Highsnobiety

In 2023, it feels redundant to even say the words "female rapper" to mark out women as separate to their male contemporaries. The likes of MC Lyte, Roxanne Shanté, Salt-N-Pepa, and Queen Latifah have been killing it since the '80s, but waves of talented women (from Kim and Foxy to Nicki and Cardi) have come since, proving time and time again that they can go just as hard – if not harder – than the guys.

Thanks to social media and online streaming partially democratizing the industry, there’s more choice than ever before when it comes to hard-hitting women in the rap game: from Megan Thee Stallion, Saweetie, City Girls, and Kash Doll to Young M.A, Lady Leshurr, Dai Burger, Ms. Banks, and Nadia Rose, the list of stars on the rise grows seemingly every day. The definitions of rap and hip-hop are changing constantly, too, as artists blend genres from around the world into new, sonically innovative hybrids.

These combined factors make it harder than ever to box artists in, which is precisely the point: genre means less than talent, but there’s still a whole bunch of new or underrated artists, namely female rappers, that you really should be adding to your playlists. So, under the loose banner of "hip-hop," we’ve rounded up some for you.

Here are 15 female rappers killing it right now

LITTLE SIMZ

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Well, calling Little Simz an up and comer might be a little bit of an understatement considering the young but prosperous career of one of the best UK rappers in the business. In fact, during her musical career she has performed alongside such notable artists as Lauryn Hill and the Gorillaz, Kendrick Lamar described her as "one of the best rappers of the moment." Proof of that is her winning the 2022 Mercury Prize for her fourth album "Sometimes I Might Be Introvert," surpassing among others Harry Styles, Wet Leg, Sam Fender, and Yard Act who had been nominated. All the songs are different from each other, no fillers, but streams of consciousness full of rhymes, stories and sumptuous arrangements, and her unique cadence and accent. Last year, she released her fifth studio album No Thank You to great critical acclaim and further cementing herself and one of the most exciting rappers you absolutely do not want to miss out on.

HAWA

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Hawa may be just 22 years-old, but already she’s racked up a series of hits and a standout performance slot at Telfar’s FW20 show. Born in Berlin and raised between Guinea, France, and America, the classically-trained artist is now based in New York, where she cut her teeth as a composer at the city’s revered Philharmonic Orchestra. But she soon got bored and branched out, linking up with producer Tony Seltzer for her stellar 2018 debut, "Might Be".

Now signed to carefully-curated indie label b4 (an offshoot of 4AD), Hawa is steadily building a back catalog which transcends genre. Her EP The One veers effortlessly between smooth melodies and calm, confident bars: from the infectious, sexed-up "Frick" to the bruisingly introspective "iPhone". Her recently released full length album Hadja Bangoura, Hawa smartly and subtly retouches her sound, meshing R&B and New York drill in melodically refined and technically impeccable way, and it is one further proof that there’s more than enough versatility to guarantee Hawa’s place on any list of emerging stars.

LE JUIICE

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“Je suis le trap mama.” These were the lyrics that accelerated the profile of French artist Le Juiice in 2019, although she was already a fixture on the cipher scene with regular freestyles on Planète Rap and an online hit in the form of "No Cap." Born and raised in the southeastern Parisian banlieu of Boissy-Saint-Léger, she grew up surrounded by rappers and soon began spitting herself, turning the poetry she wrote as a child into bonafide rhymes.

Before long, she had polished her skills and stepped away from a career in the financial sector to release breakout single "Trap Mama," also the name of her recently-released debut album. Rumbling bass and menacing snares link the album sonically, creating a series of beats for Juiice to flex over: from her fit to her weed, she raps with the kind of confidence that a self-made talent is forced to cultivate.

JEAN GRAE

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Despite a decades-long career, industry acclaim, and a reputation as one of the best lyricists in the game, Jean Grae remains criminally underrated and definitely deserves a spot in this list of best female rappers to keep an eye on. Since her first release way back in 1996, Grae has dropped countless witty punchlines and rapped in-depth about everything from her teenage abortion to gun violence in America. She signed to Talib Kweli’s record label back in 2005, but ultimately left – not only was she disenchanted with the industry, she was ready to start a family.

