Last yr was a milestone for hip-hop as feminine rappers reigned Billboard charts, dominated headlines and garnered essential acclaim whereas transferring past trite archetypes. Has the enjoying subject lastly leveled out for ladies in hip-hop?
Words: Kathy Iandoli
Editor’s Note: This story initially appeared within the Winter 2018 concern of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
Fashion Week is one in every of New York City’s largest annual occasions, as fashions, vogue moguls and celebrities alike all collect in couture to honor this luxury-draped week-long extravaganza. In 2018, nonetheless, the largest stars of the festivities had been two feminine rappers.
During the Harper’s Bazaar Icons Party, Nicki Minaj and Cardi B introduced their almost two-year beef to a head. The now city legend goes as follows: Nicki stepped on the prepare of Cardi’s purple Dolce & Gabbana robe, ripping it. Bardi then approached Barbie’s desk on the gala and tried to throw her shoe at her rival. Cardi B left with a knot over her eye, after allegedly being elbowed by a member of Nicki Minaj’s safety. After already dominating the hip-hop dialog, Cardi B and Nicki Minaj now commanded vogue’s consideration. What a time to be alive.
This was the yr that girls in hip-hop had been lastly the celebs of the present. For a long time, girls had been accessorized within the rap house: first women of all-male crews, the visitor options on tracks for merely a cute embellishment, underrated and wildly underestimated, identified extra for his or her aesthetic than their bars. It’s an issue that’s endured since girls first picked up the microphone, navigating via a tradition that’s oftentimes considered a “younger man’s sport.”
All of that flew out the window this previous yr. Perhaps it was because of 2017’s #MeToo motion rising its wings, or the disposition brewing inside a nation the place a misogynistic president continued to dismantle the White House, however girls had sufficient of being othered and that inevitably affected hip-hop. It was time to be acknowledged, evolve and, for some, re-enter the battleground to reclaim a seat on the desk. For others, it was becoming a member of the rising ranks of fellow girls who had been charting, touring and persevering with to construct their very own respective actions. Reflecting on this previous yr and searching ahead to 2019, it’s straightforward to see simply how far these women of rap have come and the place they plan on going.
The 2018 Grammy Awards in January had been a transparent indicator of the form of issues to come back for ladies in hip-hop. Cardi B was up for Best Rap Performance for “Bodak Yellow” whereas Rapsody was nominated for Best Rap Album for Laila’s Wisdom and Best Rap Song for “Sassy.” While neither artist took residence a gold gramophone statue, they each discovered their W’s in different methods.
Rapsody’s respect was well-earned and a very long time coming. Since getting into the scene with rap crew Kooley High and making waves along with her honest-to-goodness move for nicely over a decade, Rap’s rap sheet expanded lately by means of her visitor look on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and as an addition to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation roster. In 2018, her profession got here full circle as soon as the accolades rolled in for her aforementioned second solo studio album, a piece that was each intimate and spoke on to the occasions. Being the one feminine rapper on the Best Rap Album nomination checklist was epic, however so was making historical past because the fifth lady to ever be nominated for the Best Rap Album. “I’ve all the time fought for us to be acknowledged and revered for our expertise on the identical enjoying subject as the fellows—not separate as a result of our gender doesn’t restrict our greatness or price or ability,” Rapsody writes e-mail. “It was a giant step to be acknowledged alongside your Jay-Zs and Kendrick Lamars as probably the greatest of the most effective solely for the artwork. But, solely being one in every of 5 in historical past let me know the way far more work we have now to do.”
For Cardi, it was the monumental success of her debut studio album, Invasion of Privacy, and the snowballing impact that adopted. In 2017, she already broke a document by being the primary solo feminine rapper to achieve the highest spot of the Billboard Hot 100 in near 20 years with “Bodak Yellow.” When her full-length venture launched in April 2018, it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, transferring 255,000 album unit equivalents in its first week and making Cardi the fifth feminine rapper to land a No. 1 album. She instantly grew to become one in every of hip-hop’s most high-profile artists.
