Rap gets a bad, well, rap for misogyny—but just like with any other music genre, the truth is that it all depends on the artist. Some rappers are feminist superstar goddesses who came to shatter injustice with empowerment and self-love and melt the faces off of anyone who said they couldn’t. Here are 11 rappers whose music celebrates womanhood, heritage, queerness, Blackness, intersectionality, and more.
1. Princess Nokia
Princess fucking Nokia. There is so much to say. She’s outspoken about celebrating her Afro-Latina and bisexual identities. She has a podcast about health, spirituality, and radical intersectional feminism. At all of her concerts, she invites girls to come to the front and tells them this show is for them. She speaks out about police brutality. She has a rap album AND a punk album. She threw soup on a racist.
“Kicking ass is literally all I care about.” — Princess Nokia
I tell basically everyone I meet to listen to Lizzo. So if you’ve heard it before, I’m sorry. And if you haven’t, take a SEAT because I have some THINGS TO SAY. Lizzo is everything. Her singing voice is unreal, her rap is incredible, her body-positivity and anti-racism work and feminism is off the charts, and her Instagram breathes life into my cold dead heart every morning. AND she plays the flute. Basically, if you’re not listening to Lizzo, I feel sorry for you.
Junglepussy is a Brooklyn-born Caribbean rapper who’s currently focused on writing love songs about herself and I am HERE FOR IT. As she says in a BUST interview, she doesn’t like labels, but a lot of her values stem from “feminism, black power, power to the people, all that in general…. I love being a girl, and I love women, and I love when we stick up for ourselves and don’t take any shit.”
4. Cardi B
Okay, you’ve definitely heard of Cardi B, whether you’re into rap or not, because she’s an unstoppable force of nature with a bunch of number one singles and dope music videos and 29 million Instagram followers. AND she just had a baby! But if you’re thinking, “Cardi B isn’t a feminist! She just raps about money and sex! AND she used to be a strip—” Woah. Lemme stop you right there. Cardi B is outspoken about being a feminist—and makes really important points about our racist and classist ideas of who a feminist can be. “Being a feminist is such a great thing and some people feel like someone like me can’t be as great as that," she said to Billboard. "...They think feminism is great and only a woman that can speak properly, that has a degree, who is a boss, a businessperson [can be a feminist]… they think only Michelle Obama can be a feminist." Yeah. Read more about Cardi B and intersectional feminism here.
5. Angel Haze
Angel Haze is Black and Native American and identifies as pansexual and agender, using both she/her and they/them pronouns. Haze started writing poetry as a way to deal with the pain she experienced from an extremely religious and abusive upbringing. Haze eventually turned that poetry into rap that tackles their experiences with homophobia, racism, body expectations, and sexual abuse. Their viral cover/rewrite of Macklemore’s “Same Love” is particularly powerful and beautiful—listen here.
6. Missy Elliott
There’s no way I’m making this list without talking about Missy Elliott, a true rap legend and feminist icon. Missy Elliott’s lyrics champion sex positivity, self-love, women’s autonomy, and take on slut-shaming and cultural appropriation. Also, she’s one of the best rappers of all time and if you disagree, you can jump through your computer screen and fight me.
Like Angel Haze, CupcakKe is a queer rapper who started off as a poet. She uses her voice to speak up against police brutality and sexual assault. Plus, she’s funny and blunt and her album is called Queen Elizabitch.
There’s so much to love about Rapsody. Her Grammy-nominated album Laila’s Wisdom was named after her grandma, and this Grammy-nominated song was inspired by the Maya Angelou poem “Still I Rise.”
9. Lauryn Hill
How could I not talk about Lauryn? Her rap is powerful, beautiful, and spiritual. Check out this wise speech to a group of high schoolers in 2000 when she was 25 but already sounding like your amazingly wise aunt who makes you tea and tells you all the secrets to living right.
10. Quay Dash
Quay Dash is a trans woman who, according to The Guardian, started writing and rapping about “shit that was bothering me in society.” “As far as my music I just want everybody to hear my voice and let them know that I’m here, and I’m here to stay; I’m here to stay and slay,” she says.
11. Melange Lavonne
Melange Lavonne is a gay rapper and activist. In this ground- and heart-breaking song, Melange tells the story of Kevin, who is attacked for his sexuality, and though Kevin is fictional, the message is very real.
These rappers are owning the scene and making the art form their own, all while delivering powerful messages about social justice and self-love. In the words of one commenter on CupcakKe's "LGBT," "This song ended homophobia. Cured my depression. Made my crops flourish. And ended all the world's problems. I am in love." Me too, sis.
Top photo: "Fitness" by Lizzo. Youtube.
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Rachele Merliss is a writer, theatre maker, and wannabe witch from Lincoln, Nebraska. She is currently a senior at Wesleyan University, majoring in American Studies with a minor in creative writing. She's also the writer & director of the webseries Saint Bitch, coming soon to YouTube. Watch the trailer here & follow Rachele on Twitter at @rachele_mermaid.