The 50 Best Rap Songs by Women

We're not calling it "female rap," (nor would we refer to every rap song by a man as "male rap"). So let's just call these the 50 Best Rap Songs by Women.

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Image via Complex Original
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Women in hip-hop are rarely respected on the same level as men. We know this, and it's one of the least appealing aspects of the genre as a whole. Rather than harp on it, let's look back in history and celebrate the lyrical skills, perfected production, and legendary performances of rap songs by women: From Queen Latifah's entire album All Hail The Queen to recent queens like Nicki Minaj who have sold millions of records with her lyrical skills.

For all the classic tracks that empower and promote women in hip-hop, there have been just as many (or more) that include the raunchiest lyrics ever. From Lil Kim to Foxy Brown, even Missy Elliott, female rappers are every bit as versatile as their male counterparts. We're not calling it "female rap," (nor would we refer to every rap song by a man as "male rap"). So let's just call these the 50 Best Rap Songs by Women.

Listen to Complex's Best Rap Songs by Women playlists here: YouTube/Spotify/Rdio

Written by Lauren Nostro (@LAURENcynthia) , Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin), Ernest Baker (@newbornrodeo), Rob Kenner (@Boomshots), Foster Kamer (@weareyourfek), Dharmic X (@DharmicX), Alexander Gleckman (@AndFeedingYou), and Alysa Lechner (@hialysa)

50. Kreayshawn "Gucci Gucci" (2011)

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Album: Somtehin' 'Bout Kreay

The "us vs. them" mentality has obviously had much success in hip-hop, the idea that there exists an "other," and that they are not on our level. Enter basic bitch. You can spot them behind the counter at Arby's, wearing any of four well-known fashion houses, looking bitter. On the other side of the Arby's counter we have the bad bitch, who, despite boycotting Louis and Gucci, can continue to floss in parallel with the likes of Ivana Trump.

Even if you never felt compelled to yell "Free V-Nasty," admit that you liked this song. Even if it belongs in the one-hit annals of "Video Killed the Radio Star" and "Come On Eileen," there was a time when everyone thought Kreayshawn could become something significant in hip-hop, for better or for worse. If nothing else, it was one small step for Kreay, one giant leap for white girl mob kind. Perhaps America needed Kreayshawn to pave the way for someone who has yet to present herself, much like we had mainstream white rappers of lesser longevity before we had Eminem.

Keep in mind, this was also at a time when an Odd Future cameo in your music video got you enough cool points to fund your million Swisher blunts habit, get your Adderall business venture off the ground and to local college campuses, then have just enough left over for square bamboo hoop earrings. In any case, it was the song that captured a million dollar deal, as much of an unfortunate investment that turned out to be. —Alexander Gleckman

49. Mia X "What'cha Wanna Do?" (1998)

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Album: Mama Drama

At the beginning of 1998, Master P and the rest of No Limit Records planted their flag firmly in the ground with the drop of "Make Em Say Uhh." No matter that the album it was on had already been out for three months: It exploded, and generated interest in No Limit that would keep them as a driving force in rap for a hot minute. No Limit's star female act, Mia X, got some shine off the track, too, which helped put hype behind her third full release, Mama Drama, which was lead by the single "What'cha Wanna Do?"

Featuring a hook by former Gap Band singer and R & B legend Charlie Wilson, Mia's smooth raps on the song—an emotive confessional about having a man on his final straw with her—ran counter to the all-hood, all-the-time image No Limit was pen-and-pixeling its way into history with: "You used to make me laugh, show me love and respect/But if you don't make a change, you'll be callin me your ex." Needless to say, the message resonated. The track found its way to the No. 41 spot on the Hot 100, and helped the album (Mia X's most successful) see the seventh spot on the Billboard 200. -Foster Kamer

48. Crime Mob "Stilettos (Pumps)" (2005)

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Album: Crime Mob

Sure, before the Atlanta-based Crime Mob came into existence, women had rapped on hyper-aggressive and/or violent tracks. And yes, they had rapped on the same tracks as men. But had they rapped on hyper-violent tracks alongside men? Not quite like they did in Crime Mob, who took the, um, progressive step of putting female rappers named Diamond and Princess on tracks like "I'll Beat Yo Azz" on the group's gloriously crunk 2004 eponymous debut album.

The chorus—"Stiletto. Pumps. In. The club/Whoeva thought that these girls will get crunk?"—said everything you needed to know about the female contingent of Crime Mob. Then Princess and Diamond jumped on for their verses, and demonstrated it. And while the song's lyrics, which ranged from Princess's declaration that "If a ho say somethin, try me then her hair will get thrown/I'm turnin' heads left and right soon as he see one foot" to Diamond's understanding that "I know you want a second look, but pictures isn't necessary/Diamond be my name and by the looks gurl you ain't even ready" might not have been as memorable as that hook, it did create an indelible stamp in the ATL crunk scene and a slightly smaller (but no less wonderful) one in the canon of women rapping, blending the lines between traditional feminity and gender-neutral violence as they did it. In other words: Gloria Steinem would be proud. —Foster Kamer

47. Shawnna "Gettin' Some" (2006)

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Album: Block Music

Shawnna made herself infamous as the girl that can "make ya toes pop" after her platinum-certified banger, "Gettin' Some" hit the charts. It's hard to believe, due to the song's success, but the original version was placed as a hidden track off of her second album, Block Music. With a sample from Too $hort's "Blowjob Betty," Shawnna's track is automatically a banger, but coupled with the chorus and her perfectly arrogant lyrics ("All the niggas in the hood wanna call her wifey/If you got a pretty dollar then I probably might be"), it becomes a classic.

