Carlos also composed the 1982 Tron soundtrack on the Moog and a Crumar General Development System (GDS), an early keyboard synthesizer workstation, of which only 10 were made.

Gillian Gilbert

In 1980, Gillian Gilbert joined iconic British new wave band New Order in its creation after the tragic loss of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis. She was brought on as the second guitarist to support lead guitarist Bernard Sumner, who was taking on singing duties.

She was one of the handful of talented women working behind-the-scenes at Manchester's Factory Records. She was just 19, in college studying graphic design, working at Factory Records and playing guitar in a punk band. 

She didn't yet know how to play keys or song write, so she took piano lessons and learned to read music. Inspired by their experience in the New York club scene, the band wanted to experiment with synthesizers and programmed music and she played a pivotal role in their groundbreaking sonic exploration.

"There was always a lot of the typical: 'Oh, are you the singer?' No, I’m not the singer, I play instruments. But I never got that [sexism] at Factory Records," Gilbert said in "I Thought I Heard You Speak: Women at Factory Records." 

"There was never anything about macho blokes. We were all one, and I wasn’t any different to anybody else, and the whole Factory thing was like that. There were a lot of women in Factory that gave as good as they got. It was never us and them – it was all just one big family."

In 1983, New Order and Factory Records hit gold with "Blue Monday," a pivotal club track that brought the punk and disco kids together — and the best-selling 12-inch of all time. Clocking in at seven-and-a-half minutes, it was the band's (very successful) attempt to make a completely electronic track.

"It was my job to program the entire song from beginning to end, which had to be done manually, by inputting every note. I had the sequence all written down on loads of A4 paper Sellotaped together the length of the recording studio, like a huge knitting pattern. But I accidentally left a note out, which skewed the melody," Gilbert told The Guardian about "Blue Monday" in 2013.

In 1991, Gilbert and New Order drummer Stephen Morris started side project The Other Two, releasing dance pop bop "Tasty Fish," two albums and a lot of music for TV. The two have been married since 1994 and, when the band was working on 2001's Get Ready, their second child, then just an infant, was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder. Gilbert left the band to care for her, and was replaced with Phil Cunningham.

Gilbert rejoined the band to record 2016's Music Complete, a welcome return to the dancefloor-ready synth pop they pioneered in the '80s. 

Nancy Whang

In 2002, James Murphy released his debut single as LCD Soundsystem, "Losing My Edge" and needed to quickly form a band to play the gigs he'd been getting booked for off of its success. When he called on his NYC scene friend Nancy Whang to join LCD Soundsystem, her musical experience consisted of taking piano lessons in her youth. 

Whang worked with Murphy and the rest of the band to create timeless, brooding synth pop, evolving their sound a long way from their DIY post-punk days. Her interest in synths began with her love of new wave—the second 45 record she ever bought was from Depeche Mode.

LCD has earned a reputation for well-oiled live performance, in no small part to Whang's deft playing and captivating stage presence, offering a stellar, hypnotizing live show time after time.

Last year, she told Synth History that her favorite synths are the Moog Mavis and the Yamaha CS-80, which she usually keeps in her bedroom and that New Order's second album, 1983's Power, Corruption & Lies is one of the top three albums that transformed her.

Whang also DJs and makes music outside of the band, including groovy dance tunes with John MacLean as The Juan MacLean, one of DFA's earliest signed acts and LCD's influences. Just as her voice is a key instrument in LCD's magic equation, it's been featured in influential early-00s alternative dance tunes like Soulwax's "E Talking" and Munk's "Kick Out The Chairs." In 2022, she joined Aidan Noell, the keyboardist in rising Brooklyn synth-pop trio Nation of Language, to drop a fresh electro cover of one of the earliest Detroit proto-techno tracks, "Sharevari."

