One of the most popular female rappers currently in the game, she is known for her rapid-fire delivery of lyrics, alter egos, extravagant outfits and wigs (although she has said recently she'll be toning that down). She was born in Saint James, a suburb of Port of Spain, capital of Trinidad and Tobago in 1982. She moved to Queens at five-years-old with her mother. Later in life she attended LaGuardia High School and was in the drama program, hoping to become an actress. When these dreams failed to pan out she worked various odd jobs, from a waitress to administrative assistant, and was fired from many of them. Minaj then started pursuing hip-hop and was first noticed when she appeared on the street DVD “The Come Up Volume 11,” which featured underground rappers from New York. In August 2009 Lil Wayne discovered her after watching the DVD and signed her to Young Money Entertainment… and the rest is history.
The Lady of Rage
Best known for her collaborations with many Death Row Records artists, such as Dr. Dre (1992’s “The Chronic”) and Snoop Dogg (1993’s “Doggystyle”), she was born in 1975 in Farmville, Virginia. This lady MC is known for her flow and staunch lyrics. She made her first entrance into the rap circle after she met Shahkim of the Original Outlaw Brothers, which was a group from Queens. From there she joined their group and was signed to L.A. Posse where Dr. Dre discovered her. In 1997 she released her debut album Necessary Roughness. She is currently part of the group N’Matez, which is also comprised of Daz Dillinger, Kurupt and RBX.
One of the trailblazers of hip-hop, Roxanne was born in 1969 and grew up in the Queensbridge Projects in Queens. She was first noticed after participating in the Roxanne Wars, which was a series of hip-hop rivalries in the mid-1980s where she collaborated with record producer Marley Marl. This diss track was called “Roxanne’s Revenge” and was a hit against old-school hip-hop UTFO after they cancelled a show. Shanté became known for her effortless ability to freestyle entire songs, such as “Roxanne’s Revenge,” which was supposedly made up on the spot while being recorded in one take. At the age of 25 she went on hiatus from the rap game, but in 2008 resumed performing and re-recorded “Roxanne’s Revenge” the next year.
A well-known rapper from the late 1980s and early 1990s from Queens, she was born in 1970. Her big break came when she released “I Got An Attitude, which appeared on producer Hurby Azor’s compilation album, Hurby’s Machine, in 1987. After this she released two albums, Who’s The Boss? (1989) and Burnin’ At 20 Below (1990).
A rapper of Chinese and Korean descent who hails from the Forest Hills area of Queens. She was trained in classical and jazz music at the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts. At age 17 she began rapping and writing songs in GarageBand. Her first single, “My Vag” was released in 2012 and grabbed the attention of several blogs and magazines. Her second single “NYC Bitche$” was released this year and received similar feedback. So far she has only released one compilation called The Yellow Ranger this year.
Was born in 1974 and is a native of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. She grew up on the streets after being thrown out of her house at a young age. Kim started spitting rhymes during her teenage years and was deeply influenced by Diana Ross, MC Lyte and The Lady of Rage. It was when she met Notorious B.I.G. in 1994 and joined the Junior M.A.F.I.A. clan when her career took off. The group released their 1995 debut album, Conspiracy, which produced three hit singles, including “Player’s Anthem,” “I Need You Tonight” and “Get Money.” A year later Kim released her debut solo album, Hardcore, which produced the hit, “No Time,” a track released with Diddy. Other albums she has dropped over the years include The Notorious K.I.M. (2000), La Bella Mafia (2003) and The Naked Truth (2005). Kim is also known for her feuds she’s had over the years with other female rappers, like Foxy Brown and most recently Nicki Minaj.
Was born in 1978 and raised in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Her father left her family when she was a child to pursue his career at ERAC Records. Brown first became noticed after winning a talent contest in Park Slope where affiliates of the production team Trackmasters were present. After this she was featured on several tracks from other artists, such as “Touch Me Tease Me” by Case and “Ain’t No Nigga” by Jay-Z. Def Jam Records signed her at 17-years-old and from there she released her debut album, Ill Na Na, in 1996, which produced the two hit singles “Get Me Home” (featuring Blackstreet) and “I’ll Be” (featuring Jay-Z). One year later she joined the supergroup, The Firm, which also included New-York rappers Nas, AZ and Nature. Following this stint, she released Chyna Doll (1999) and Broken Silence (2001). She built her reputation on wearing racy outfits and using vulgar language in her music. Brown was also known for having beef with other female rappers, most famously with Lil’ Kim, Queen Latifah, Queen Pen and Jacki-O.
Was born in Harlem in 1989, but was then raised in Brooklyn. Growing up she was the eldest out of eight siblings and to stand out she would express herself through poetry and dance. In 2006, Lil Mama signed a recording contract with Jive Records and released her debut album, VYP (Voice of the Young People) in 2008. This album produced four singles, including “Lip Gloss,” “G-Slide (Tour Bus),” “Shawty Get Loose” and “What It Is (Strike a Pose).” Lil Mama also served as a judge for seven seasons on “America’s Best Dance Crew” and played the role of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes in VH1’s biopic “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story,” which aired in October 2013.
Is one of the first all-female rap groups that formed in 1985. The trio is comprised of Cheryl James (“Salt” is from Brooklyn), Sandra Denton (“Pepa” is from Queens) and Deidra Roper (DJ Spinderella is Brooklyn). James and Denton first edged in on the rap scene when they released “The Showstopper,” an answer record to Doug E. Fresh’s “The Show,” under the moniker Super Nature. This was the song that the duo were asked to do by co-worker Hurby “Luv Bug” Azor (Salt’s boyfriend at the time) for his audio production class at New York City’s Center for Media Arts while they all were working at a Sears store in Queens. After this success they changed their name to Salt-N-Pepa and added Roper as DJ when they signed to Next Plateau Records. They released their debut album, Hot, Cool & Vicious in 1986, with albums A Salt with a Deadly Pepa (1998), Blacks’ Magic (1990), Very Necessary (1993) and Brand New (1997) to follow. Some of their most popular hits are “Push It,” “Shoop,” “Whatta Man,” “Let’s Talk About Sex” and “None Of Your Business.”
Who was born in Queens in 1971 and raised in the East Flatbush region of Brooklyn, started rapping at age 12. She learned how to rap from her brothers Milk and Gizmo from the rap group Audio Two. Lyte released her first song “I Cram to Understand U (Sam)” in 1986. In 1988 she became the first solo female rapper to release a full album with “Lyte as a Rock,” which spawned the hit song “Paper Thin” and the battle rap “10% Dis,” also a response song to rapper Antoinette. She released many albums after this, including “Eyes On This” (1989), “Act Like You Know” (1991), “Ain’t No Other” (1993), “Bad As I Wanna B” (1996), “Seven & Seven” (1998) and “Da Underground Heat, Vol. 1” (2003).
Born in 1969, grew up in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn and was active in the rap game from 1988 to 1992. She was affiliated with KRS-One’s Boogie Down Productions and was married to him until their divorce in 1992. Melodie was also the older sister of former BDP member Harmony. She was featured on the 1989 “Self Destruction” single, which was part of the Stop the Violence Movement started by KRS-One. Melodie was known for her aggressive style and was able to rap amongst the men while holding her own. Her only album ever released was “Diva” in 1989 with her single “Wake Up, Wake Up” reaching the top 20 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Singles chart. Melodie died on July 17, 2012. The cause of death was not released to the public.
Born in 1972, was raised in some of the roughest areas in Brooklyn. Growing up she always aspired to be a rapper, but at the age of 15 she became pregnant. She wasn’t able to fulfill that dream of performing for the next ten years, until she approached Teddy Riley from Blackstreet. In 1996 she was added as a guest artist on their hit song “No Diggity,” which also featured Dr. Dre. After this she was signed to Riley’s Lil’ Man record label and released her debut album, “My Melody,” in 1997 which spawned singles “All My Love,” “Man Behind the Music” and “Party Ain’t a Party.” Her song “Girlfriend” featuring Me’Shell NdegeOcello also became popular due to its subject matter of same-sex affairs. She is known for having been in feud with Foxy Brown over this song. Her next album “Conversations With Queen” was released in 2001 after her three-year hiatus from rapping.
Is one of the newest up and coming rappers from Brooklyn. Born in Michigan in 1990, she later moved and was raised in Orlando, Florida. When she was attending art school with a major in creative writing at 14, she also began to pursue rapping. When she was 17 she moved to Brooklyn in hopes of becoming a musician. She was first noticed after her freestyle over the Kanye West song “Monster” went viral. She was later signed to Boombox Family Entertainment and released her first EP, “The Boombox Diaries, Vol. 1,” in 2012. In 2011 she released two mixtapes, “The Cassette Chronicles” and “Doobies x Popsicle Sticks,” as well. Her style of rapping has been compared to the likes of MC Lyte and Lauryn Hill.
Born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1976, she moved to New York City shortly after her birth. She grew up in different areas of Manhattan ranging from Harlem to the Chelsea Hotel. In high school she studied vocal performance at the LaGuardia School of Performing Arts. Her first venture into hip-hop began when she was known as What? What? and worked with the group Ground Zero. In the mid-1990s she joined the group Natural Resource, which also included rapper Ocean and DJ James “AGGIE” Barrett. They released many singles, such as “Negro League Baseball,” “Bum Deal,” “They Lied.” She also was a guest artist on songs from fellow rappers Pumpkinhead and Bad Seed. She kicked off her solo career and switched her name to Jean Grae and in 2002 released her first debut album, Attack of the Attacking Things and followed in 2004 with This Week. Over the course of her career she’s also recorded with many other artists, like Atmosphere, The Roots, and Talib Kweli.