The Bronx-bred rapper set a document on Apple Music for probably the most album streams by a feminine artist in a single week, knocking pop music titan Taylor Swift off her pedestal with a staggering 100 million streams, changing into Apple Music’s fifth-most streamed album ever. She deserved her personal billboard on Billboard, with probably the most simultaneous U.S. Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Top 10 songs, together with changing into the primary feminine hip-hop artist to land three No. 1 songs on the charts. Collaborations with Bruno Mars, J Balvin, Bad Bunny and Maroon 5 propelled her deeper into the pop stratosphere. In the midst of the insanity, Cardi B gave beginning to daughter Kulture Kiari and married the infant’s father, Offset of the Migos. In a world the place girls are informed to choose a path, Cardi proved you possibly can have all of it, aside from the respect of Nicki Minaj.
After an almost four-year pause, Nicki launched a brand new venture in 2018. Her fourth studio album, Queen, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts in August, with the lead single “Chun-Li” incomes Nicki her 30th Top 10 hit on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart, surpassing Beyoncé and Mary J. Blige, who beforehand held the document with 29 every. She teamed up with elusive lyricist Foxy Brown on the patois-powered album deep lower “Coco Chanel,” and later within the yr, set a career-spanning document by touchdown her 100th track on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, rounding off the triple digits along with her visitor look on Tyga’s “Dip.” Nicki’s look on “Fefe,” a summer season collaboration with the controversial 6ix9ine, rapidly went platinum. Nicki’s Queen Radio on Apple Music grew to become her playground for tea sipping and actual speak, because the digital podium each put out fires and introduced weapons a blazing, with friends like Kim Kardashian, Kelly Rowland, Cassie and supermodel Winnie Harlow all celebrating on the radio present’s in-studio on-air launch get together.
As Cardi’s popularity solidified, the animosity between her and Nicki continued to accentuate, culminating within the aforementioned Fashion Week incident. Ghostwriters, tour receipts and all the pieces in between continued to filter via the ether when Nicki vented Twitter, as did Cardi via Instagram. The social media frenzy continued to swell, with each artists’ fan bases leaping into the combination for good measure. While the battle stayed heated and deflected from the music, it was by far one of many hottest subjects in hip-hop, as two queens had been probably the most talked-about artists within the house—for higher or worse.
As Remy Ma and Lady Luck squashed their almost two-decade beef in March 2018, the potential for peace amongst beefing women felt like a actuality. Even Lil’ Kim—who dropped her personal warmth with “Nasty One”—wished Nicki Minaj nicely, inadvertently dulling the depth of their decade-long warfare. Yet, even after Nicki and Cardi appeared to name a stop hearth (and rumors circulated a few potential tour), the stress between the 2 artists by no means appeared to dissipate.
“I can’t even look as much as Nicki no extra,” says Molly Brazy. “I used to be her largest fan.” The Detroit rapper continued her personal upward ascent in 2018, because of tracks like “They On Molly” and “Look Easy,” although a handful of beefs with different burgeoning acts through the earlier yr overshadowed her artwork. She says she targeted extra on music and fewer on trolling and selling beef, studying from watching Nicki and Cardi fling mud (and sneakers) at one another. “I regarded as much as [Nicki] at first, however [the Cardi beef] type of fucked me up coming into the business,” Molly says. “It made me have a look at a whole lot of stuff in another way and made me need to change the methods. If [Cardi] would’ve simply ignored Nicki or one thing like that, that might’ve put her on the next be aware to me.”
The new class of feminine rappers had their very own successes to have a good time. The semi-seasoned Stefflon Don was featured within the 2018 XXL Freshman class. Philly rapper Tierra Whack challenged the idea and presentation of an album when she dropped the 15-songs-in-15-minutes Whack World Instagram. Noname’s coming-of-age album Room 25 is among the yr’s most critically celebrated efforts. Miami duo City Girls brewed their very own buzz with their no-nonsense mixtape, Period, which featured songs like “I’ll Take Your Man” and “How to Pimp a Nigga.” The Quality Control twosome acquired a serious jolt when Drake each referenced and featured them on his gargantuan single “In My Feelings.”
