Hip hop at 50

The next first ladies of rap

The rap girlies are having their way. Period.

Over the years, female rappers have topped the charts, but some women still struggle to be taken as seriously as their male counterparts. KenTheMan, a Houston rapper who’s taken on the moniker to illustrate that she deserves to be respected, said women face different expectations in the rap game.

“We got to be fit, we got to spit, we got to know how to dance, we got to know how to have sex appeal, and we got to know how to take pictures,” she told Andscape. “We can’t get up on stage with a belly. We can’t have a down day.”

Despite the double standards, women have continued to reach new heights in hip-hop. Vets such as Nicki Minaj, Rapsody, and Cardi B are dropping music at the same time a whole new crop of rappers such as Ice Spice, Renni Rucci, and Doechii are breaking through. For KenTheMan, it’s an exciting time to be a woman in rap.

“I feel like as female rap is becoming more on front street,” she said. “Everybody is just trying to find their way in and right now what’s hot is giving girls confidence.” 

She continued, “I just feel like it’s because women have lacked confidence by being belittled by men in the past, so it’s now when you take that control back, you talk that s—, it’s like shaking the table now.”

As we approach the 50th anniversary of hip-hop next year, we’ll continue to pay homage to the women in rap who have paved the way and the ladies who are on the scene now. We’ve curated a list (not a ranking) of some the rap girlies who are up next.


GloRilla

Standout songs: “FNF,” “Tomorrow 2

Straight from Memphis, Tennessee, GloRilla has a distinct voice and gritty sound. Although it seems like she blew up overnight, GloRilla has been putting out music for almost a decade. Rapping alongside her friends Gloss Up and K Carbon, GloRilla has proven that she can carry her own weight while flowing effortlessly alongside other artists. She broke through with the summer anthem “FNF” (which got a shout-out from Cardi B), and also got the attention of Yo Gotti and his team over at CMG. Since signing her deal, GloRilla hasn’t let up, dropping two new songs in one month, racking up millions of views, and recording a promo for the Memphis Grizzlies. GloRilla’s latest hit, “Tomorrow 2,” features Cardi B. Since its release, the song topped Apple Music’s charts, racking up more than 12 million views in just two weeks. If she continues down this path, it’s clear GloRilla is here to stay.


Kali

Standout songs: “Do a B***h,” “MMM MMM

“All gas, no breaks” is the best way to explain Kali. She’s gone viral on TikTok, amassing more than 12 million Spotify streams and 3 million views on YouTube. The Georgia native floats effortlessly on beats with melodic flows, aided by her sultry voice. At only 22, Kali delivers bars that exude confidence and remind listeners that she’s in charge, not the men around her. With every track she’s on, Kali brings a unique cadence and a nonchalant yet controlled flow. With features from Moneybagg Yo and Latto, she’s quickly becoming a favorite of veteran rappers who hop on her tracks.


Monaleo

Standout songs: “Beating Down Yo Block,” “Show You Sum

Few people make demanding your respect sound as dope as Monaleo. Draped in her signature pink, the self-proclaimed “genuine sweetheart” is not to be played with in the booth. The ability to coast on a beat, mixed with her wordplay and alliteration are just a few of Monaleo’s strengths. Though the Houston native has been dropping music for a while, she broke through with her viral 2021 hit “Beating Down Yo Block.” On this single, Monaleo showcased her ability to revive a Houston classic — Yungstar’s “Knockin’ Pictures Off Da Wall” — by making it her own. With Instagram-ready one-liners about demanding her worth, Monaleo continuously gives the streets the perfect “get in ya bag” anthems.


Flo Milli

Standout songs: “In The Party,” “May I

Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Flo Milli gained traction during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, when most of us were bored at home. But since then, she’s dropped songs such as “Roaring 20s,” and “In the Party,” that proved she had staying power. Featured heavily on the soundtrack to HBO’s Insecure, Flo Milli has been grinding for years. Her emphasis on punchlines and expressive language keeps her music exciting and fresh. Flo Milli’s confidence in her bars, coupled with her eccentric personality, shine, making it difficult to compare her with her peers.


