Just in case you haven't been riding the wave, Queen Latifah's been serving a reminder since the 1980s that ladies come first. March, which is quickly drawing to a close, is all about putting women first, as it's universally recognized as Women's History Month, where we celebrate the contributions and achievements of women throughout history and within our current society.
In the context of hip-hop, women have always been solid stones in the foundation of the genre, helping it to evolve constantly and move forward. From Sha-Rock of Funky 4+1, MC Lyte and Roxanne Shante, to Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown, to newer acts like Rapsody and Junglepussy, women continue to excel and push the boundaries, from production to lyrics.
To celebrate women excelling in hip-hop, we've taken the liberty of putting together a solid list of unforgettable videos from female rappers throughout hip-hop history. From award-winning and controversial, to viral and eye-catching, there's something for everyone. Check out 20 Memorable Videos From Female Rappers here.
“Let’s Talk About Sex"Salt-N-Pepa
Media underwent a lot of changes during the golden era. One of the most notable was the loosening of the belt, as things that we used to consider taboo became, well, much less taboo. Case in point is the classic record, “Let’s Talk About Sex,” by the pioneering hip-hop duo of Salt-N-Pepa. The colorful video, by Emmy-nominated, director Millicent B. Shelton (who also directed "Rump Shaker" by Wreckx-N Effect), was a direct challenge to the American media’s censorship of sexual conversation, especially as it related to the rise in cases of HIV and AIDS. There was even an alternate version of the video where the word "AIDS" flashes across the screen, before hard-cutting to a skeleton with a censored stamp across its mouth; it was ultimately removed after a flood of complaints.
“I’ll Be"Foxy Brown Featuring Jay-Z
Foxy Brown’s first album, Ill Na Na, helped to solidify her status in the rap game almost immediately. Unlike many of her predecessors and much like fellow Brooklynite Lil’ Kim, her streetwise lyrics were interspersed with a hyper-sexual self-awareness that made some censors feel a little uncomfortable. It also helped her build a core fan base that propelled her debut album to platinum status. "I’ll Be," which was the second single off of her 1996 LP, was many things. First, it was a collaboration with Jay Z, which in 1997, was just as good a look as getting him today, and Foxy held it down. Secondly, it is probably the classiest example of Foxy Brown -- video-wise. Wearing a sexy, yet elegant gown, the video plays out as a high-class 1990s dance off. The visual, directed by Brett Ratner (Prison Break, Horrible Bosses, X-Men: Last Stand), was ranked No. 52 on VH1’s Top 100 Songs of Hip-Hop.
“Afro Puffs”Lady of Rage Featuring Snoop Dogg
1994 was a fantastic year for the now defunct Death Row Records. With Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle enjoying four-time platinum success, and their roster (including 2Pac) intact, everything the most trusted name in gangsta rap touched was successful. Enter Lady of Rage, the label's first female artist. After a string of notable features on both the Chronic and Doggystyle, she dropped her debut single in 1994, "Afro Puffs," to critical acclaim. The cinematic, big-budget video, which featured Snoop, helped propel the single to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot Rap Songs chart. Her debut album, Necessary Roughness, however, didn’t drop until 1997, roughly three years later.
“Ladies First"Queen Latifah Featuring Monie Love
"Ladies First," Queen Latifah's signature track featuring Monie Love, can easily be considered hip-hop's first real girl power anthem. A single from her debut LP, All Hail the Queen, the video itself is simultaneously a nod to black women throughout history and the global social injustices throughout the continent of Africa. The strong message of solidarity and black strength were well received critically, and the song remains a mainstay on many best of hip-hop lists. We recently included the song, as well, in our list of top 20 best Queen Latifah songs.
“Roxanne’s Revenge”Roxanne Shante
Queensbridge rapper Roxanne Shante was only 14 years old when legendary producer -- and Mr. Magic protege -- Marly Marl-produced song "Roxanne’s Revenge": an unprovoked answer to U.T.F.O.’s "Roxanne Roxanne." The record set-off a chain effect, later referred to as the Roxanne Wars, which resulted in upwards of 60 response records (by some accounts). Extensive radio play and this video, which was high quality in the context of 1984-85 hip-hop, helped to push the song’s regional popularity. It sold over 250,000 copies in New York City alone; although many were initially disappointed when the video premiered on Video Music Box, as it featured alternate audio, due to a lawsuit from U.T.F.O. Regardless, "Roxanne’s Revenge" stands as on of the greatest diss records of all time.
