Perhaps the first to ever do it and fully secure the position is the trio, She Rockers (aka Donna McConnell, Alison “Betty Boo” Clarkson and Dupe Fagbesa)
The trio pioneered the early years of UK rap for both genders circa 1989. Their first single “Give It A Rest” was produced by Public Enemy’s Professor Griff.
In the 90s, we were introduced to Mel B who conquered Black-British female rap in platform heels and cheetah print chic. Also known as Scary Spice during her time in Spice Girls her notable verse in the song ‘Wannabe’, of which she subtly detailed each group members sexual preferences, secured the group Best British-Written Single at the 1997 Ivor Novello Awards and British Single of the Year at the 1997 Brit Awards. It also introduced the world to the West Yorkshire ‘twang’’.
At a similar time, UK Garage had began to blossom and grow talents such as Lisa Mafia, the front-woman of So Solid Crew, and Alesha Dixon a member of the all-female R&B/garage/rap trio Mis-Teeq. In this same era, we met Ms Dy-na-mi-tee. While only releasing two studio albums, her contribution towards the UK was impactful. Dy-na-mi-tee was the first Black woman to have won the Mercury Prize in 2002 for her debut album.
The millennium year offering introduced us to Estelle. Bursting with female empowerment, soul, and a love for her roots. The London-born artist delivered gems such as ‘Free’, ‘1980’, and memorably worked alongside John Legend and Kanye West.
West Indian rapper Shystie, who started gaining fame in 2003, entered the scene with her response to Dizzee Rascal’s “I Luv U” At a similar time, the genre was diversified with straight-talking female lyricists. The “back of the school bus” and BBM era gave us Lady Sovereign and OG Nikki.
When we talk of UK female rap we often overlook M.I.A. Not because she lacked talent, but just versatile her sound is and her monumental move to the global charts. Combining elements of dance, electronic and world music. Her notable discography includes Bad Girls, Galang, Paper Planes. In 2009, while 9-months pregnant, performed alongside T.I Jay-Z, Kanye West and Lil Wayne at the Grammy Awards
Brum’s own Lady Leshurr is known for her ludicrous lyrics and her humble YouTube beginnings. All eyes were on her when she released a cover of Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now”. It was so viral she was offered a recording contract with Universal Records- securing Queen status on the midlands map.
With all of these legends paving the way for a new generation of ladies geared and ready to take the spotlight for UK Hip Hop, when will we give women the dues they deserve?