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If you asked a rap fan in 2010 who their favorite female rapper was, chances are that list would begin and end at “Nicki Minaj.” While the 90s and early 2000s brought lots of talent to the table for female rap with trailblazers like Lil’ Kim and Missy Elliot, the decline of their careers in mainstream rap left a hole in the industry that only Minaj seemed to be able to fill. However, in recent years, several new female rappers have emerged, making a name for themselves in the rap game. Stars like Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B have climbed the charts to be at the forefront of the genre. From conscious rap to party anthems, these women’s distinct styles and flows command the attention of hip-hop heads who otherwise may not have explored past their favorite male rappers. After taking a deep dive into female rap myself, I’ve found a plethora of female emcees, or “femcees” as I like to call them, that have empowered me through song, whether that be through providing intellectual stimulation or just giving me a song to dance to in the mirror while doing my makeup. Because of this, I’d like to spread my love for lady rappers by sharing a few of my personal favorite tracks as an introduction to their wildly diverse sounds.

  1. “Countin’ Up” – Rico Nasty 

“Countin’ Up” was the very first track I thought of when creating this list because it was the song that really got me into listening to female rappers. Rico Nasty is a rapper based in the DMV area. She stepped into the limelight after making the 2019 Freshman XXL Class, which has helped launch the careers of other rappers like Lil Uzi Vert, 21 Savage and the late Juice Wrld. When I first listened to this song, I was immediately impressed by Rico’s effortless flow. My favorite lyrics from this song are “Who you frontin’ on? Come on girl, I know you a rookie / You got some followers, so what? Do you want you a cookie?” As seen in her performance,  her sense of humor shines through her lyricism and lively tone. What I really love and find truly innovative about Rico is her ability to incorporate elements of punk rock into a lot of her music. Her confident, carefree lyrics and unique song production make her discography one of my favorites to keep diving back into.

2. “Saggy Denim” – Princess Nokia ft. Wiki

Princess Nokia, most known for her 2020 hit single “I Like Him,” is a rapper who has only kept ascending into the limelight in recent months.  “Saggy Denim” is my personal favorite track by Nokia, from her sophomore album 1992 Deluxe. The New York rapper effortlessly glides over this 90s-inspired instrumental, rapping about her home city and Puerto Rican heritage. She even incorporates a bit of Spanglish into her verses, rapping “I speak that ‘mira, mira,’ that ‘mira, oye linda’ / That ‘ven aqui mi’jita, tu eres mi chiquita.’”  This verse translates to “ I speak that ‘Look, look,’ that ‘look, hey pretty girl’ / That ‘Come here, my little daughter, you are my little girl.’” I’ve always interpreted these lines as a reference to words spoken by her Puerto Rican grandmother, who she lived with throughout her teen years. As a whole, his song encompasses New York City as Princess Nokia sees it, and her love for her hometown and culture is clear in every verse. 

3. “Roaring 20s” – Flo Milli

Flo Milli first blew up with her viral hit “Beef Flo Mix”, which gained lots of popularity on the social media app TikTok. She is well known for her boastful lyrics and animated rap style. For me, listening to a Flo Milli song is the quickest way to get an instant confidence boost. “Roaring 20s” is the rapper’s latest single, released in January 2021. The song, produced by Kenny Beats (who has also produced much of Rico Nasty’s discography), samples classic song “If I Were A Rich Man” by placing the distinguishable melody over a trap instrumental. The music video also incorporates outfits and visuals that are reminiscent of the historical Roaring 20’s. At only 21, Flo Milli is already en route to being a consistent hitmaker. 

4. “Rainforest” – Noname

Noname, another Chicago native, first entered the mainstream rap world when she was featured on Chance The Rapper’s song “Lost” from his 2013 mixtape Acid Rap. Today, she is most known for her 2016 mixtape Telefone and is closely associated with other Chicago-based rappers like Smino and Saba. On “Rainforest,” Noname calls out the irony of glorifying billionaires and capitalism with lines like, “How you make excuses for billionaires, you broke on the bus?” Noname falls more heavily into the category of conscious rap than other rappers. She typically uses her songs to address social issues and share her own self-criticisms. This song is particularly exciting to me because it’s the first track she has released since her diss track from last summer, “Song 33,” where she addressed criticism from rapper J. Cole about the tone of her activism. In addition to dropping “Rainforest,” she also announced that she’ll be releasing another studio album called Factory Baby later this year. Long-term Noname fans like myself will be eagerly waiting for this drop.

Hopefully these songs allow for a small glimpse into the vast, everexanding world of female rap. You can find these tracks and more on my Spotify playlist called “femcees”.

MiC Columnist Udoka Nwansi can be contacted at udoka@umich.edu