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Female MCs

Music | By The Top 13 on March 30, 2010

Late last year, rapper of the moment Drake called his Young Money colleague and Lil Wayne protégé Nicki Minaj "the best female rapper alive" after watching her freestyle during a BET awards ceremony. But does Minaj rank even close to as highly as Drake suggested? We went back and listened to albums and guest appearances by just about every notable female MC to answer that question. The short answer is that Drake needs a hip hop history lesson. For the long answer, here are the Top 13 Female MCs of all time.

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Jean Grae

1

Jean Grae

With four proper solo albums under her belt, this South African-born and New York-raised rapper has earned her place near the top of any list of the best MCs - gender notwithstanding. Her stunning collaboration with former Little Brother producer 9th Wonder was nearly shelved after an internet leak, but Jeanius thankfully received a proper release in 2008. With a classic New York flow, whip-smart lyrics, and a relentless cadence, Grae deserves far more success.

MC Lyte

2

MC Lyte

For years the undisputed best female rapper, Lyte has plenty of competition these days, yet remains firmly entrenched near the top of this list. Regularly releasing music for over 20 years, Lyte - known for her smooth, confident flow and complicated wordplay - blazed a trail for most everyone else on this list. When she rapped "I'm the dopest female that you've heard thus far" in her 1989 classic "Cha, Cha, Cha," there was no hyperbole.

Lauryn Hill

3

Lauryn Hill

Hill ranks this highly despite her bizarre disappearance from the industry. Indeed, she's released only three albums - two as a member of the Fugees and another as a solo artist, but nothing since 1998. But what Hill lacks in quantity, she more than makes up for with quality. Also a fantastic singer, her flow is unique and her lyrics are simply jaw-dropping at times.

Queen Latifah

4

Queen Latifah

Though Latifah is known more today for her film work, including her Oscar-nominated performance in Chicago, she is among the most influential female rappers of all time. Latifah advances a positive, politically conscious message in her rhymes, but does so in a charismatic, all-business style that commands respect. With hits such as "Ladies First" and "U.N.I.T.Y.," for which she won a Grammy for Best Solo Rap Performance, the Queen might be the most famous woman in hip hop.

Invincible

5

Invincible

The mere existence of this relatively unknown Detroit MC flies in the face of nearly every stereotype in hip hop – a female MC, Jewish (though fiercely critical of Israel), white, and gay. Nevertheless, Invincible's highly political, multisyllabic lyrics and ferocious delivery make her a must for this Top 13. Though she's only released one album, when she raps on her fantastic Shapeshifters that she's "striving to be one of the best period / Not one of the best with breasts and a period," it's hard not to think her goal is within reach.

Lil' Kim

6

Lil' Kim

Though she trades on her sex appeal more than any other MC on this list and got her start as the Notorious B.I.G.'s girlfriend and a member of his Junior M.A.F.I.A., this diminutive Brooklyn diva has unquestionable skills on the mic. Her fourth studio album, The Naked Truth, was the first album by a female rapper to receive five mics from The Source magazine. Kim, who spent a year in prison on perjury and conspiracy charges, has released four albums that reached the Billboard top 20.

Missy Elliott

7

Missy Elliott

The most innovative MC on this list, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott is also among the most enduring and commercially successful. Five of this Virginia-based rapper's six studio albums, each of which she co-produced with Timbaland, have gone platinum, and she's released hit single after hit single in her groundbreaking style that's never gangster, but is always forceful. Elliott also is known for her stylish and diverse videos, including for "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)," "Get Ur Freak On," and "Work it."

Rah Digga

8

Rah Digga

Around since 1991, when she joined the New Jersey-based Outsidaz crew, Rah Digga's first real exposure was her fantastic back-and-forth with Lauryn Hill on the Fugees' "Cowboys," which appears on their classic album The Score. Still, Digga didn't break until joining Busta Rhymes' Flipmode Squad and releasing her debut, Dirty Harriet in 1999. Though she hasn't officially released an album since (her sophomore effort is due this year), this oft-overlooked MC has remained relevant with frequent hard-hitting guest verses.