Aidan Noell

Like Gilbert and Whang, Aidan Noell is a self-taught synth master. She and her husband, Ian Devaney, along with bandmate Alex MacKay, are keeping the spirit of new wave alive with Nation of Language, their Brooklyn synth-pop outfit inspired by the likes of Talking Heads and Kraftwerk. When Noell and Devaney got married in 2018, they requested donations towards recording their debut album instead of gifts. They self-released Introduction, Presence in May 2020 and quickly started building a following that included loyal support from taste-making Los Angeles-based KCRW DJ Travis Holcombe.

Nation of Language have been touring pretty much non-stop since COVID lockdown ended, but still had time to release a sophomore album, A Way Forward, on London indie Play It Again Sam in November 2021. They kicked off 2022 by making their television debut on "The Late Show with Steven Colbert" and dropped their third album, Strange Disciple, last September.

While Devaney is the lead songwriter for Nation of Language, Noell's deft keyboard and synth skills are an essential part of their recordings and live performance. In 2021, she wrote and released her first solo music — inspired by her love of '80s deep cuts she calls "strange new wave" — on a Behringer MS1 synth, demonstrating her natural songwriting ability. She also taught herself to DJ and is actively creating a supportive community among other indie musicians, particularly with other women synth players, like Whang.

"My friend Michelle [Primiani] [was] the band Glove, she’s one of my synth icons, and she just got the Korg Prologue which is an extremely cool machine. There’s a lot about aesthetics that draws me to synthesizers which seems superficial, but there is a look and feel to certain synths that just draw me in. Ian and I would love to have a MiniMoog. We always talk about what synth we would buy if we won the lottery. We don’t play the lottery though," Noell said in 2021.

Aidan Noell bears the torch for the next generation of the ever resourceful and pioneering synth sisterhood.

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Beyonce Run The World Hero
Beyoncé at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images


Run The World: Why Beyoncé Is One Of The Most Influential Women In Music History

Relive a few of the moments that made Beyoncé the global icon she is today, from her debut with Destiny's Child in 1997 to becoming the most awarded musician in GRAMMY history in 2023.

GRAMMYs/Mar 27, 2024 - 08:15 pm

Since her debut with Destiny's Child in 1997, Beyoncé has become one of the most decorated, record-breaking artists of all time.

In 2023, Queen Bey became the artist with the most GRAMMYs in history with 32 wins, after her seventh album, RENAISSANCE, won Best Dance/Electronic Music Album. That same LP also helped Beyoncé become the first female musician to have their first seven studio albums debut at No. 1 in the United States.

Earlier this year, she became the first Black woman to top Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart with "TEXAS HOLD 'EM," the lead single from her forthcoming album, COWBOY CARTER.

Beyond her chart achievements, Beyoncé has dedicated much of her work to uplifting women and exploring the Black experience, from Destiny's Child's "Independent Women, Part 1" to 2011's "Run the World (Girls)" and her 2016 album, Lemonade.

To add to her extensive resume, Beyoncé is also an active philanthropist and businesswoman. Through her BeyGOOD charity, she has championed countless causes, including education for young girls. Earlier this year, Beyoncé launched her hair care brand, Cécred, alongside an annual student scholarship and salon grant.

Among the many ways Bey has uplifted women around the world, her message to 2020 graduates perfectly summed up her influence: "Make those power moves, be excellent."

Press play on the video above to learn more about Beyoncé's colossal career. Check back to for more new episodes of Run the World, as well as for more news on Beyoncé's highly anticipated COWBOY CARTER.

Enter The World Of Beyoncé

A collage photo of African women rappers (Clockwise from top-left): Femi One, Deto Black, Nadfiav Nakai, Candy Bleakz, Rosa Ree, Sho Madjozi
(Clockwise from top-left): Femi One, Deto Black, Nadfiav Nakai, Candy Bleakz, Rosa Ree, Sho Madjozi

Photos: Kaka Empire Music Label; Dave Benett/Getty Images for Dion Lee x htown; Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images; Slevin Salau; Asam Visuals; Harold Feng/Getty Images


10 Women In African Hip-Hop You Should Know: SGaWD, Nadai Nakai, Sho Madjozi & More

Women have been a part of African hip-hop since its onset, contributing to the genre’s foundation and evolution. These 10 female African rappers bring unique perspectives to hip-hop coming from Nigeria, Ghana and across the continent.