She eventually went on to release a remix with 15 guest rappers on the track, showing how everyone at the time wanted to hop on the Xcel-produced beat. The video takes place in a hair salon and is completed with a DTP crew cameo towards the end, showing Shawnna's place in the crew, and the support of her chart-toppping hit. —Lauren Nostro

46. Gangsta Boo "Where Dem Dollas At" (1998)

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Album: Enquiring Minds

Gangsta Boo was Three 6 Mafia's first female member. She eventually left the crew over money issues and religion, but her first single "Where Dem Dollas At," off of her 1998 debut album, Enquiring Minds, featured Juicy J and DJ Paul. Her style on songs like "Tear Da Club Up," which is sampled on her first single, gained her attention and built up a demand for her solo album. On "Where Dem Dollas At," Gangsta Boo boasted standout verses that focused on sex, love, and storytelling. Gangsta Boo held her own within the boys club during Three 6 Mafia's road to stardom and the Queen of Memphis did the same for herself beginning with "Where Dem Dollas At," an ode to ladies getting paid. —Lauren Nostro

45. Antoinette "I Got An Attitude" (1987)

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44. La Chat f/ Three 6 Mafia "You Ain't Mad Iz Ya" (2001)

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Album: Murder She Spoke

La Chat, the hip-hop/crunk Queen of Hypnotize Minds, began her career with guest appearances on Three 6 Mafia, and Gangsta Boo tracks. She launched her own solo career in 2001 with her debut Murder She Spoke album released on Koch and Hypnotize Minds with the single, "You Ain't Mad Iz Ya" featuring DJ Paul and Juicy J. La Chat made it known she had her own lane on the track, with lyrics revolving around the same gangsta rap that the men were rhyming about. She was rough around the edges and stood up with all the dudes in her camp, flaunting her gold fronts in the music video while rhyming about gold diggers. —Lauren Nostro

43. Rah Digga "Imperial" (1999)

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Album: Dirty Harriet

Rah Digga's got the attitude, the look, and the spitfire MC style whose old-school influences are weaved throughout her standout track, "Imperial." With a sample from Musical Youth's "Pass The Dutchie," it's a track that shows just how easily the Flipmode Squad rapper can overpower a track with her own vocals. "Imperial" shows Rah Digga's greatest strengths all in one package with lines like "Watch as the hood rat messiah climb swiftly/Label scared to death to let their artist bomb with me/Cause you can send your thugest MC and watch me son 'em/The ruggedest bitch, don't even rhyme about gunnin'."

Where other female emcees openly call themselves the baddest bitch a la Trina, Rah Digga's the one and only ruggedest. With Busta's feature, "Imperial" was the Flipmode anthem to introduce Rah Digga, who, in the video, is dressed in outrageous furs and hats. And it was the back and forth rhyming with Busta that ended the insane cut off of her debut album, Dirty Harriet. Lauren Nostro

42. L'Trimm "Cars With The Boom" (1988)

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Album: Grab It!

Bunny D and Tigre of L'Trimm were only 18 years old when they perfected the pop/rap sensational Miami bass song "Cars With The Boom," an ode to subwoofers everywhere. The Florida natives dropped the chart-topping hit on their debut album Grab It on Miami's Time-X Records label. L'Trimm went through the rough comparisons of the female rap duo Salt-N-Pepa at the time but their bass-heavy production skills and unique spin on pop/rap would influence contemporary takes of that classic Miami bass. L'Trimm's lyrics seem to be referencing the types of men they like but realize that the ones they especially like are those with the cars that go boom. —Lauren Nostro

41. Dimples D "Sucker DJ's" (1983)

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Album: Dimples & Spice

Years before he started making hits with MC Shan and the Juice Crew—and one year before his real breakthrough, with "Roxanne's Revenge" by Roxanne Shante—Marley Marl produced this answer to Run-D.M.C.'s monumental 12" single "Sucker MCs." He enlisted the vocal talents of Crystal Smith a.k.a. "Dimples D," who spent most of the record extolling the cutting and mixing skills of DJ Marley Marl before going on to celebrate her own skills: "My name is Crystal but they call me Dimples D/Ain't a female in the world could rap like me."

Subtitled "I Will Survive," the song did not rework Gloria Gaynor's disco classic. Instead, about three minutes in "Sucker DJs" morphs from a record about Marley Marl to a ghetto reality tune, breaking down how this five-foot-five rapper with big brown eyes would make her way through a world full of cocaine dealers, pocket-book grabbers, "the laughing the crying the living and the dying." What's her secret? "I will survive cause I'm always chilling/And ready and willing to rock for y'all." She also saves a verse to call out all the trifling fellas who try to play their girlfriends. The record was only a minor success when it was first released, but had a second life in 1990 when a remix incorporating the I Dream of Jeannie theme song made it a hit across Europe. Unfortunately by that time Dimples D had vanished into the mists of hip-hop history. —Rob Kenner 

40. Nikki D "Daddy's Little Girl" (1991)

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Album: Daddy's Little Girl

Before you can give any credit to Nikki D, you got to give it up to Suzanne Vega. Her song "Tom's Diner" (which was written at the same diner the Seinfeld gang frequented) is sampled on Nikki's record and serves as its hook, giving it that ominous feel of innocence lost. Nikki tells the tale of a little girl who's a princess but only in her daddy's eyes. The storytelling rap is filled with suspense as Nikki teases her wild ways on the first verse before going into detail in the second. She holds the tension when she suggests she might be pregnant before ending her verse. Nikki had enough potential to become the first female rapper to grace Def Jam's roster but sadly, "Daddy's Little Girl" became her one and only hit as her album of the same name failed to sell. —Insanul Ahmed

39. J.J. Fad "Supersonic" (1988)

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Album: Supersonic

While Ruthless Records has become synonymous with N.W.A., J.J. Fad is really where the journey began for the label. After the West Coast group shrunk from six members to three, they linked up with Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and company, and cultivated a fan base that was intrigued by their pop-sounding, electro-influenced style. "Supersonic," the title track off their debut album, was a catchy tune, albeit somewhat simplistic, with the goal clearly to get a party grooving, especially for the summer time. Both song and album went platinum, but the track's impact expands beyond sales. Why else would Fergie have sampled and paid homage to the track with her hit single "Fergilicious?"

38. Roxanne Shante "Big Mama (Large Professor Remix)" (1992)

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37. Charli Baltimore f/ Ghostface Killah "Stand Up" (1999)

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Album: Cold As Ice

Charli Baltimore has been a name known to rap fans since the late '90s, yet she's never actually released an album (her album Cold As Ice was released promotionally, however). But if there is there one thing she can claim—besides jumping from rolling with Biggie to Lance "Un" Rivera to Irv Gotti and Murder Ink to Game and Black Wall Street—it's her Ghostface Killah assisted single, "Stand Up." The song picks up where Ghostface's "Wildflower" left off with Ghost Deni spewing indubitably raunchy bars. On "Wildflower" Ghostface Killah told an unnamed woman, "Yo bitch I fucked your friend." Seeing as Ghost tells Charli Baltimore, "Yo I fucked you on the side of my hood" on "Stand Up," we're guessing maybe she's the friend of the unnamed woman on "Wildflower." But probably not, since Charli drops a line about them both being signed to Sony (the biggest hint about how the collaboration even happened). The sex talk is just the warm-up before Charlie regains control of the song with rough rhymes that bite through the gristle. - Insanul Ahmed

36. Remy Ma "Conceited" (2006)

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Album: There's Something About Remy: Based on a True Story

Remy Ma's "Conceited" is the hip-hop version of Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy," with lyrics like, "I look too good to be wearing this" in place of, "I'm too sexy for my shirt." The song's flute gives it a Middle Eastern flavor, but the beat is still so obviously Scott Storch you smell a faint whiff of cocaina in the air (but let it go because he might give you a Bentley if you like him enough). Remy is all attitude on the mic, likely a byproduct of growing up in the Boogie Down. Beyond the admitted arrogance about her appearance, her flow is tight and precise—always dragging her vocals to the right note. That skill must be what gives her the confidence to spit rhymes line, "Okay I got a little fat/My shorty told me that he like it like that." Oh Remy, it's just more of you to love. —Insanul Ahmed

35. Eve f/ Faith Evans "Love is Blind" (1999)

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Album: Let There Be Eve...Ruff Ryders' First Lady

Eve's "Love Is Blind" landed her a lawsuit, a spot at No. 34 on the Billboard charts, and a VMA nomination. It wasn't her most commercially successful single but it was her heaviest, leading her to formally take the throne as Ruff Ryders' First Lady. On the Swizz Beatz produced track featuring Faith Evans on the chorus, Eve takes on domestic violence, death, and revenge with the emotionally striking story of what sounds to be her close friend.

The opening lines of her verses go from hate to kill to wanting the abusive man dead, which she seems to accomplish in the final verse after he beats her friend dead. With lines like "How could you tell her that you love her? Don't give a fuck if she lives," Eve claimed the lane of an aggressively honest female who was not about to take anyone's shit, and that her rhymes were more than odes to fame, cars, and money. Lyrically, Eve hit hard with "Love is Blind," but more than that, it was a lesson to the ladies that they must "elevate and find" what love truly is. —Lauren Nostro 

34. Nonchalant "5 O'Clock" (1996)

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33. Queen Latifah "Wrath of My Madness" (1988)

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Album: All Hail the Queen

Waaaaaay back before Queen Latifah was an Oscar nominee—or even a lead on one of the greatest sitcoms of all time—she grabbed the attention of Tommy Boy Music with a demo by way of then-Yo! MTV Raps host Fab 5 Freddy. The result? Latifah's debut single "Wrath of My Madness," a classic meet-me-the-MC boom-bap track anchored by a Reggae-tinged hook and a home cooked New Orleans-style bass groove courtesy of a sample from The Meters's "Chicken Strut." It wasn't so much an introduction as it was the reveal of a woman, rapping, who could—in two bars—laugh at the ever-growing thematic wells of gangsta rap, bling, and beef, wearing a sly smile spitting a slick diss, without overtly evoking the fact that she was busting into an all-boys club, either: "Some MC's have gold and African vein/And using each other to compete with/Their subjects I pity because their rhymes are not witty like mine/To write a rhyme so delicious you can eat it," she rapped at the start of the second verse. "Eat it," people did. While "Madness" didn't chart, the 18-year-old rapper attracted enough attention to yield the release of her 1989 debut album All Hail the Queen, which would go on to become one of the best-selling rap albums of the 80s, and embed the Queen in rap and pop culture fame. —Foster Kamer

