The 90’s were one of the greatest periods for the music industry. Across genres, some of the best songs were created during this influential decade. In hip-hop, women dominated many spaces as solo performers, rappers, and girl groups. And many of those artists used their voices to speak out about black feminist issues, sexuality, and social justice. These ladies took hip-hop and transformed the genre into an empowering outlet for women of color. Let’s look at some of women who changed the face of hip-hop in the 90’s and beyond.
1. Queen Latifah
You know we had to start with the Queen. Today, we may know her for her acting credits and beautiful makeup line with Covergirl, but Queen Latifah will forever be known as the “First Lady of Hip-Hop”. Many female artists (even the ones on this list) looked up to her for her long-term staying power in the entertainment industry, ability to rap about real issues, and her strong sense of individuality and self.
Missy Elliot is one of those artists whose genius was well before her time. In the 90’s while she was exploring concepts that many didn’t understand, we watched as she grew over the next two decades to become one of hip-hop’s biggest icons. Between her feminist lyrics and and sheer confidence in her visual style and artistry, Missy will forever be an icon.
3. Lil’ Kim
The original Queen B. Before Lil’ Kim came on the hip-hop scene, there were very few women who were speaking about and embracing sexuality the way she did. Encouraged by the Notorious B.I.G. to continue her career as a rapper, Lil’ Kim changed the game with her unapologetic lyrics and her sexy, confident, style.
4. Salt N’ Pepa
Salt N’ Pepa’s here! Making their debut in the mid 80’s, this trio from Queens, NY became one of hip-hop’s most successful all-girl rap group. Not only did Salt N’ Pepa break barriers in the music industry at a time when hip hop was still being considered a passing trend, but they did it as an all female group. While many artists were shying away from some of the sexist messages embedded in hip hop music, Salt N’ Pepa made it their own. By 1995, they won a Grammy for best performance by a rap duo or group, solidifying their place as one of the greatest rap groups of our time.
Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez
Left Eye was one of the key members of R&B/Hip-hop group TLC. The perfect addition to the girl group, Left Eye brought the dope lyrics and creativity that made her stand out from the crowd. From her style, to her music, to her personal beliefs about life, she definitely inspired women around the world to embrace and be themselves.
MC Lyte has been making an impact in hip-hop since the 80s and many consider her to be one of the pioneers for women in hip-hop. Her list of accomplishments in long but she changed the face of hip-hop when she became the first female rappers to release a solo album and is one of the first feminists within the genre.
One woman that slips under the radar when we’re talking about influencing the hip-hop industry is Chicago born rapper Da Brat. A prominent rapper in the 90s, Da Brat became the first female rapper to earn platinum for her debut album Funkdafied selling one million copies just four years after she hit the hip-hop scene.
8. Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill has been a voice for women in hip-hop since she was dropping vocals and lyrics with the Fugees. But it was her debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, that broke record sales, won tons of awards, and made her one of the most notable female voices of the neo-soul sub-genre. Although it exists as her only studio album, it is still considered one of the best of all time.