The Evolution of The Female Rap Game: From “Lyte As a Rock” to Barbies

Female rap continues to change, but not necessarily for the better.

By: Amanda Anderson

Hip-Hop goes through continuous changes. As music evolves, so do the creative geniuses behind the music. Lyrics evolve, beats change; all we can really do is find the music that we can really connect with. And although the evolution of music is truly inevitable, one has to wonder how we got to this place exactly. And those are my exact sentiments when it comes to the female rap game. I can appreciate women stepping into the booth and writing lyrics that could make most emcees nervous. But I can’t honestly say that I am completely happy with the direction female rap has taken.

In the beginning of Hip-Hop, there were female emcees that were truly legendary. In these times, we had MC Lyte, the only woman clever enough to equate her femininity and strength to a rock. Lyte had sisters everywhere feeling as if we were “lyte as a rock.” While there may not have been many female rappers to compete with Lyte at the time, male emcees made it clear that even they were afraid to see Lyte on the mic.

Queen Latifah called for UNITY. In the early 90s, she created the female anthem that had women everywhere demanding respect. “Who you calling a…?”

This era of strength and unity lasted for a while, but the game lacked true sex appeal. Hence, Salt N Pepa were born.

While they were “Pushing It,” for the first time ever, female rappers were strong and sexy. The sexy duo continued to dominate Hip-Hop throughout the 90s before eventually going their separate ways.

Gangster Rap began to make its mark in Hip-Hop in the early 90s, and we saw the rise of one of Hip Hop’s most celebrated artists: The Notorious B.I.G. He wasn’t without his childhood posse, and the music world was introduced to Lil’ Kim.

Now we got a dose of raunchy rap at the hands of the very talented Foxy Brown, but Kim was truly in a league all by herself. She was raw, edgy, and plain out nasty. While she was nastier than most, she created some of the most legendary verses in Hip-Hop. Who doesn’t know her complete verse in “All About The Benjamins?”

In this era of music, female rap was raunchier and lacked the strong messages it once had before. No longer would we slap a man for calling us “b’s”, we were now calling ourselves queen b’s and “the baddest” b’s. We stopped rapping about self-respect and started talking about our vaginas and how great our sex was. With an album of 16 tracks, Lil’ Kim, Trina and company managed to rap about their vaginas and sex for let’s see…16 tracks.

Every now and then a gem would come into the game and remind us of why we love Hip-Hop so much. Lauryn Hill did the unthinkable in a time when female rappers heavily depended on trashy outfits and raunchy lyrics. She actually made an album of substance in which every song had a message. The world must have been hungry because she dominated the Grammy’s that year.

Eve came onto the scene with a debut album that reminded Hip-Hop heads that female emcees don’t have to just rely on sex to sell records. She made a track on domestic violence that placed her in the ranks of serious female emcees. However, she took a hiatus after three successful albums.

This brings us to Young Money’s own Nicki Minaj. Minaj is the latest sensation in the female rap game and she’s managed to invoke interesting debates on the current climate of Hip-Hop.

Minaj refers to herself and her fans as barbies. She has an unique style of rap that is heavily criticized, and uses lesbian charged appeal in the majority of her lyrics. One of the reasons Nicki has created so much buzz in the rap game is her animated persona. While this makes her memorable, it’s also made her a target of much skepticism. Minaj has yet to release an album, but it’s clear that she could be very well be the next big thing in Rap.

Personally, it is a little harder for me to connect to the new generation of female emcees. All they rap about are their vaginas, money, and how great their sex is. And it’s virtually impossible for me to sit through 12+ tracks of meaningless lyrics. I just can’t relate to the “Barbie Movement,” when I have been a queen for all these years.

Some might say it’s not that serious, but music has more power than most realize. It had enough power to make women find the “B” word intolerable during Queen Latifah’s reign. It had enough power to make women refer to themselves as “Queen B’s” during Lil’ Kim’s reign. And in the era of Young Money, it has enough power to make grown women refer to themselves as barbies. How did we go from being lyte as a rock to some man’s plastic play thing?

At the end of the day, it’s all about preference. I prefer to be uplifted in the music that I listen to, and it’s hard to come across real music in this day and age. Hopefully, some of the original emcees or ones that don’t need gimmicks will make a return to Hip-Hop. God knows we all need them.


  1. I completely agree with this article! I know these newer female rappers like Minaj, Trina, etc. are just doing what they feel they have to do to sell, but how low do ladies have to stoop to be successful in music? And it's not just the rappers, it's all the female artists. The music business is shady and sexist as hell, and execs don't mind pimping these young women to make a few millions before they become old news. And they WILL become old news. I hope they are smart with their money!PS. I still bump "lyte as a rock!"…RIP to the true female emcees!

  2. You ain't said nothing but the truth. Sad thing is, this message will go way over the heads of a lot of people. Where are the real artists? Where are the Lauryn Hills, MC Lytes, and Queen Latifahs? I can't even vibe to these chicks because they talk about the dumbest things ever. Who cares about how fat you p**** is, or how wet it stays, or how great your "head" is?!!! The sad thing is someone told them that they have to be this way. Minaj is really talented, but people won't ever get to see the real artist that she is. And that's a shame.

  3. Minaj and Trina are weak female emcees PERIOD. Please believe a movement is coming, and Minaj better be ready. Keys was JUST THE BEGINNING. Go to Youtube and check out Keys, a real female MC going after Minaj. And to the writers of this site, you guys should do a post on Keys. The real female emcees are in the lab and they are coming for the blood of these wack female emcees. Let the countdown begin!Minaj still has time to show us the REAL her. Will the real Nicki Minaj stand up?!!!!

  4. I'm with yall on this! I am embarrassed at the female rappers left in the game. Like are we really going to act like Minaj is the best that ever came into the game? I can't even rock with this Minaj chick, but she's young, so hopefully she will grow more into her craft. After hearing the My Chick Bad remix, I can't help but feel like Eve murdered all these chicks with that verse. Now that's a female emcee I would love to see make a real return.Until then, I will just stick to R&B.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Discover more from Urban Belle Magazine

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading