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mc lyte lauryn hill nicki minaj best female rappers of all time
Since its beginnings, hip-hop has been a Boys Club, with female MCs often ignored or pushed to the side, boxed into the background or assuming the "eye candy" role in music videos. However, talent simply can’t—nor should—be overlooked, and artists such as Lauryn Hill and Queen Latifah have risen to international stardom in spite of hip-hop's often male-centric attitudes, producing undeniable classics along the way. While there may have been a glass ceiling that couldn’t be broken before, women have shattered most limitations these days. Having taken charge of the rap game, it’s never surprising now to see a name like Nicki Minaj killing the Billboard charts.

Today provides another example of ladies running the show. After releasing her debut album last week, Iggy Azalea’s full-length The New Classic lands at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 with 52,000 copies sold, less than a thousand fewer than perennial chart-topper Future debuted with his sophomore effort Honest. Supported by singles such as “Fancy” featuring Charli XCX and “Work,” the album marks another milestone in the perennial quest of a non-gendered rap world, with The New Classic becoming the highest-charting female hip-hop artist on the Billboard 200 since Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded hit the top of the chart in 2012. But those are just current facts; throughout history women have been able to prove themselves.

There are many different ways of assessing success, of course—sales, chart positions, influence, milestones, and legacy all come in to play when assessing who might be better than another. With all this in consideration (and with all due respect), XXL gathered the 20 best female rappers of all time, honoring those that have, or are still, breaking down the stereotypes that have slowed the way. Keep in mind that we have omitted groups—just to let all the Salt-N-Pepa and JJ Fad fans know—and stuck strictly to solo artists who have put out an album (and left things unranked). These are female MCs who have made significant strides that we felt needed to be honored. Click through to find out that made the cut. Who run this mutha? —Kiki Ayers, Kellan Miller and XXL Staff

The 20 Best Female Rappers Of All Time


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