32. Khia "My Neck, My Back (Lick It)" (2002)

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Album: Thug Misses

One of the lewdest singles to enjoy widespread popular success, "My Neck, My Back (Lick It)" is one of the most lasciviously perfect songs in rap music history. The song, it was reported at the time, was written by Philly-born Floridian Khia in under 15 minutes. Produced by Michael "Taz" Williams and Plat'num House, the song was the lead single from Khia's Thug Misses, the cover art for which featured the rapper/producer/songwriter on all fours. Everything about "My Neck, My Back" feels dirty, as it should; the song is basically a salute to both cunni- and annilingus. It's an indulgence, something just outside of "appropriate"-which makes it perfectly appropriate that the song peaked just outside of the Top 40. For some reason, Memphis Bleek appeared on the "My Neck, My Back (Lick It) (Remix)," which feels both random and perfect. Khia would go on to release three more albums (Gangstress, Nasti Muzik, and last year's MotorMouf aka Khia Shamone). Of late, Khia...well, we'll just leave you with this. —David Drake

31. Nicki Minaj "Itty Bitty Piggy" (2009)

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Album: Beam Me Up Scotty

Rapping over Soulja Boy's "Donk," Nicki Minaj proves she's more than just a booty on "Itty Bitty Piggy." The Beam Me Up Scotty mixtape track is heralded as one of Minaj's best tracks of all time; "Itty Bitty Piggy" became so popular in fact that Nicki created a music video for it because of her fans' strong demand. The Queens native proves that her only rival in the game is herself, "'Cause they be thinking' they can spit, spit shine my shoes/You know I keep a bad bitch let me sign your boobs/I'm the only thing poplin' like a kangaroo/I mean the only thing poppin' like a can of brew." If anyone feels like challenging her "lyrically better than most of the male rappers" claim, this should be a self-explanatory rebuttal. -Alysa Lechner.

30. The Conscious Daughters "Somethin' to Ride To (Fonky Expedition)" (1994)

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Album: Ear to the Street

Coming straight outta East Oakland, Carla "CMG" Green and Karryl "Special One" Smith passed their demo to the politically provocative Bay Area rapper Paris and landed a deal on his label, Scarface Records. Living up to their name, the Conscious Daughters were known for kicking that real shit. From "Shitty Situation" to "Wife of a Gangster" the songs on their debut album, Ear to the Street, repped for the females caught up in street life, from single mothers to spouses of criminals. Their biggest hit was this funkdafied Thelma & Louise jam that saw TCD on a mission, cruising through the city streets over a smooth SOS Band sample as they "kick it loud and clear/making hoes disappear." —Rob Kenner

29. Jean Grae "My Crew" (2003)

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Album: The Bootleg of the Bootleg EP

In 2003, the climate for female hip-hop was fuelled by either raciness a la Lil' Kim, or totally off the grid experimenting in the ilk of Missy Elliott. Whatever the case was, Jean Grae (born Tsidi Ibrahim) was a square peg in a round hole. An independent rapper with anti-materialist values, Grae marched to the beat of her own drum and did so with the utmost confidence. Case in point, she dropped out of NYU's Music Business program after three weeks because she was convinced she already knew everything her professors were teaching.

"My Crew," off her The Bootleg of the Bootleg EP illustrates this fearless independence. Grae raps about how rap is dead, and how it has deteriorated into superficial flexing: "I represent for a nation, thought we was in it together/But I guess it gets strange when money rains in sunny weather...Rap's dead/Rap sucks/But thanks to y'all for/Killin' it/Grillin it down/And spill in' its guts/And fill in' it/Back up with trash/Wait up I mean cash." Grae successfully manages to be critical of hip-hop without separating herself from it, evoked both lyrically and reflected in the song's title. The track is direct and cerebral, unearthing timeless issues in hip hop that we need regular reminders of. —Alysa Lechner.

28. Paula Perry f/ Heather B, Bahamadia, Precious Paris, Rah Digga, & Nikki D. "Six Pack" (1998)

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Album: Six Pack (single)

Posse cuts are a timeless part of hip-hop and, 15 years later, "Six Pack" still stands as one of the finest examples that the genre has to offer. All six MCs had started to make a name for themselves within the dense mass of quality late '90s rap, so it was special to see them come together on one track. The beat offers a simple, gritty backdrop for the ladies to go to work over, and the rhymes are relentless until the final second. —Ernest Baker