Remy Ma

9

Remy Ma

This Bronx native, currently serving eight years in connection with a shooting, broke onto the scene after Big Pun discovered her and brought her into Fat Joe's Terror Squad crew. She become one of just a handful of female MCs to hit number one on the Billboard singles chart with her fantastic verse in the Terror Squad's anthemic "Lean Back." While severely under-promoted, her debut album, There's Something About Remy: Based on a True Story, is Remy at her finest, spitting as hard as any MC - male or female.

Bahamadia

10

Bahamadia

Bahamadia is another fantastic MC on this list (like, for example, Jean Grae and Invincible) who has failed to achieve commercial success commensurate with her fantastic talent. She gained a devoted following on the strength of her 1996 jazzy debut, Kollage, as well as numerous song-stealing guest verses on tracks by artists such as The Roots and Talib Kweli. A fixture in the Philadelphia hip hop scene, she has a smooth, monotone delivery that's reminiscent of her mentor, Gang Starr's Guru.

Eve

11

Eve

Like Queen Latifah, Eve is more of an actress than an MC at this point, but in the late 1990s, she emerged as a raw, no-nonsense, yet commercially successful rapper. As part of the Yonkers-based Ruff Ryders label, Eve - known as "the pit bull in a skirt" - more than held her own trading verses with hardcore rappers like DMX and Jadakiss on her way to selling more than five million albums.

Monie Love

12

Monie Love

This English MC first gained notice on this side of the pond with a well-received guest verse on Queen Latifah's Grammy-winning single "Ladies First." She also joined her mentor Latifah as a member of the Native Tongues hip hop collective. Though she only released a pair of studio albums and hasn't been heard from since 2000, with clever rhymes and a positive message, Love remains highly influential.

Foxy Brown

13

Foxy Brown

Discovered at a Brooklyn talent show, Brown was signed to Def Jam when she was only 17 years old. With her raunchy lyrics and distinctive New York City flow, Brown's 1996 debut album, Ill Na Na, was a legitimate commercial success. She also joined with Nas and AZ to form The Firm, the supergroup produced by Dr. Dre. Though repeated scrapes with the law have slowed her career, Brown remains among the best and most successful female MCs around.

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Comments Leave a comment

KungFuJay ★★

Where is Ms. Melodie?

11:17 AM   Mar 30, 2010

radiowxman 

Nikki D died too early. Roxanne Shante? Yo-Yo?

12:44 PM   Mar 30, 2010

stillathreat ★★

You need to give more love to the old school. Bahamadia and Monie Love should be higher. Also, where's Lady of Rage or Yo Yo?

12:46 PM   Mar 30, 2010

Streets 

You have to give props to the first platium MC name DA BRAT from the CHI, where she at... Also, watch out for U.K.'s up and coming singer/rapper Stunna Kai she is fire as a MC and on the vocals.........

2:41 PM   Mar 30, 2010

Streets 

This countdown is sort of wack where is Trina..?

2:43 PM   Mar 30, 2010

monster_mash 

nikki d ain't dead.

7:36 PM   Mar 30, 2010

Sura 

I don't know...I completely agree with this list. Da Brat would definitely be in a top 20 but doesn't quite stack up to the ones on here.

7:51 PM   Mar 30, 2010

BANGST 

hot spittin females?! Maaaan, y'all need 2 peep CAMBURN--she might be tha BEST! http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_3020266

8:07 PM   Mar 30, 2010

Golddiggaent 

I JUST WANT TO GIVE A SPECIAL SHOUT OUT TO RAPPER KELDAMUZIK AKA DIVA, WHO'S DOIN HER THANG ON THE WEST COAST..REAL TALK, YAL ABOUT TO SEE MORE OF HER SOON

- KASH OF GOLDDIGGA ENT

3:16 AM   Apr 06, 2010

velasquezjoe 

Queen Latifah & Monie Love could be higher in rank

12:26 PM   Apr 27, 2010

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