Album: Born Gangstaz

From her baggy clothes to her dark wraparound shades to the bandana on her head, Boss was both a rejection of the hip-hop hoochie archetype and an affirmation that girls could be every bit as hard as guys. Born Lichelle Laws in Detroit, Boss studied ballet and took business classes before moving to New York and later Los Angeles to pursue a rap career. DJ Quik was the first to believe in her talent, recording an early track that impressed Russell Simmons enough to land her a deal with Def Jam. "Deeper" was the first single from her debut album, Born Gangstaz. Produced by Def Jef, the record shot to No. 1 on the Hot Rap Singles chart and cracked the Billboard Hot 100. Boss's rep was tarnished by revelations of her middle-class upbringing, which made her exaggerated image seem comical. But back in '93, she was hardest chick in the game. —Rob Kenner