27. Trina "Pull Over" (2000)

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Album: Da Baddest Bitch

On Trina's first charting single "Pull Over," hip-hop's self-proclaimed 'baddest bitch' spun around a chorus by Trick Daddy that simply stated to "Pull over that ass it too fat." She took "Pull Over" as her opportunity to represent for the girls with big butts-and she wasn't scared to be as sexually explicit as female MCs in the past. Trina's boasts were on par with the big shot rappers of the era, making her proud to be as dirty or feminine as she found appropriate. She was rap's diva of the '00s for a minute, and after gaining recognition off of her appearance on Trick Daddy's album, he returned the favor on "Pull Over."-Lauren Nostro

26. Foxy Brown "B.K. Anthem" (2001)

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Album: Broken Silence

It didn't break the Hot 100, but it threatened to break your neck. Foxy Brown's "BK Anthem" is a patriotic track in which she pays homage to the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, and the streets that raised her: "I told y'all that my borough is thoro/I know n****s that'll clap you up and bury the metal/Same day, still in the hood and so ghetto/Brook-non, holla back, get your crook on." Not just a hometown hymn, "BK Anthem" gave Foxy a platform to show her rugged side and let her toughness be the sex appeal. Even in the music video, which is shot in the style of a camcorder, Foxy sits on a stoop in a baggy tracksuit and wears an oversized parka as she raps in front of a Biggie mural, proving that women don't have to be sensationally sexual to draw attention. —Alysa Lechner.

25. Monie Love "Monie In The Middle" (1990)

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24. Lil Kim "No Time" (1996)

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Album: Hard Core

Lil Kim formally introduced herself to the world on October 29, 1996 with "No Time," the first single off of her debut album Hard Core. The track, featuring P. Diddy, shot to the top of the charts where it peaked on the US Rap Songs charts at No. 1 for nine weeks. "No Time" features Diddy on the hook, singing about sipping Cristal and spreading love, while Kim's introduction was a precursor to the perfected raunchy lyrics that she weaved throughout nearly every single one of her tracks. Between her repping the crew and simultaneously bragging about her sex life on lines like "Huh can't fade the rhinoceros of rap (say what?)/Lil Kim pussy how preposterous is that?", "No Time" landed her at the forefront of female MCs. The visuals that followed the release of the single were filmed in the Wolrd Trade Center with the two artists rapping while riding up and down elevators—a scene she would reference on two singles in the future. —Lauren Nostro

23. Heather B. "Do You" (1998)

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Album: Do You (12")

Nowadays most rappers don't show up on reality shows until their career is in its twilight, but back in 1992, when Heather B appeared on the first season of MTV's The Real World, she was still on the verge of her big break. The New Jersey born rapper has a voice like a cannon, blasting her battle tested lyrics with such force that she won maximum respect from hip-hop heavyweights like KRS-One, Pete Rock, and DJ Premier. Her debut album, Takin' Mine, was released on Pendulum Records and included the successful anti-violence single "All Glocks Down."

After that, she moved to MCA, where she dropped "Do You," a fierce statement of independence that blasts "bitches [who] backstab with no remorse." Trust and believe that Heather B is not having it. "I spits pure fire, I burn the finest of designs/Heather B that MC that runs up on 'em from behind." —Rob Kenner

22. N-Tyce "Hush Hush Tip" (1993)

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Album: Hush Hush Tip / Root Beer Float 12"

With a hook from Method Man and lo-fi early '90s NYC-style production from 4th Disciple, this song could have fallen into the hazy murk of Wu associates that bubbled up in the wake of Wu-Tang's arrival in the early 1990s. But it was saved by a standout performance from rapper N'Tyce. Released on Wild Pitch Records—the same now-defunct label behind hip-hop classics by Main Source and the UMCs—"Hush Hush Tip" was a glorification of illicit relationships. It was a song about knowing that what you're doing is wrong, and doing it anyway. N'Tyce's confident, chirpy delivery was assertive and open, which made the thrill of her romantic transgressions even more provocative. With a beat that seemed tuned in through a distorted transistor radio, the song was a celebration of the scandalous, executed with a particular femininity that felt somehow liberating. —David Drake

21. MC Lyte "10% Dis" (1988)

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Album: Lyte as a Rock

Hailed as one of the 50 Best Diss Songs in hip-hop history, MC Lyte's "10% Dis" was 100% effective. Her lyrical beatdown of Queens rapper Antoinette was studded with jewels like "Pop you in the microwave to watch your head bubble/Your skin just crumble, a battle's no trouble." As the step-sister of Brooklyn's own Giz and Milk from Audio Two, Lyte had access to the hottest beats, and she was also exempt from any sort of pressure to sleep her way to the top, demanding and receiving maximum respect from all men she encountered in this testosterone-soaked industry. —Rob Kenner

20. Queen Latifah "U.N.I.T.Y" (1993)

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Album: Black Reign

"U.N.I.T.Y." is one of hip-hop's smartest and most powerful anthems. Queen Latifah knew that street harrassment and disrespect weren't problems that originated with hip-hop, but that hip-hop would actually provide her with the biggest stage to address them. The song, from her 1993 album Black Reign, dropped at the beginning of the following year. Produced by KayGee of Naughty By Nature, the song offset Latifah's powerful, brash delivery with a melancholy saxophone hook. Peaking at No. 23 on the Hot 100 and winning Latifah a Grammy Award for "Best Rap Solo Performance" in 1995, "U.N.I.T.Y." was the most successful release of the Queen's career. The song managed a tough tightrope act of fighting for a righteous cause without sounding didactic or academic. Unapologetically assertive, the track made its case most forcefully when Latifah "punched him dead in his eye and said 'Who you callin' a bitch?'"

