By Nick Sligh
Hip-hop, as with everything, has benefited significantly from meaningful contributions by women. Unfortunately, as with so many important contributions by women across society, they are often overlooked.
Despite the commercial acclaim and attention that the few most popular women artists are beginning to receive, there are still so many women making incredible contributions to hip-hop that are not receiving the recognition that they deserve.
The purpose of this series is to highlight and celebrate some of those contributions. 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 women artists outside of 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.
Tierra Whack: “Whack World” (2018)
Calling “Whack World” creative would be an understatement. With a runtime of exactly 15 minutes and 15 tracks, the album consists of songs that each run for exactly one minute. This visual album — initially released as a 15 minute video and split into 15 different minute-long videos posted on Tierra Whack’s Instagram account — was certainly one of the most colorful and innovative releases in the past 10 years. And witty videography isn’t the only standout aspect either, as Tierra Whack shows off incredible versatility and rapping ability with a variety of styles, moods, deliveries and flows throughout. There’s an effortlessness in her artistry that is truly special to see. “Whack World” is about as fun of a music experience as you can possibly find.
Favorite Songs: “Pretty Ugly,” “Pet Cemetery,” “Silly Sam,” “Hungry Hippo”
Tkay Maidza: “Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 1” (2018)
Tkay Maidza is one of the most exciting and versatile young artists across all of music, especially in the international scene. Effortlessly blending pop, R&B and rap, Tkay’s second mixtape was a fun, positive and warm refinement of her skills into a more focused sound than her earliest work. The range of her deliveries and styles is as diverse as nearly anyone in hip-hop, going from a trap-influenced sound on “Flexin” to an R&B ballad with “White Rose” to a pop-rap style with “Big Things” and “Growing Up” all with ease. Tkay is one of the artists I am most excited about in the decade to come, and I expect her to continue building her career with innovative and incredible music.
Favorite Songs: “Say It,” “White Rose,” “Big Things,” “Growing Up,” “Flexin”
Noname: “Room 25” (2018)
It’s hard to find many rap albums over the past decade that I would describe as having a “sweet” or “bubbly” sound, but “Room 25” is certainly one of them. Noname, the Chicago wordsmith, began her rise to prominence with her fantastic early collaborations with Chance The Rapper, and has since proved her phenomenal solo talent. The follow-up to one of the decade’s best debuts in “Telefone,” Noname’s second studio effort was able to carry over many of the traits that made her opening work so special. Despite having a voice that sometimes resembles a whisper and a delivery that resembles that of a grandiose lullaby, Noname’s messages and passion are poignant as always throughout the album. Noname is consistently able to relay her thoughts, her struggles and her life in a truly special way over elegant production. “Room 25” is a coming-of-age record for Noname that is triumphant and powerful while also soothing and beautiful.
Favorite Songs: “Ace,” “Don’t Forget About Me,” “With You,” “Regal”
Leikeli47: “Acrylic” (2018)
Leiklei47’s second album is an openly emotional, wonderful, versatile and thoughtful look into her life. Especially for someone who has built a persona of anonymity through the constant veiling of her face with a variety of ski masks, she is able to build character and personality consistently throughout the record. “Acrylic” effortlessly transitions between trap, pop rap and R&B to create a really captivating compilation, highlighting all of the different strengths of Leikeli’s artistry. The beautiful, soulful R&B sounds of “Hoyt and Schermerhorn” and “Top Down” are complemented by the drastically different rap and trap sounds in more upbeat songs like “Girl Blunt,” “Roll Call,” “Iron Mike,” showcasing the flexibility that puts Leikeli in an elite class of talent. The second studio album from the Brooklyn rapper is a fun and lively showing of confidence and fortitude from front to back and one of the more fun listens of the last few years.
Favorite Songs: “Hoyt and Schermerhorn,” “Roll Call,” “Girl Blunt,” “Top Down,” “CIAA”
Megan Thee Stallion: “Tina Snow” (2018)
Before she became an international superstar and one of the most commercially successful women in rap, Megan was a young rapper from Houston, Texas trying to establish her signature sound. Meg’s 2018 mixtape “Tina Snow” remains her most consistent and coherent project yet, featuring a handful of great pop trap songs that helped her to cement herself as one of the prominent artists in that lane. “Big Ole Freak,” her first breakout hit and still one of her best songs, highlights Megan’s swagger, confidence and pure rapping ability over a great beat that masterfully blends a soul sample and a trap beat. Megan also effortlessly performs over a variety of trap beats on “Neva” and “Cocky Af,” highlighting that she not only is a fun and magnetic presence on the mic, but that she can rap with a level of technical prowess that few rappers are at. “Tina Snow” was really the breakout, and still probably the best project, for the now global phenomenon that is Megan Thee Stallion.
Favorite Songs: “Big Ole Freak,” “Neva,” “Cocky Af,” “Cognac Queen”