Ladies First: Five Female MCs Rule The Month of November


November 19th marks International Men's Day. But for hip-hop, the entire month should be observed for Female MCs in the game.

Queen Latifah, Lil' Kim, Foxy Brown, Rah Digga and Nicki Minaj all dropped debut albums on the 11th month and impacted the game in their own way. Queen Latifah paved the way for generations of empowered femcees, Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown sexualized practically every female rapper in their wake, Rah Digga kept lyricism alive in an era rich with ghostwriters and Nicki Minaj burst on the scene right as femcees were on the brink of extinction.

To commemorate the rapstresses' releases in November, XXL breaks down the role each album played in the evolution of femcees. Who run the world? Girls.—Gina Montana


All Hail the Queen (November 7, 1989)

Queen Latifah - All Hail The Queen - 1989-1.jpeg

All Hail the Queen was released through Tommy Boy Records and spawned the hit singles "Wrath of My Madness" and the female anthem "Ladies First," the latter which still remains one of Latifah's signature tracks. The album peaked at No. 6 on Billboard's Top Hip-Hop/R&B Albums chart.

Hard Core (November 12, 1996)


Released by Atlantic/Big Beat Records, Hard Core pushes the boundaries of sexuality in hip-hop for its raunchiness courtesy of a man no less—Biggie Smalls served as a ghostwriter on the album. The classic set debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on the Top R&B Albums chart, reaching double platinum status by the RIAA and selling more than 2 million copies worldwide.

Ill Na Na (November 19, 1996)


Ill Na Na debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 chart and No. 2 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album charts. It was also certified platinum by the RIAA three months after its release and has sold 1.5 million copies in the United States, according to SoundScan— selling 3.6 million worldwide to date. The single "I'll Be" peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Like Kim, Fox used ghostwriters, Jay-Z among others, on the album. Kim's Hardcore and Fox's Ill Na Na hitting stores within a week of one another changed the landscape for female MCs. In the wake of their multiplatinum success, sex sells became the mantra femcees abide by.

Dirty Harriett (November 2, 2000)


Rah Digga's Dirty Harriet sold over 396,000 units in the U.S. and another 321,000 copies worldwide. It reached No. 18 on the Billboard 200 albums and No. 3 on the R&B albums tally. A part of Busta Rhymes's Flipmode Squad, the lyrically-inclined rapstress served as a rare alternative to the hyper-sexualized femcees that dominated the market in the early 2000s.

Pink Friday (November 16, 2010)


Nicki Minaj ended a nearly decade-long drought for female MCs with her first LP. The Young Money/Cash Money/Universal Motown release debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 with first week sales of 375,000 copies. It eventually reached No. 1 on the chart and has been certified platinum by the RIAA. As of Sept. 2011, the set sold 1.6 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen Soundscan.