19. Boss "Deeper" (1993)

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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

18. Missy Elliott "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" (1997)

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Album: Supa Dupa Fly

With Y2K just a few years away, Missy Elliott and producer Timbaland decided it was time for the future. Her 1997 debut release, Supa Dupa Fly, was jam-packed with experimental postmodernism, both sonically and lyrically. As the lead single, "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" was the album's magnum opus. Missy was navigating uncharted waters, walking a tightrope between R&B and rap. Straying from female stereotypes of the time, even "The Rain's" explicitly sexual lyrics sound subtle, ("Sway on the dosie-do like you loco/Can we get kinky tonight?/Like CoCo, so-so/You don't wanna pay with my Yo-Yo") opting for clever wordplay over crassness. Missy's stuttering flow matched with Timbaland's syrupy beat to make the song that much more unconventional. Even if came out today, it would still sound ahead of its time. —Alysa Lechner.

17. MC Lyte "Ruffneck" (1993)

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Album: Ain't No Other

MC Lyte's first top 40 single came off of her fourth album, Ain't No Other with a track called "Ruffneck." It peaked at No. 1 on the Hot Rap Singles chart and was certified gold by the end of 1993.

Over a syncopated head-nodding beat from Wrecks-n-Effect members Aqil Davidson and Markell Riley, Lyte spits about wanting a dude from the streets, one whose "evil grin with a mouth full of gold teeth" only gets relief from starting beef. The song's ridiculously catchy chorus both objectified men ("Gotta what yo?/Gotta get a ruffneck") and gave Lyte her commercial peak five years into her Hall of Fame career. —Lauren Nostro

16. Bahamadia "Uknowhowwedu" (1995)

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Album: Kollage

Born Antonia Reed in Philadelphia, Bahamadia got her start as a DJ but found her true calling as an MC. Her unique husky voice and monotone flow set her apart from every other rapper in the game, and her "mad explosive spontaneity," coupled with the fact that she eschewed the clichés of sex raps and dissing her sisters on the mic only enhanced her rep. After getting down with the Gang Starr Foundation, she released her debut album, Kollage, with production by DJ Premier and the late great Guru. The single "Uknohowwedu" (produced by Ski & DJ Redhanded) is her ode to Illadelph hip-hop, and the intoxicating way she says "need to rock, rock oooon" will ensure that it never stops playing as long as hip-hop shall live. —Rob Kenner

15. Da Brat f/ Jermaine Dupri "Funkdafied" (1994)

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Album: Funkdafied

Da Brat began her career with "Funkdafied," a song produced and written by Jermaine Dupri that samples the Isley Brothers' ever popular "Between the Sheets." It blew up in the summer of 1994, hitting the No. 6 spot on Billboard's Hot 100—and to date, is still her most successful single.

Da Brat sounds like G-funk's female answer to Snoop Doggy Dogg, with a raspy, bratty voice that commands Dupri's smooth production without overpowering it. More astonishingly, she manages to make references to The Honeymooners and Tag Team's "Whoomp! (There It Is)" sound cool. "Funkdafied" proved that there was a new tag team in town, and that was Da Brat and JD. —Lauren Nostro

14. Eve f/ Gwen Stefani "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" (2001)

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Album: Scorpion

The beauty of "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" is all in the juxtaposition of Eve's hard, staccato raps and the delicate, tiptoe-ing beat and Gwen Stefani's smooth, flirtatious vocals. Opposites attract, and in this case, opposites attracted a Grammy for "Best Rap/Sung Collaboration" and an MTV Video Music Award for "Best Female Video."

Produced by powerhouses Dr. Dre and Scott Storch, "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" is definitely beat-driven, but Eve's endearing arrogance permeates the instrumentals. Lines that might normally come across as simple posturing ("Sophomore, I ain't scared, one of a kind./All I do is contemplate ways to make your fans mine.") gleam with conviction when Eve throws them like poison-tipped darts.

Finally, lest we forget, the song's video treatment, in which Gwen and Eve ride ATV's and crash a formal party, made visors and fedoras look way cooler than they ever have before or since. —Alysa Lechner

13. Lil Kim "Big Momma Thang" (1996)

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Album: Hard Core

Lil Kim came full force on "Big Momma Thing" with features from Jay-Z and Lil Cease. Before the features came the original version with outrageous lyrics taking shots at Faith Evans with the lines "B.I.G. you're rockin' my property, P.Y.P. play your position/Know I got ya wishing you never started dissin'/Plus I give head better than you/Pussy get wetter than you/Fuck better than you/I dedicate this song to ya ass/Like R. Kelly and that twin Pac up in your belly," a reference to B.I.G. being Kim's property, and Faith having sex with Tupac.