GRAMMYs/Mar 27, 2024 - 03:26 pm

African music has become increasingly mainstream, with Afrobeats gaining global popularity in recent years. As Burna Boy, Davido, Wizkid, and Tems have become household names, and the Recording Academy presented the inaugural Best African Music Performance award in 2024, all eyes are on Africa.

Hip-hop is a crucial thread running through Afrobeats, which also mixes traditional African rhythms with pop and dancehall. Hip-hop landed in Africa between the 1980s and 1990s, first in Senegal in 1985 and in South Africa the following decade. Over time, African hip-hop advanced from imitating American styles, to a focus on artists incorporating their own cultural experiences, languages, and social commentary.

The result was a distinctly African sound, present across the continent from West to East Africa. In Nigeria, the rap scene is almost mainstream with artists like Olamide earning a GRAMMY nomination for Best African Music Performance for his hit song with Asake; Tanzania has gained enormous respect on the international rap scene for its own "Bongo Flava." 

Women have been a part of African hip-hop since its onset, contributing to the genre’s foundation. Nazizi Hirji is known as the "First Lady of Kenyan Rap" for becoming the first successful female artist in her country at age 16. Mariam of the Malian duo Amadou and Mariam created a distinctive sound by fusing elements of hip-hop and traditional Malian music. 

Africa's hip-hop community is ever-evolving, and women are at the forefront. The following 10 African women rappers are bringing their unique voices, experiences and sounds to the scene.

Explore The Sounds Of Africa


After leaving her career as a lawyer to pursue music, the Nigerian rapper SGaWD is beginning to make her mark on the scene. Fusing elements of hip-hop and Nigerian alté, SGaWD creates a sound without restrictions. 

She released her debut EP, Savage Bitch Juice, in 2021 and collaborated with fellow Nigerian artist Somadina on flirty lead single "Pop S—." In the second single "Rude," SGaWD detailed the nuances of her romantic and sexual experiences with men. She followed this with a slew of singles, including "INTERMISSION " and "Dump All Your Worries On The Dance Floor."

Her summer anthem "Boy Toy" is a sexy and melodic blend of rap and R&B. Her comfort with sexuality goes beyond lyricism; the music video for "Boy Toy" shows her comfort and embrace of sexuality via wardrobe choices and choreography.

But it's not all sex; SGaWD is dedicated to organizing her community. In December 2023, she organized The Aquarium, a sonic experience that included performances from herself and other female rappers.

Lifesize Teddy

Mavins Records is known for producing back-to-back breakout stars — from Rema to Arya Starr — and fans now expect a new artist from them annually. When Lifesize Teddy was introduced to the scene, rapping as her alter ego PoisonBaby, she got deep. Her intro video dissected her relationship with her inner child and explored her roots in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. 

After spending three years of artist development in the Mavin Records Academy, she started her music career, by releasing two EPs in the span of four months in 2023. Her self-titled debut EP was led by the single "Hypnotic," a flirty song of sexual freedom that merges hip-hop and Afrobeats. Her second EP, POISN, featured five songs with one featuring her fellow Mavins Records artist, Magixx.

She ended last year headlining different shows in Lagos’ Detty December and is a special guest on Ayra Starr World Tour. 

Eno Barony

Ghanaian rapper Eno Barony's name reflects her aura and essence: "Eno" is Twi for mother, and quite fittingly she is referred to as "The Mother of Rap" in Ghana. Raised by missionary parents, she uses her music to spread the message that women should not be silenced. 

She has been releasing music for over a decade, with singles "Tonga," "Megye Wo Boy", "The Best," "Touch the Body," and "Do Something" gaining mainstream attention on the continent. Eno Barony released her first album in 2020 and, the following year became the first female rapper to win Best Rapper at the Ghana Music Awards. 