But then, in 2018, she returned with husband Quelle Chris to drop the satirical yet fiercely intelligent Everything’s Fine, which saw Grae back on top form lyrically. Over a mixture of soul and funk beats, the MCs wrote skits and witty bars about what it truly means to be “fine” under late-stage capitalism in the midst of political chaos. It was a biting return to form which signalled more music soon to come – but in the meantime, her vast back catalog should tide you over.

KALI

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Carefree, fun and talented. A great mix of skills and attitudes that the American female rapper Kali has been using to climb the ladder. It all started back in November 2020, when she first received traction with her track "Do A Bitch" on TikTok. In 2021, she released her debut mixtape This Is Why They Mad Now with a remix of her aforementioned breakthrough song "Do A Bitch" by American rapper Rico Nasty. In June of 2022, she was selected as part of the 2022 XXL Freshman class.We are not the only ones feeling excited about Kali. You've been warned!

ALYONA ALYONA

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Alyona Savranenko has cycled through multiple careers over the years: from schoolteacher to make-up counter cashier, she lived various lives before finding fame as one of Ukraine’s breakout rap stars. Her tongue-in-cheek videos, which feature scenes of Savranenko jet-skiing across cartoon-plastered green-screens and rapping with her friends, have racked up millions of views, proving that great rap really can transcend language barriers.

Then, there’s the music itself: Savranenko’s flow is rapid-fire, rhythmic and charismatic, with countless pitch shifts and ad libs guaranteed to get lodged in your mind. Rumbling bass and eccentric touches characterize her beats, but generally they’re stripped back: Savranenko truly doesn’t need much help to shine.

MALUCA MALA

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You might recognize Maluca Mala from her 2009 hit "El Tigeraso" or maybe her guest appearance on Robyn’s 2015 single "Love Is Free," but herinfectious single – "NYC Baby" – a brilliantly charismatic video, and debut album, which has been almost a decade in the making.

Born in the Bronx to Dominican parents, Maluca Mala’s music has always been impossible to box in: she’s previously described it as “ghetto-techno, Latin dance, hip-hop, rave music,” and pulls from rap and electronica as often as she does bachata and merengue. It’s a heady mix underpinned by her ability to switch between rapid flows and earworm melodies, as well as a joyous energy that makes her music impossible not to dance to.

ICE SPICE

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Ice Spice is the 22-year-old Bronx native who in just a few steps has managed to reach a large segment of the public, thanks in part to the truth of her hit "Munch (Feelin' U) on TikTok. A meteor that seeks to consolidate itself in a panorama, that of the East Coast, which sees Cardi B and Nicki Minaj as main artists, but which has already attracted the attentions of one of the most attentive artists of the scene: we are talking about Drake.

Her journey began as early as November 2021, when she released her musical debut "No Clarity": the track collected a million listens on YouTube and its timbre was reminiscent of that of a young Lil Kim. Now sky is the limit for Ice Spice, and we are here for it.

JEAN DEAUX

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Despite being barely midway through her 20s, Jean Deaux has been praised in the past for her “mastery of all genres.” In the years leading up to her 2018 EP Krash, she shone on guest spots for Mykki Blanco, Kehlani, and Isaiah Rashad to name a few, but her own sonic blueprint came fully fleshed out on her seven-track album, Empathy.

Deaux’s voice is like honey, switching between restrained raps and airy, saccharine vocals across the album. Standout "Anytime" sees the Chicago-born artist rhyme about sexual dominance through quick punchlines and clever metaphors, whereas tracks like "Break Time" and "Higher Me" (which she switches to “hire me”) are lyrical testaments to the hustle that’s already earned her industry acclaim, and her 2021 full length album Most Wanted, is another testament to this. It’s precisely this fluidity and determination that make Deaux one of the most interesting female rappers making music right now.

LADY SHOCKER

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Few grime artists can go toe-to-toe with Lady Shocker, a seasoned lyricist and battle rapper with almost two decades of experience. Over the years, she’s racked up a series of impressive tracks like "Slap An MC," whose tongue-in-cheek lyrics (“I’ll have your girl eatin’ out a box like Chinese") and quick-fire punchlines show her playful side, and the kind of biting wit that’s guaranteed to come out top in ciphers.

More recently, London-based Shocker has been experimenting with slower, more laid-back beats: ode to weed "Haze" is exemplary, as is the surprisingly romantic "Butterflies." Between releases, she uses her platform to dispel stigma around the grime scene and muse on its evolution, all the while transitioning into a new chapter of her career. With new music still coming thick and fast, now’s the time to put Shocker on your radar for 2023.