While City Girls member JT went to jail for fraud expenses within the midst of their glow up, her rhyming accomplice Yung Miami continued to hold the torch, selling the November launch of their debut album, Girl Code. “We knew today was coming, we had been ready for it,” Yung Miami of City Girls remembers. “But I simply be like, I’m finna exit right here and do that for me and my lady.” City Girls acquired the final word cosign from their rap inspiration Trina, collaborating with the Miami legend on their Period monitor “Run Them Bands Up” and Trina’s “I Just Wanna.” The legendary nods didn’t cease there, as Lil’ Kim collaborated with upstart Dreamdoll on her monitor “Funeral.” Other artists like Asian Doll (a.okay.a. Asian Da Brat) and Cuban Doll (a.okay.a. Cuban Da Savage) had been recruited by one other legend, Gangsta Boo, on her 20th Anniversary remix of her debut single “Where Dem Dollas At.” There are a handful of artists to undertake the “Doll” moniker, led by Detroit native Kash Doll, who hit the scene again in 2014. After being locked in a recording contract with indie BMB Records for the previous few years, she broke new floor along with her 2018 venture, The Vault. Kash took residence the Issa Wave Award on the BET Social Awards earlier within the yr primarily based on the energy of her social media traction all through her contractual predicament.
A squabble in the end ensued over Doll supremacy in 2018—primarily between Asian and Kash—and when Nicki Minaj tried to leap in to defuse it over Twitter, inviting the 2 Dolls as much as Queen Radio, the godmother of Dolldom, Kash Doll declined. Cuban Doll differentiated herself from her namesake counterparts by figuring out as a gangsta rapper, a lot to the chagrin of everybody who views the subgenre via a singular (learn: male) lens. While tracks like “Drug Dealer,” “Bankrupt” and “Down to Ride” confirmed her abilities, it was Cuban’s extracurricular rap actions that put her within the information. From allegedly dropping her million-dollar cope with Capitol Music Group over snatching fellow rapper Rocky Badd’s chain and assaulting her, to displaying her personal bruises following an alleged battle with Tadoe, Cuban has ambitions as a ridah. “I’m like Tupac,” she says confidently. “Most individuals don’t like once I say that since you get I assume a whole lot of backlash from it after which dudes are all the time like, ‘Oh you a feminine! Why you need to be so laborious?’ But that is how I’m.”
It brings to gentle the notion that in 2018, no two feminine artists are actually alike. Whether it’s Floridian teen Bhad Bhabie trapping in “Gucci Flip Flops,” the return of Chicago
drill maven Dreezy and Brooklyn ski-masked marauder Leikeli47 or artists like CupcakKe and Saweetie being something however candy (with Cupcakke’s Ephorize and Eden tasks and Saweetie’s High Maintenance EP all hitting essential marks), the yr was stuffed with each invention and reinvention.
While newer artists had been discovering their footing, legacy acts discovered new methods to stay related. Lauryn Hill returned to the touring circuit as a part of the 20-year anniversary of her seminal The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. During her units, Hill confirmed her help of Drake sampling her traditional “Ex-Factor” bridge on “Nice For What,” by freestyling over it. “He took the pattern,” Hill would rhyme, “My shit is traditional; right here’s an instance.” Missy Elliott grew to become the primary feminine rapper nominated for 2019’s Songwriters Hall of Fame, additionally hopping on board for Ariana Grande’s Sweetener monitor “Borderline.” Her 2002 traditional “Work It” gained new life when a clip of an older White lady named Mary Halsey rapping alongside to the track went viral, touchdown her and Missy an look on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Ruff Ryders alumn Eve additionally discovered herself on the speak present stage, becoming a member of the solid of The Talk on CBS. She joined different legends like MC Lyte, Yo-Yo, Rah Digga, Monie Love, Lady of Rage, Remy Ma and Trina on the nationwide Queens of Hip-Hop tour, too. For the primary time in almost 20 years, disparate generations of rap’s main women coexisted.
“I really feel like girls within the hip-hop business in 2018 are undoubtedly profitable proper now,” Cuban Doll says. “It’s like an all-time excessive at this level.” Cuban is true. In 2018, the enjoying subject felt extra leveled than ever earlier than. Not solely was there an inflow of recent expertise, however a return to type for dwelling legends. Any rap historical past timelines can level to numerous eras the place girls occupied the identical house on the identical time, although in 2018, actual achievements had been handed round to artists from totally different areas, types and aesthetics. From making data to breaking data, girls in hip-hop blazed the path for a brand new day. “This yr was simply the muse—2019 and past I feel might be even greater,” Rapsody notes. “You’ll see extra of us working collectively to construct one another and the tradition. We could have a robust footing and let the business know we aren’t going anyplace.
Check out extra from XXL’s Winter 2018 concern together with our Migos cowl story interview, Vic Mensa talks about activism and extra.