By Nick Sligh
Hip hop, as with everything, has benefited significantly from meaningful contributions by women — yet unfortunately, they are often overlooked. Since the inception of rap music, women have been making an impact throughout the genre, and have always been important forces in growing the genre into one of the most popular in the world.
Despite the commercial acclaim and attention that some of the most popular female artists are beginning to receive, there are still so many women making incredible contributions to hip hop who are not receiving the recognition that they deserve.
The purpose of this series is to highlight and celebrate some of the most quality contributions to hip hop and rap in the past decade, especially those who do not get the mainstream recognition and attention they deserve. My collection of favorite albums is far from exhaustive, and I really encourage fans to explore the discographies of all of these artists (and the many more great female artists not on this list). The albums are listed in chronological order below.
Check out this Spotify playlist to see some of my favorite songs from the albums in this series.
Noname: “Telefone” (2016)
“Telefone” is one of the better rap projects of the century. Chicago’s poet, activist, singer and rapper Noname delivers a beautiful and heartwarming compilation on her debut mixtape that immediately expresses a talent level that belongs at the top of hip-hop. As Noname explores and reflects upon her youth and her experience as a Black woman in America, her wisdom and passion are constantly charming and engaging. Incredible production, a variety of flows, impressive writing and a contagious, soulful joy are just some of what made Noname’s debut so enjoyable. One of the most feel-good rap albums of the decade, “Telefone” was the birth of a multi-talented star.
Favorite Songs: “Yesterday,” “Shadow Man,” “Sunny Duet,” “Diddy Bop”
Little Simz: “Stillness in Wonderland” (2016)
Little Simz would certainly be my pick for the international MVP of the decade in rap. “Stillness in Wonderland,” the second studio album from the London rapper, is a jazzy and lyrical concept album centered around the story of Alice in Wonderland. Rather long, with 23 songs on the deluxe version, the album provides a collection that displays various aspects of Little Simz’s artistry and skill. Featuring both slow, lighthearted songs transition and hard-hitting, darker tracks, the album maintains a conceptual, thematic focus. Simz had a great decade in the 2010s, and as somebody who is still only 27 years old, there is undoubtedly more greatness to come from Simz.
Favorite Songs: “Backseat,” “Doorways + Trust Issues,” “Good For What”
Rapsody: “Laila’s Wisdom” (2017)
From start to finish, Rapsody’s “Laila’s Wisdom” is one of the best modern rap albums. The title track of Rapsody’s greatest work “Laila’s Wisdom” features one of the best hip-hop intros of the decade. The uplifting intro sets the tone for the album with a tribute to the wisdom of her grandmother, Laila, and her messages of empowerment, love and triumph that have shaped Rapsody’s life. The soulful production featuring a sample of Aretha Franklin’s rendition of Nina Simone’s “Young, Gifted, and Black” and Rapsody’s talent combine to form a beautiful song that builds the foundation for an excellent project. Some more of Rapsody’s best music of her career is also on this second studio album, including “Black & Ugly” with BJ The Chicago Kid and “Nobody” featuring Anderson .Paak and Black Thought. The most emotionally rich and captivating work (which says a lot) of her phenomenal career, “Laila’s Wisdom” showcases incredible lyrical ability and messages of Black and female empowerment executed at the highest artistic caliber.
Favorite Songs: “Laila’s Wisdom,” “Black & Ugly,” “Nobody,” “Knock On My Door”
Doja Cat: “Amala” (2018)
With “Go To Town” and “Cookie Jar,” “Amala” has one of the most fun, enjoyable and entertaining two-song opening sequences that I have heard to start an album. Doja Cat’s debut studio album was an exciting official introduction to an artist who has a lot of genuine skill. Despite becoming more famous for some of her meme music or some of her less technically sound pop songs, Doja Cat has one of the best combinations of vocal talent and rapping ability across the genres, between which she effortlessly floats. Particularly in the first half of the album, Doja Cat incorporates some of the most fun and innovative production in pop-rap to match her versatility in styles, making for a captivating listen. Although not nearly as lyrical or heavy on rapping as some of the albums in this list, “Amala” is a great collection with some of the most enjoyable pop-rap tracks of the decade.
Favorite Songs: “Cookie Jar,” “Go To Town,” “Tia Tamera,” “Fancy”
Contact Nick Sligh at nsligh ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.