Born in 1991, she grew up in Harlem with her mother and two older sisters. After her father died of pancreatic cancer when she was two her mother became abusive. The abuse became so intolerable she made the choice to move out at age 14 and move in with her older sister. Banks began to pursue musical theater, acting and singing during this time and was featured in off-Broadway musicals, such as “Rabbit Sense,” “Sleepover” and “Heroes” with Tada! Youth Theater in Lower Manhattan. She attended LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts. Banks attempted to land acting jobs, but failed. It was then that she started to pursue becoming a recording artist. She released songs “Gimme a Chance” and “Seventeen” onto the internet under the moniker Miss Bank$ in 2008. Diplo first noticed her when she sent him a recording of “Seventeen” and signed her to XL Recordings. Due to conflicts Banks left the label in 2011 and went by Azealia Banks instead of her former moniker. In this unpredictable stage of her life she moved to Montreal, then moved back to New York, worked at a strip club in Queens, and sold key chains at a Manhattan jazz club. Finally in September 2011 she released her debut single “212” as a free digital download from her website. As the song grew in popularity it was officially released in December 2011 as the first single off of her EP 1991. She released several other songs with various artists after this, but has yet to release her debut album, which is tentatively called Broke with Expensive Taste and is set to drop sometime in 2014. Banks is known for getting into several feuds with many artists, such as Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Iggy Azalea, Kreayshawn, Nicki Minaj and others.
Born in 1990, she was raised in Harlem. She began performing at four after picking up a microphone. At a young age she entered talent contests, such as the Apollo Theater National All-Stars talent search. Taylor was first discovered when she was featured on MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16” in 2007. She signed with Pharrell Williams’ Star Trak Entertainment imprint through Interscope this same year. Before pursuing music she was a skateboarder and basketball player, but due to the liabilities the label saw with such physical hobbies she was forced to give them up. She released her first single “Google Me” in 2008 from her mixtape, From a Planet Called Harlem. After leaving Interscope in early 2012 she self-released her second mixtape The Misunderstanding of Teyana Taylor. Later that same year she signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label and appears on tracks from the GOOD Music compilation album Cruel Summer.
Born in 1980, Remy grew up in the Castle Hills Projects in the Bronx. She was witness to much of her family’s drug abuse at a young age and was forced to take care of her younger brothers and sisters. Her escape from this dysfunction in her life was through writing poetry. Eventually she turned these poems into raps and was later discovered by the late MC Big Pun, who then became her mentor. Under the name Remi Martin, she appeared on Pun’s 2000 album Yeeeah Baby on tracks “Ms. Martin” and “You Was Wrong.” After Pun died in 2000, Remy was signed by Fat Joe and joined hip-hop group Terror Squad. She was featured on the group’s 2004 hit “Lean Back,” which earned her a Grammy nomination. In 2006 she released her debut album There’s Something About Remy: Based on a True Story, which garnered the two singles “Whuteva” and “Conceited.” After this she released several mixtapes, such as Most Anticipated (2005), The BX-Files (2007), Shesus Khryst (2007) and BlasRemy (2008).
MC Sha Rock
Was born in Wilmington, North Carolina and moved with her parents to the New York City in the early 1970s. She first stepped into the hip-hop scene as a B-Girl in the Bronx in 1976. Later she joined Funky Four Plus One, which also included members Jazzy Jeff, DJ Breakout and Keith Keith. She was the first female MC to join an all-male hip-hop group. They were the first hip-hop group to be signed to an actual record label. After joining the Enjoy label they released their debut album, Rappin’ and Rockin’ the House in 1979. The group later switched to Sugarhill Records and released That’s the Joint (1980), Do You Want to Rock (Before I let Go) (1982) and Feel It (The Mexican) (1983).
Is a Wu-Tang Clan (from Staten Island) affiliated all-female group formed in 1997, consisting of N-Tyce, J-Boo, Champ MC and Finesse. Together they recorded three albums, The Antidote (1998), Pretty Thugs (2000) and Still Standing (2002). Apart from the group, most members of the group were known for their outside work. Finesse recorded an album with rapper Synquis called Soul Sisters, which dropped in 1988. Champ MC released her solo album, Ghetto Flava in 1994. N-Tyce signed with Wild Pitch/EMI and released a few singles, including “Hush Hush Tip” featuring Method Man.
While the men of hip-hop may be more widely recognized, what about their female counterparts that grew up alongside these men on the same turfs? Today we're taking a look at some of the most influential female rappers divided by their New York boroughs.
Most people know of the male heavyweights in hip-hop who have inhabited the streets and hoods of hip-hop's birthing place, New York City, since the onsets of their careers. They constantly make references to their stomping grounds in their tracks, paying homage to their homies through shout outs, making sure they never take for granted where they came from.
Until Notorious B.I.G.’s death in 1997 he was the Muhammad Ali of East Coast hip-hop. He was raised in Brooklyn, in the Clinton Hill area, and always showed love for his hometown in his music. Today Jay-Z reigns as Brooklyn’s finest living male rapper (according to some), having grown up in Marcy Houses, a housing project in Bed-Stuy.
While the men of hip-hop may be more widely known, what about their female counterparts that grew up alongside these men on the same turfs? These women have represented their respective NYC boroughs proudly as well. Their accomplishments have paved the way for aspiring female rappers and hip-hop artists out there currently trying to make a name for themselves among an industry dominated by men.
Here’s a list of some of hip-hop’s illest ladies from NYC, that rose above the rest, as well as some talented new comers we recommend keeping an eye out for.