CHINESE KITTY

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Undeniably, one of the best rap tracks to emerge in recent years, women-only remix of Hitmaka’s "Thot Box," featuring Young M.A, Dreezy, Mulatto, DreamDoll, and Chinese Kitty. The sexed-up reclamation quickly racked up millions of streams and a slew of Insta-worthy punchlines, like Kitty’s iconic “pussy juice on his durag” and “have him singing to my pussy like Keith Sweat.”

The Love & Hip Hop: Miami regular had already flexed her charisma, swag, and sex appeal across a handful of releases, but her mixtape Kitty Bandz and SDM album saw her move into a lane of her own. Bass-heavy and surprisingly versatile, the cohesive set sees Kitty team up with Cuban Doll on the blistering "Opps" and show off her flow on "Nasty Finesse," proving without doubt that she deserves your attention.

SHAYBO

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Shaybo’s project might be called Queen of the South, but that’s not a Trina reference. First, she’s talking about South London as opposed to Miami – more specifically, she’s currently based in Woolwich, fast becoming the epicenter of the UK’s drill scene. It’s also a reference to Teresa Mendoza, who grew up underprivileged in Mexico but hustled her way through, becoming a prolific cartel leader.

References like these are stamped across drill music, which is so unashamedly political that the UK’s police chief called for it to be banned. But it’s a genre rooted in the realities of living in the UK’s failing political system, which both segregates and scapegoats racial minorities. “I can’t control my anger / so I smoke this ganja,” she raps on "Anger," all the while sprinkling football puns and Christian Dior into her lyrics. A series of online freestyles demonstrate her obvious talent, but Shaybo stands out for the obvious fact that she’s a female rapper with a clear point of view and a vital message.

TOKISCHA

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The last few years in particular have seen Latin American styles like funk carioca and reggaeton undergo makeovers driven largely by queer, feminist artists: from the innovators of neoperreo to the sex-positive trailblazers of funk carioca, women across the entire diaspora are making their mark on genres with rich histories. Dominican rapper Tokischa defines her sound as #trapterretre, laying the blueprint on 2018 breakout hit "Pícala."

In recent years, she’s risen the ranks and cemented her place in a crucial conversation, rapping unapologetically about sex, weed, and self-empowerment. A handful of rapid-fire freestyles have earned her serious respect, whereas hits like "Amor Y Dinero" have proven her storytelling ability, outlining a sketchy but passionate relationship between two gangsters. She’s a fan of a collab, too – as she teamed up with Farina for the infectious "Perras Como Tú," effortlessly dragging the perras (bitches) vying for her attention.

PRINCESS NOKIA

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Born Destiny Nicole Frasqueri, at age 3, Princess Nokia lost her mother to AIDS. She then lived in foster care, in poor conditions and tried to make her own way as Puerto Rican in New York City.
 In 2010 her first song comes out and we can hear the anger in her voice. Slowly she puts her ideas in order, gets exposure on the Internet, uses social to make herself known with the right channels, Youtube or Soundcloud. Then, in 2014 comes the real break, she debuts with her first album: Metallic Butterfly to great reviews. In February 2020, Princess Nokia releases an incredible new album called Everything Sucks and Everything is Beautiful. A mix of Harlem sounds with the mature voice of someone who has made a varied and consistent musical journey, an often very difficult combination. Like others female rappers in the game, but perhaps more than others, Princess Nokia is a big proponent of "intersectional feminism," identifies as bisexual, and speaks out about New York's LGBT community. And of course, she is killing it right now.

SEXY REDD

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If this article is about the best women who are killing the hip-hop game right now, then the St. Louis rapper Sexy Redd must be on this list. She rose to stardom at the beginning of 2023 thanks to the release of "Pound Town" going viral on tiktok. And even though her career started in 2018, and released her first studio album in 2021, it's really thanks to the virality of the aforementioned single that put Sexy Redd in the limelight of commercial hip-hop.

Niki Minaj gave her the ultimate sign of approval by working with her on "Pound Town 2" in April.

If you are wondering what her lyrics are about, just go ahead and have a listen, from discussing the color of her genitalia, to glorifying her music as 'ratchet', there is plenty to dissect. It helps the beats are perfect for clubbing!

For more rappers rising to the global scene, make sure to check out our list of the best up-and-coming Italian, Spanish and Ukrainian rappers right now.

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