The original version was scraped in favor of Jay-Z's verse, which declares his attraction to Kim and his desire to get her down with the Rocafella clique. And no wonder: "Big Momma Thang" was the record that served notices Lil Kim was out to get hers without any apology and raising the bar for some of the raunchiest lines ever heard in rap, period—female or male. With lines like "I used to be scared of the dick/Now I throw lips to that shit" as the opener to her song, there was no doubt who was the Queen B, a title that will never be taken from Lil Kim. —Lauren Nostro

12. Yo-Yo "You Can't Play with My Yo-Yo" (1991)

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Album: Make Way for the Motherlode

Yolanda Whitaker (aka Yo-Yo), burst onto the scene in the early '90s as Ice Cube's protege. "You Can't Play With My Yo Yo" was her debut single, a powerful uppercut to the jaw of male-centric hip hop. Repping for the IBWC (Intelligent Black Woman's Coalition), Yo-Yo bounces through female empowerment lyrics ( "Check the booty, yo its kinda soft and/If you touch, you livin' in a coffin") that would have any male rapper shaking his boots. Both "You Can't Play With My YoYo" and her debut album, Make Way For The Motherlode, were critically acclaimed. Produced by Ice Cube, Sir Jinx, and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, the album found its way to No. 5 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop chart. More to the point, it established Yo Yo as a strong female voice from the West Coast.  —Alysa Lechner.

11. Lauryn Hill "Doo Wop (That Thing)" (1998)

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Album: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

At the end of this song, Lauryn asks: "How you gon' win, when you ain't right within?" According to the Grammys that year, Lauryn herself was right within, winning five with her debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

Her only No. 1 single, "Doo Wop," dedicated a first verse to women and a second to men, encouraging listeners to avoid the romantic pitfalls that she had seen or experienced firsthand. This was testament to the idea that rap could be used to uplift, unite, and empower women in a way that wasn't cloying.

Lauryn was able to walk the thin line that is a cautionary tale without too much self-righteousness, simply by inserting her own humanity, saying: "Don't think I haven't been through the same predicament." She has seen "that thing" in her own world and she just doesn't want you to be miseducated about it. —Alexander Gleckman

10. Foxy Brown f/ Jay-Z "I'll Be" (1997)

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Album: Ill Na Na

The Trackmasters' formula in the late-1990s was to revive the R&B stars of the 1980s, to call on memory and nostalgia for the aspirational sound of a more bourgeois era in soul music's history. Case in point: Foxy Brown's debut LP Ill Na Na. Her lead single, "Get Me Home," lifted Eugene Wilde's "Gotta Get You Home Tonight," and peaked at No. 41 on the Hot 100. It was her second single, which featured a guest spot from Jay-Z, that really hit, cracking the top ten thanks in large part to its flip of Rene and Angela's electro-R&B hit "I'll Be Good." Foxy and Jay weren't your grandparents' tag-team. Jay handled the hook, while Foxy's deep vocals and unfadeable swagger carried the record. It was the highest-charting single ever for both Foxy and Jay at that time. The artist formerly known as Inge Marchand would go on to have creative success—her 2001 LP Broken Silence is one of hip-hop's most slept-on releases—but never this level of popularity. Having peaked at No. 7 on the Hot 100, "I'll Be Good" remains Foxy Brown's only Top 40 single.  —David Drake

9. Lady of Rage "Afro Puffs" (1994)

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Album: Above The Rim: The Soundtrack

One of the greatest rap one-hit wonders ever, the Lady of Rage hit MCs like Haaaadouken! in 1994. She had first established herself with guest spots on Dre's The Chronic and Snoop's Doggystyle, and "Afro Puffs" was her moment to show and prove. The track set her up as a Blaxploitation era super heroine, with a backdrop provided by Dr. Dre using two Johnny Guitar Watson samples concurrently. Sadly, this song wasn't enough to get Rage's album, Eargasm, released and by the time Necessary Roughness dropped in '97, Death Row had lost most of its muster. But Rage will always be the Queen of G-Funk in our eyes, and "Afro Puffs" is the reason why. —Insanul Ahmed

8. MC Lyte "Paper Thin" (1988)

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Album: Lyte as a Rock

Brooklyn-born Lana Michele Moorer aka MC Lyte is one of the greatest rappers of any gender in hip-hop history. Her debut album, Lyte as a Rock, was released in one of hip-hop's golden years, and took its place alongside classics by Public Enemy, Slick Rick, Eric B & Rakim, BDP, and N.W.A. Aside from the battle rap "10% Dis," the album's standout track was this song, in which Lyte puts a two-timing loverboy in check: "When you say you love me, it doesn't matter/It goes to my head as just chit-chatter." Lyte's philosophy of dating set her apart from the oversexed personas of so many female rappers whose lyrics were often penned by male artists/boyfriends. "Now I take precaution when choosing my mate / I do not touch until the third or fourth date / Then maybe we'll kiss on the fifth or sixth..." Unconcerned with inflaming her listeners' sexual urges, Lyte was always confident that her lyrics were more than enough. —Rob Kenner

7. Lil Kim f/ Da Brat, Missy Elliott, Angie Martinez, & Left Eye "Ladies Night (Not Tonight Remix)" (1997)

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6. Nicki Minaj "Super Bass" (2011)

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Album: Pink Friday

It didn't even have to be seeping out of car windows or pumping through your headphones for you to bounce to it; "Super Bass" followed you by way of sonic infection. It could have been the onomatopoeic, pop-cloaked chorus, or Nicki's bubbly rapping. Whatever the case, "Super Bass" sublet your brain for longer than even you knew you wanted. Musing on the type of man she truly desires ("He cold, he dope, he might sell coke/He always in the air, but he never flies coach"), "Super Bass" was Minaj's freshest foray into unabashed pop. While criticized, the song's pop bent was a risk that was ultimately rewarded as the track reached quadruple platinum status, peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard charts. And who could forget the myriad covers—by Taylor Swift, various Disney stars, and tutu-sporting toddlers alike? "Super Bass" shot to the pinnacle of popularity, with Minaj displaying substantial crossover savvy and raw rap skills. How super is that?  —Alysa Lechner.