Her most recent album, Ladies First, captures the nuances and complexity of being a woman in Ghana and serves as a form of resistance to patriarchy. Opening track "God Is a Woman," featuring Ghanaian singer/songwriter Efya, establishes the tone: Eno is "entering every lane" even though "it’s a man’s world and she entered without a passport". 

Eno Barony continually pours vulnerability into her music. On these lead singles; "Heavy Load" and  "Don’t Judge Me" she raps about accepting her body image and addresses the culture of unconstructive criticism in the music industry, respectively. Last month, she released a new single "Good Enough," a romantic and reflective tune.

Nadai Nakai

Hailing from both Zimbabwe and South Africa, Nadai Nakai has been a fixture in the African rap scene for over a decade. She was the first female rapper to win the Mixtape 101 competition on the hip-hop show, "Shiz Niz."   

A mentee of pioneering Kenyan hip-hop artist Nazizi, Nakai released her first single "Like Me" under Sid Records in September 2013. The rightfully braggadocious song detailed her many talents and skills, wrapped in clever lyricism. She continued to release a slew of singles, including "Naaa Meaan" (a collaboration with Casper Nyovest, a South African male rapper), which garnered over 1 million views. Her debut album, Nadai Naked, was an ode to women making liberating choices. 

Her hip-hop and R&B-inspired songs highlight her values of female free expression and strength. Her most recent single, "Back In," announced Nakai's return to the industry after grieving the death of her boyfriend, AKA. She plans to release a tribute EP dedicated to AKA.


Deela saw a hole in the Nigerian music industry that needed to be filled. Where were the women who talked and behaved like her, with brazen confidence and an unfiltered sense of expression? 

She started making music during the pandemic lockdown, releasing singles such as the raging "Bitch Boi" and trap track "Rolling Stones." Both tracks later appeared on her debut album, Done Deel. Deela's most popular single, "Get A Grip," shows the rapper is demanding autonomy while owning her promiscuity and single life.

Deela's experimental sound includes ventures into trap, drill and more. Her 2023 album Is This On? showcased this range via UK rap-inspired "Trapstar" and straight-up hip-hop track "Take That Up" featuring Flo Milli.

She hit the ground running in 2024, releasing a collaboration with Somadina titled "Lagos" and a love-themed EP, Love Is Wicked

Deto Black

Lagos-based rapper Deto Black is an artistic polymath who dabbles in modeling, acting and photography. Her music spans hip-hop, Afrobeats, rap, pop and rock, and is becoming known in the alté scene following her collaboration with Odunsi the Engine, Amaarae and Gigi Atlantis on "Body Count." Deto’s verse on the 2020 track is  sex-positive, and encourages listeners to follow her example. 

Deto released her debut EP, Yung Everything, in 2021 and followed with singles "Nu Bag" and "Just Like Deto." At the start of 2024, she released "It’s A No From Me" featuring Chi; its music video was directed by notable alté artist Cruel Santino.

Rosa Ree

Tanzanian rapper Rosa Ree addresses the nuances of womanhood in male-dominated spaces. She entered the scene in 2016 with the goal of proving her naysayers wrong, releasing the aggressive "One Time" to dispel any notions that a woman couldn't exist in hip-hop.

In her 2022 single "I’m Not Sorry," Rosa Ree dismisses criticism and asserts that she won’t be sorry for showing her true image or voice. She also explores the unique bond between mother and child in 2023's "Mama Omollo," further showcasing the multifaceted identities of women in music.

Rosa Ree's 2024 single "In Too Deep" further showcased her introspective side by exploring themes of emotional hurt, betrayal and disappointment.

Candy Bleakz

Nigerian rapper Candy Bleakz fuses Afrobeats, amapiano and hip-hop, with heavy emphasis on street music. She started making music in 2019 and quickly began developing a community. Candy Bleakz collaborated with Zlatan and Naira Marley on "Owo Osu." 

Her resume now includes hits like "Baba Nla," "Kelegbe," "Virus", and "Kope." Her single "Won La" was even featured on the American TV series "Flatbush Misdemeanors." The most amazing thing about Candy Bleakz, though, is her courage to question the established quo and push for female representation in the infamously male-dominated street music scene.

