100 of the greatest songs by women in hip hop

Best female rappers

It opens with Erykah Badu rhyming over a beatbox from Rahzel, and closes with Missy Elliot threatening to slap you right across your melon. We’ve put together a 100-deep playlist for this month’s Hip Hop and R&B Retrospective, celebrating women in rap by spotlighting some of our favourites from the 80’s (Roxanne Shante, Queen Latifah, J.J. Fad) right through to now (Sampa the Great, Rapsody).

From Missy Elliot and Eve to Mia X and Gangsta Boo, the Spotify playlist is part of an ongoing exploration of hip hop and R&B which The AU Review started last month.

The playlist will change “theme” every few weeks to highlight the incredible diversity these styles have been bringing to music for decades. Last month was simply “Editor’s Choice – Hip Hop”, while next month we’ll be focusing on some of our favourite R&B tracks from the 90’s onwards (otherwise it’d just be a Sam Cooke playlist – that’s for another time).

And don’t worry hip hop fans, we respect the art and the community so there is absolutely zero trace of anything even remotely related to Bhad Bhabie. No minstrels allowed.

As a preview, here are six selections from the playlist.

Eve Feat. Alicia Keys | “Gangsta Lovin”

Eve had a string of hits during this time of her career, emerging as the real hitmaker of the Ruff Ryders after The Lox shifted into the background and DMX’s status as hip hop’s top contender started to hit a rough patch.

Tokyo Jetz Feat. Plies | “Six Flags”

I’m genuinely shocked this hasn’t become one of those viral “TikTok” songs yet. Florida rapper Tokyo Jetz did release this last year before the Gen-Z social media platform really took off, but if Megan thee Stallion’s “Ratchet” blew up on the platform, there’s no reason Jetz’s label boss T.I shouldn’t be trying to flood influencers with this.

Lil’ Kim Feat. Lil’ Cease | “Crush On You”

Lil’ Kim has plenty of timeless songs, but nothing makes fans as hype as when the beat for “Crush On You” kicks off. Though Lil’ Cease starts off the track with a quotable verse, Kim was quick to make it known that she was the star of this show.

Yo-Yo | “Can You Handle It”

Coming up under the guidance of Ice Cube, Yo-Yo remains one of South Central’s finest and fiercest rappers. Her quick wit and flexible flow quickly clashed with the big dogs of gangster rap in the 90’s, an environment rife with misogyny which added fuel to the fire and birthed the Intelligent Black Woman’s Coalition.

Queen Latifah | “Nature of a Sista”

The most obvious top spot when talking about the best female rappers of all time would go to Lauryn Hill, but it’s not that simple. There are plenty of reasons why Queen Latifah should occupy the top spot on the frequently contested “top 5” list, and this is one of them.

Sampa the Great Feat. Krown | “Time’s Up”

While it may be early days for Sampa the Great, the Melbourne-based rapper is quickly perking ears around the globe thanks to her pristine, forceful style reminiscent of greats like Lauryn Hill, Bahamadia and Jean Grae. Her new single, “Time’s Up”, with fellow Melbourne rapper Krown validates all that hype, with a highly symbolic music video that throws it back to the shiny suit era of rap and the eye-popping visuals of the likes of Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliot

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is an Editor-At-Large at the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.