Rapper MC Lyte went through some sonic transformations throughout her first three albums. She came into the game as a straight up, no-holds-barred lyricist down to battle whomever. Her third album adopted a softer New Jack Swing feel, which wasn’t uncommon in the era; however, her fourth album and lead single "Ruffneck" saw her take a more streetwise approach. The single itself, and fast-paced video, not only paid visual homage to the ideal bad boy image of the day but was Lyte’s first commercially successful top 40 pop hit, reaching certified gold status.
“Ladies Night (Not Tonight Remix)"Lil’ Kim Featuring Left Eye, Missy Elliott, Angie Martinez & Da Brat
Hip-hop has historically had an infatuation with posse cuts. They’re a delicate art that, if done right, become timeless moments. Think "The Symphony," "Flava in Ya Ear" or "All About the Benjamins." "Ladies Night," a top 40 hit remix to Lil’ Kim’s "Not Tonight" off of her debut album, Hard Core, is one such track. It featured an all-star line-up including Da Brat, Missy Elliott, radio host Angie Martinez, and Left Eye of TLC -- all at their prime. The sexy, colorful video featured cameos from a who’s who of female celebrities of the day, from SWV and Xscape to Mary J. Blige and Queen Latifah.
“Everything Is Everything"Lauryn Hill
It’s virtually impossible to ignore the immense cultural and generational significance of Lauryn Hill’s seminal -- and only -- solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. In fact, it’s been described by some critics as the best album on the 1990’s, and by others as one of the best albums of all-time. "Everything Is Everything," directed Sanji (David Guetta, Common, Mary J. Blige), was the second last official music video Lauryn Hill released from the album (and ever). It easily stands as her most visually innovative, depicting New York City as a vinyl record, complete with earth shaking cuts and scratches. Needless to say, it was raining awards nominations that year.
"One Minute Man"Missy Elliott Featuring Trina & Ludacris
Missy Elliott has always been known for her wacky, immersive music video experiences. From the onset of her debut single "The Rain," she, along with Timbaland, crafted a niche and ran with it. She’s had too many videos to list here, but "One Minute Man," featuring Trina and Ludacris, easily stands as one of her most memorable. BET Award winner for Video of the Year in 2002, the video had everything: dancing bellhops -- and statues -- themed rooms, Missy removing her head and Ludacris using pots to catch drips under beds (gross). Her finest, without question.
“Battle Cry"Angel Haze Featuring Sia
The internet changed the game and made it possible for a new breed of artists to self-promote their way into the industry. Angel Haze is one of those artists. After a string of mixtapes and a boatload of buzz, the Detroit native landed a major label deal and released Dirty Gold to critical acclaim. "Battle Cry," the second single from the project that received a video )featuring the incomparable Sia), was nominated for Best Video with a Social Message at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards. It’s a hauntingly heavy visual piece showing the effects of mental, physical and sexual abuse on children -- and the power strength it takes to overcome. One fan on YouTube commented, “This video saved my life.” Powerful stuff.
By the time M.I.A.'s third album, Maya, rolled around, she’d already solidified her status worldwide with her mega-smash “Paper Planes.” In fact, it was the seventh best-selling song by a British artist in the digital era. "Born Free," though, was a one-off curveball that blew people’s minds. Based on incidents relating to the extrajudicial killing of Tamil males by the Sri Lankan Army, Romain Gavras (who also filmed Jay Z and Kanye’s "No Church in the Wild") turned the uptempo rock track into a 9-minute depiction of a redhead genocide that resulted in a temporary ban on YouTube. Time magazine ultimately ranked it as No. 2 on their list of most controversial music videos of all time. Oh, did we mention it was filmed and released without the label’s blessing?
Trina, who we've dubbed the most consistent female rapper of all time, isn't afraid to use her sexuality in her music. Right from the jump, she established herself as a southern answer to the likes of Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown. "Pull Over," which was the second and final single from her debut album, Da Baddest Bitch, is colorful, racy and ripe with eye candy -- basically, it was BET Uncut gold. It also fared well on Billboard and was nominated for a Soul Train Award in 2001. Good luck getting the hook out of your head.
