The 10 Best Female Rappers

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I can't imagine hip-hop without the ladies. Rappers like Queen Latifah, Missy Elliott and Lauryn HIll have introduced game-changing elements to hip-hop culture and continue to influence the new generation of emcees -- male or female. And they did with pure skills and savvy. Here are the greatest female rappers of all time.

Can you imagine hip-hop without the ladies? Rappers like Queen Latifah, Missy Elliott and Lauryn HIll have introduced game-changing elements to hip-hop culture and continue to influence the new generation of emcees -- male or female. And they did with pure skills and savvy. Here are the greatest female rappers of all time.


Eve (Eve Jihan Jeffers).

Before she went all Hollywood on us, Eve was running the game with her Ruff Ryders comrades. Anthems like "Satisfaction," "Gangsta Lovin'" and "Let Me Blow Your Mind" showcased her unique ability to appeal to a broad audience without losing her edge. Eve left to pursue acting, making her box-office debut in 2002's XX. She also starred in Barbershop and The Cookout. But the self-named "pitbull in a skirt" couldn't stay away from her first love for too long. In 2013, she staged a feisty comeback with the solid Lip Lock.

Da Brat

Da Brat (Shauntae Harris) Da Brat © So So Def.

Da Brat was discovered by Jermaine Dupri in 1992. At the time, there were only a handful of female rappers doing work. Still, the Chicago native proved unstoppable. Da Bra-ta-ta sidestepped the sexually charged image of the Foxy Browns and the Lil Kims, relying instead on her double-time flow and dashing delivery. The approach was good enough to make her debut, 1994's Funkdafied, the first platinum-selling album by a female solo rapper.

Foxy Brown

Foxy Brown (Inga Marchand) Foxy Brown &copy Def Jam / Tony Duran.

Foxy Brown logged a slew of memorable guest spots early in her career. Before she ever released an album she was dropping jewels on LL Cool J's "I Shot Ya" and Jay-Z's "Ain't No N***a," none of which would've sounded the same without Fox Boogie's catchy couplets. Her impressive cameo run launched a bidding war in the mid-90s, with Def Jam winning her signature. Brown's proper introduction, 1996's Ill Na Na, featured some of the biggest names in rap and sold over a million copies.

Jean Grae

Jean Grae (Tsidi Ibrahim) Jean Grae &copy Blacksmith.

With several solid releases under her belt, South African-born, New York-bred rapper Jean Grae has been spinning heads for more than a decade now. What makes Grae stand out from the pack is her combination of wit and substance. Whether poking fun at herself on "Going Crazy" or rhyming about loyalty and dedication on "My Crew," Jean Grae does it all with supreme skill.

In 2005, Jean hooked up with producer 9th Wonder for a full length collaboration dubbed Jeanius, one of the best collaborative hip-hop albums ever.

Lil' Kim

Lil' Kim (Kimberly Denise Jones) Lil' Kim &copy Atlantic Records.

Lil' Kim's The Naked Truth was the first album by a female rapper to receive the prestigious 5 mics award from The Source. In hindsight, the award was well deserved. Kim's influence still looms large. Since her Hard Core debut in 1996, Kim has spawned a handful of emulators eager to replicate her libidinous lyrics and in-your-face attitude. When it's all said and done, Queen Bee will go down as one of the most influential rappers of all time.

Rah Digga

Rah Digga (Rashia Fisher) Rah Digga &copy Elektra.

Rah Digga first showcased her lyrical tenacity by dropping verses here and there as a member of Busta Rhymes' Flipmode Squad. Digga eventually solidified her place with her first full-length, the electrifying Dirty Harriet. Rah's ability to craft commercially viable tracks while still dropping hardcore gems makes her stick out from the rest. And as her audacious Classic LP proved, she still hasn't lost a step.

Missy Elliott

Missy Elliott (Melissa Arnette Elliott) Missy Elliott &copy Elektra.

Missy Elliott is not only one of the best in the business, she's also one of the most versatile hip-hop artists of all time. A multi-faceted entertainer, Missy writes, raps, sings, crafts beats and directs music videos. Speaking of which, her music videos are some of the most innovative visuals in the game. To crown it all, no other woman has ever been able to match Missy's commercial success — the Virginia native is the only female rapper with six platinum-certified albums.

Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah (Dana Elaine Owens) Queen Latifah &copy Sacks & Co.

Queen Latifah couldn't have picked a more appropriate moniker. Thanks to her brilliant mesh of social commentary and lyrical wizardry, this queen had no problem attracting a cult-like following from the jump. Latifah was one of the first rappers to demand respect and gender equality in hip-hop. Who can forget the Grammy-winning "U.N.I.T.Y." (from Black Reign), in which she made it clear that calling her the B-word is a quick way to get "punched dead" in the face?

MC Lyte

MC Lyte (Lana Michele Moorer) MC Lyte &copy

Ask an average hip-hop fan who the greatest rapper of all time is, you're more than likely to get about 10 different answers. Now, switch the question to "Who's the best female rapper of all time?" and, alas, you're more than likely to end up with the same answer 9 out of 10 times: MC Lyte.

MC Lyte changed hip-hop's portrait of a female rapper without changing her outfit. She cloaked her style in dignity, integrity, and best of all, superiority. Lyte could run circles around most of her peers — male or female. Her deft wordplay, swift delivery, butter-smooth flow make her the undeniable queen of hip-hop.

Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill.

Lauryn Hill was already in contention for the crown long before winning five Grammys for her debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. As one-third of the Fugees, L' Boogie quickly established herself as the most talented artist of the crew. By seamlessly blending jaw-dropping lyricism with social commentary, Hill helped make The Score the centerpiece of the Fugees' catalog and, more significantly, an undeniable hip-hop classic.

On her own Miseducation..., though, Lauryn delivered the best fusion of hip-hop and R&B hip-hop has witnessed in a long time. Her brilliant writing flourished from song to song, whether grappling with spirituality ("Final Hour," "Forgive Them, Father") or stroking sexuality without exploiting it ("Nothing Even Matters").