Lakeyah

Standout songs: “Female Goat,” “Mind Yo Business

Lakeyah’s evolution has been fast-paced and fluid. Though she’s new to the game, the Milwaukee native has dubbed herself “the female GOAT.” With features from heavy hitters like Latto and the City Girls, Lakeyah’s songs offer an adrenaline rush. She’s signed to Quality Control Music (home to Migos, Lil Baby, and Cardi B), and her versatility allows her to keep popping out tracks. Her ability to transition between an energetic song demanding respect to smooth track reminiscing about unrequited love showcases her range. Lakeyah isn’t up next, she’s up now.


KenTheMan

Standout songs: “He Be Like,” “IDGAF” 

Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to KenTheMan. The Houston native — who took on the stage name of “KenTheMan” because she approaches music in the same tough and unapologetic way that men do — has been consistently dropping music for almost a decade. Often compared to Nicki Minaj by her fans, KenTheMan may share her starlike quality but she’s really in her own world. On songs like “IGDAF,” she attacks beats with exceptional breath control and a tone that demands respect. KenTheMan has been receiving attention from industry vets, thanks to her creative remixes, which demonstrate she can hold her own next to more experienced rappers.


Dess Dior

Standout songs: “Don’t Play,” “Rich B***h

With a unique sound that’s still evolving and maturing, Dess Dior is building the foundation to be the next “material gworl” (women’s version of braggadocio rap) rapper who provides good vibes, bomb looks, and catchy songs. With an Instagram following of more than 1.7 million, Dess Dior serves up the looks and the music. With songs such as “Don’t Play” and “Rich and Raw,” music fills that niche of “material gworl” rap, Dess Dior is clearly having fun, which contributes to the overall vibe of her music. Though she’s new to the game, Dess Dior has the potential to go far, especially with the right team behind her. After taking the Rolling Loud Stage in Miami this summer and popping up at Rolling Loud Toronto last month, it’s clear Dess Dior’s got next.


Baby Tate

Standout songs: “I Am,” “S.H.O.

Originally known as Yung Baby Tate, the Atlanta native has already attracted the attention of Hollywood. She was tapped by actor-director Halle Berry to be featured on the Bruised soundtrack, and signed to actress-producer Issa Rae’s record label, Raedio. Though her sound is eclectic, one thing that remains consistent is her work. Baby Tate writes and produces her own music, which always takes an inspirational tone. Positivity is her superpower, and her music is filled with sneaky affirmations. Whether she’s delivering a flurry of bars or switching it up to sing her own hooks, Baby Tate takes her art seriously.


Rico Nasty

Standout songs: “Smack a B***h,” Doja Cat’s “Tia Tamera

Rapper Rico Nasty performs at AfroPunk Atlanta at Atlantic Station Pinnacle on Sept. 26, 2021.

Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Rico Nasty has a sound of her own. Infiltrating the punk rap scene, she is a genre-bending heavy hitter who continues to carve out her own space in hip-hop. With a sound heavily influenced by punk and heavy metal, she’s developed her own style of rap known as “sugar trap.” Powered by Rico Nasty’s intense energy, her songs make it easy for every bar to be appreciated. The content of her songs balances the duality of her vulnerability and guarded demeanor. Her tracks let you in on her thoughts and what’s happening in Rico’s World, ranging from grief to bliss to disdain for relationships. With tracks that have themes as eccentric as she is, the element of surprise is what keeps Rico Nasty on music fans’ playlists.


Lady London

Standout songs: “Woosah,” “Lisa’s Story

As a New York native and Howard University grad (who also attended grad school at USC), Lady London is not your average rapper. Making her way onto the scene with her relatable flow and unique co-signs from some of music’s biggest stars such as her uncle, Chino XL, and Cardi B, consistency has been her friend. With just three years in the game, Lady London has racked up more than 50 viral videos, including her Funk Flex freestyle and multiple TV and movie credits. Lady London has continued to grow her fan base, thanks to her lyrical prowess and her live shows. She’s performed at Hot 97 Summer Jam, packed the legendary nightclub SOB’s in New York City, and hit the stage at Essence Music Festival. Her ability to stay relevant and drop heat despite still not releasing a full album proves Lady London is a force waiting to be unlocked.

Sheila Matthews is a digital producer at Andscape and a proud HBCU graduate. She believes that "Return of the Mack" should have won a Grammy and her Twitter mentions are open for any debates.