"Ice Princess”Azealia Banks
Azealia Banks has been universally criticized and praised for her outspoken behavior. She's had bitter headline-grabbing Twitter beef and has never been afraid to throw topics of race into the discussion. Aside from all that, though, she's nice on the microphone -- which maybe gets overshadowed. "Ice Princess," off of her Broke With Expensive Taste album, is a beautiful example of Banks truly at her best. The incredibly innovative video sees Azealia as an ice princess commanding an army of futuristic cyborgs, who all inexplicably betray and destroy her. I wonder who she's subconsciously alluding to here? As a bonus, she caused a stir by posting her makeup for the video half-finished, claiming she was in "whiteface." Oh, Azealia.
Meek Mill's bae, Nicki Minaj, has a bodacious booty -- there, we said it. It's been the not so secret elephant in the room since she exploded on the scene, and judging by her video for the hit single "Anaconda," she's well aware of its hypnotic allure. The second single off of the double-platinum The Pinkprint album, the video broke the 24-hour VEVO record with 19.6 million views -- understandably. It was undeniably the sexiest video of 2014. As well, over the 365 days that followed, she was one of the fourth most Googled people in the world. Kim Kardashian was one of the other three -- no coincidence.
"Queens Speech Ep. 4”Lady Leshurr
Lady Leshurr was more than ready for her time in the spotlight -- she just needed a break. With nine mixtapes, a clothing line and a movie role under her belt, she was obviously one to watch, and when her "Queens Speech Ep. 3" went viral, she entered a new stratosphere. Her subsequent "Queens Speech Ep. 4" was heralded as brilliant, universally. In its sheer visual simplicity, it's funny, poignant, sharp and -- well -- kind of cute. It's taken on a life of its own, and most recently popped up in a Samsung Galaxy charger pad commercial. Most importantly it set a new bar for the possibility of a freestyle, regardless of sex. All hail the queen.
Junglepussy blends good old fashioned new York hip-hop, feminism, sexuality and awareness. From the onset of her debut mixtape, Satisfaction Guaranteed, she garnered co-signs from Lil' Kim and Erykah Badu, to name a few. Her video for "Nah" is chock-full of power, braggadocios bars and an India Arie-esque level of self-love. From seductively washing a car, taking part in a photoshoot with a topless gentleman and white girl bent over her knee, to having her natural hair braided as she rocks tradition African garb, this colorful video provides a lot to look at -- and talk about.
“Fancy"Iggy Azalea Featuring Charlie XCX
Rappers can lie, Twitter can lie and popular media on a whole can lie. But numbers can’t. Regardless what you think about the blonde bombshell, Iggy Azalea, her fans and bank account beg to differ. Whether or not you stand behind the Australian transplant-turned-Grand Hustle first lady from her upstart, this Director X spin on the cult classic, Clueless, was undeniable. It was the most-watched music video in 2014 and was nominated for both a Grammy and Billboard award, ultimately pushing a (sales and stream) combination of over 9 million units. It currently has 703 million-plus plays on VEVO -- just saying.
Little Simz, aka Bars Simzson, has a heap of cool factor. Aside from a budding professional acting career in her native town of London, her debut album, A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons -- released on her own indie label -- entered top 20 on the U.K. R&B chart. The first video from the project, "Dead Body," is creepy, unsettling and extremely dope. We watch as Simz, at points depicted as an angel of death, drags bodies out into the desert and proceeds to dig holes to bury them. The visuals combined with the thick/dark grime beat makes for quite the experience.
New York City's own Donmonique burst onto the scene last year with her debut EP and hasn't looked back since. Her hypnotic lead single, "Pilates," features a catchy, mid-tempo flow and an aura that's oh-so-Brooklyn. The video takes us through a lit house party, presumably, in BK, not unlike the party Notorious B.I.G. took us to in his video for "Big Poppa." However, Donmonique has a youthful vibrancy to her, and this party is more like a 2016 version of the Larry Clark film, Kids. It makes this drug-dealing anthem hard to stop watching.
Lil Mama has had quite an impressive career. From her viral sensation "Lip Gloss," judging on America's Best Dance Crew, to playing Left Eye in a Lifetime special -- and all this before turning 27. Her most recent song and accompanying video, "Sausage," is a mass combination of popular culture references and trends, blended with the energy and spirit that put her on the map in the first place. It was a top 20 hit, and amassed over 3 million views in the first week; however, due (presumably) to all the references and samples, the track was never actually made available for purchase. Regardless, it's so hype you'll want to get out of your seat and dance, on a stage, during someone else's show. Just playing.