She released her debut EP, Fire, in 2022 and raps proudly about her life and talent. On its breakout single, "Tikuku," she addresses her haters head-on. This song has garnered over 300,000 posts on TikTok going as far as eliciting a challenge in the Nigerian section of TikTok.

Candy Bleakz's second EP, Better Days, was released on March 22 and featured lead single "Para," a rap song featuring African drums, strings and chords. 

Femi One

At just 26 years old, Femi One is a renowned  Kenyan rapper and songwriter. Most of her songs are in Swahili and Sheng — a unique offering as many African rappers perform in a more universal language. 

Over the past five years, Femi One has released back-to-back singles, culminating in her 2019 debut EP XXV. " Two years later, her debut album, Greatness, further detailed her wild style and personality. Tracks like "Balance" are jam-packed with witty wordplay and hidden allusions. She also taps into her gospel roots on Greatness, thanking God for her career on "Adonai."

Her latest single, "B.A," is a pure Afrobeats song that invites listeners to lose themselves in the music and positive energy by throwing open the virtual club doors. 

Sho Madjozi

This South African rapper is known for her bold aesthetic, from her rainbow-coloured hair to her bright costumes. She released her first song, "Dumi Hi Phone," in 2017 and dropped her a genre-bending debut album the following year. Limpopo Champions League explores sounds from hip-hop to EDM.

Sho Madjozi has a quirky habit of writing songs about notable individuals. Her breakout single "John Cena," a tribute to the wrestler and actor, earned her the BET award for Best New International Act in 2019. She also collaborated with Sneakbo, Robot Boi and Matthew Otis on the hit amapiano song "Balotelli," which celebrated the renowned African soccer player. 

Sho Madjozi's music is entirely intertwined with her culture; she raps in the Bantu language Xitsonga and performs traditional dances such as xibelani wearing an adapted 

xibelani skirt. The xibelani (which translates to "hitting to the rhythm") dance is native to Tsonga women, and is performed by girls on special occasions as a celebration of their culture. Sho Madjozi's use of the dance and interpretation of its clothing helps shape her region’s cultural identity.

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Shakira Run The World Hero
Shakira at the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs.

Photo: Niccolo Guasti/Getty Images


Run The World: How Shakira Became One Of The Most Influential Female Artists Of The 21st Century

In celebration of Women's History Month — and Shakira's new album, 'Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran' — take a journey through the Colombian superstar's monumental career, from making global smashes to empowering women worldwide.

GRAMMYs/Mar 20, 2024 - 07:07 pm

Over the course of nearly four decades, Shakira — born Shakira Isabel Mebarak in Barranquilla, Colombia — has become the best-selling Latin female artist of all-time, and in turn one of the most influential female artists of her time.

In honor of Women's History Month, revisit a few of the massive moments in her career that paved the way for the international market of other Latin artists.

She famously invited Latin flow to the Western music industry with her global breakthrough album, 2001's Laundry Service. Five years later, she broke the record for the most-played pop song in a week with "Hips Don't Lie."

Since the beginning, Shakira has used her powerful performances to uplift other women. Her lyrics often emphasize themes of self-reliance, independence, and female strength, most notably in her 2009 hit, "She Wolf."

More than three decades into her career, Shakira is still empowering women with more history-making feats. In 2020, she co-headlined the Super Bowl LIV halftime show alongside Jennifer Lopez, celebrating Latin culture in front of more than 100 million viewers; it's now the most-watched halftime show on YouTube, with more than 308 million views as of press time.

Now, at 47, Shakira continues to use her voice to encourage women to shape their own path, as a mother of two balancing her colossal career. Her forthcoming twelfth studio album — Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran, which translates to "Women No Longer Cry" — is a testament to that.

In celebration of Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran's March 22 arrival and Women's History Month, press play on the video above to learn more about Shakira's achievements. Check back to for more new episodes of Run The World.

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