For decades, hip-hop has constantly been scrutinized for not being a particularly welcoming space for women. Even Cardi B’s breakthrough success is a reminder of that. “Bodak Yellow” became the No. 1 song in the country last September, the first song by a solo female rapper to do so in 19 years. Even the most dedicated hip-hop fans stretched out the syllables of "nineteen" in disbelief.
But of course, the issue isn’t just about the culture’s treatment of women as performers but also as human beings. Academics and lazy Fox News pundits eager to take a swing at black culture have constantly harped on hip-hop’s lack of respect for women. Hip-hop is an art form that carries multiple dimensions, though, so many of these criticisms tend to paint in broad strokes—or completely ignore the rappers who cut the posturing to appreciate the ladies, whether they be daughters, love interests, or mothers (rappers tend to not speak ill of their moms).
These odes to women aren’t a new concept, either: MCA pledged to kill the disrespect to women on 1994’s “Sure Shot,” and De La Soul rapped endearingly about intimacy over a Steely Dan sample on 1989’s “Eye Know.” Hip-hop has been through multiple changes since its golden era, but it hasn’t stopped giving the ladies their shine. Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly was a packed and ambitious black consciousness statement that felt even more complete when it included the female perspective. And of course, J. Cole, hip-hop’s poster boy for positivity, also has some words of encouragement for the ladies.
Here’s our list of 30 rap songs that say nice things about women, although it is by no means definitive; there aren’t just 30 rap songs that respect women. This list offers another way to examine a genre that isn’t as one-dimensional as critics make it seem. Take a look at the picks below.