5. Queen Latifah f/ Monie Love "Ladies First" (1989)

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Album: All Hail the Queen

Queen Latifiah was right in naming her debut album All Hail The Queen, because that's exactly what we did when "Ladies First" dropped. The single, featuring UK MC Monie Love, is one of rap's most legendary songs, and one of Queen Latifah's signature jams. More than a feminist anthem, Latifah's lines dismissed tired stereotypes around female MCs and Monie and Latifah's mutual respect flooded this breakthrough track. "We are the ones that give birth/To the new generation of prophets/cause it's Ladies First" rang loud and clear. —Lauren Nostro

4. Salt-n-Pepa "Push It" (1987)

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Album: Hot, Cool & Vicious

"Push It" doesn't just ask for it, it demands it. The beat demands a slot in your brain's memory file where it stores infinitely catchy loops—one so classic it could break it down at any hip-hop party but also an EDM one. With explicit instructions to men to just push it (push it real good), it's filthy without uttering a curse word. Yet the irony is, despite being the biggest song from one of the earliest female rap groups, the track has very little rapping on it (though Salt-n-Pepa's album Hot, Cool & Vicious had considerably more). The undeniable anthem lit up dance floors everywhere, becoming one of the earliest rap songs to become a hit on the dance charts, and setting a sexed-up tone for female rappers for decades to come. —Insanul Ahmed

3. Missy Elliott "Work It" (2002)

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Album: Under Construction

One of Missy's most compelling qualities was her ability to lyrically match the strangeness of whatever Timbaland gave her to rap over, and with an equally idiosyncratic flow. She didn't have to "look like a Halle Berry poster" to capture our attention, she just had to put her thing down, flip it, then proceed to reverse it until we all needed a glass of water.

Besides pushing the envelope stylistically, "Work It" may have also been the first time you heard the term "chocha," or at least the first time you heard it rhymed with "vulture." In any case, the song was good enough to warrant a young 50 Cent feature on the remix, spitting the memorable joke: "I can go hard, know why? Big girls don't cry."

Despite numerous nods to the old school, from Rock Master Scott ("Request Line") and Run-DMC ("Peter Piper") samples to the b-boy styling elements of the video, this was clearly a song of the future. Listen to it today and it still sounds ahead of its time. —Alexander Gleckman

2. Roxanne Shante "Roxanne's Revenge" (1984)

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Album: Roxanne's Revenge 12"

In 1984, a fourteen-year-old girl stepped to the microphone and delivered one of the earliest diss records in hip-hop history. Roxanne Shante, who would later become embroiled in the legendary "Bridge Wars" between the Juice Crew and Boogie Down Productions, delivered a biting response to UTFO's "Roxanne Roxanne" at the whim of radio personality Mr. Magic and legendary producer Marley Marl, who had been slighted when the rap group bailed on an appearance they had been promoting. Getting into the mind of the fictional character that UTFO created (a woman who rejects their advances), "Roxanne's Revenge" triggered what is now known as the "Roxanne Wars." UTFO retaliated by recruiting a rapper they called The Real Roxanne to make a response. Dozens of answer records from groups not involved in the beef were released. Through it all, "Roxanne's Revenge" reigned supreme, selling 250,000 copies in New York City alone and eventually going gold nationwide. Not only is the song incredible for the brashness that Shante displays in her early adolescence, but also because she freestyled the song, recording the original song in one take.

1. Lauryn Hill "Lost Ones" (1998)

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Album: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

When she decided to create her solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill took to Tuff Gong Studios in Jamaica to record a 14-track multi-Grammy-winning classic album. From the interpolation of Sister Nancy's "Bam Bam" to the spicy patois in her raps, "Lost Ones" perfectly defined the Jamaican influence on Lauryn's work.

This song was her first shot at a solo career; it was more than that though, "Lost Ones" was the sound of a brilliant artist breaking away from the boys and demanding respect on her own, which was obviously well-deserved. L Boogie's recording engineer, Gordon Williams, once detailed the recording of this legendary track. On the first morning  they arrived in Jamaica, Lauryn gathered around 15 of Bob Marley's grandchildren at the Bob Marley Museum on 56 Hope Road and began singing "Lost Ones." That experience inspired the lyric, "I was hopeless now I'm on Hope Road. Lauryn laid the verses on a handheld microphone for this track, and you can feel the energy in the final recording.

She went in on first line, "It's funny how money change a situation," and by the time she got to the chorus—"You might win some but you just lost one"—it was obvious that the song was a shot at former Fugees Wyclef Jean and Pras. The song became a highlight of Hill's classic album because it showed off all her strengths—sweet singing, razor-sharp mic skills, heavy-hitting production, plus versatility and fierce determination to stand on her own two feet. That's why this jam belongs at the top of the list. —Lauren Nostro

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