Hip-hop has a tired history of keeping its women in the shadows. Until the late 2010s, there had never been more then one female superstar at a time, and the remaining MCs were often pitted against each other or sequestered to their narrow lanes. With all that in mind, as Latto, Flo Milli, Monaleo, Maiya The Don and Mello Buckzz all sit nestled beside each other in New Jersey's Hudson River Studios, it's clear they understood this history. The women came together for the XXL Cypher Lab, presented by the Starz Original Series Power Book III: Raising Kanan, in October to show off their skills. The coinciding interview proves they all support each other despite the competitive nature of what they do.

"I think what it means being a woman in hip-hop today is like, when I was younger, of course, I started rapping at 10, and it wasn't nearly as accepted as it is now," Flo Milli recalls. "So, I feel like it's really important for me to be a part of it right now. I feel like it's an exciting time, and if you're a female rapper in this day and age you lit."

Each artist echoes this sentiment in their own way. "Real b***hes make the world go round," Mello affirms as the ladies support her in agreement.

These five rappers have a vastly different approach to their sound. Flo Milli's peppy, animated demeanor on the mic is celebrated by Mello while Latto adds that Flo still talks about some "real s**t." Meanwhile, Maiya admits that her own music makes her more of a traditional rapper. Maiya notes that she feels the need to reign it in at times, as her attacks on the mic remind her of Jadakiss. Her peers each dismiss that notion, and say her rhymes are what make her such a tough and dominant MC.

Then there's Monaleo, who aside from being a versatile rapper just gave birth to her first child this past May. Her perseverance to be both a rapper and caregiver is hailed by everyone around her, with Latto calling her "inspiring."

"I already have my purpose, but now that drive is like times 10,” Monaleo says. "I hate that it took for me to have a child to be like, OK, now I really gotta get my a*s up. ’Cause I was lazy…Now it's like every day I clock in because it's not on me no more."

As these women detail the various challenges they face to get to where they are, each rapper recognizes the groundbreaking nature of this new female-led movement. It's also clear just from their lived experiences that they all have dozens of stories to tell.

"To be a woman in hip-hop feels like I am just a part of the story that is music," Maiya conveys. "That's a part of this beautiful genre that I love so much. It feels so good to represent for a group of people that look like me, come from the same place that I'm from."

With a warranted eyeroll, Latto adds that it's especially meaningful to see women be so celebrated in rap because of how much harder they all must work to achieve success.

"Girls gotta go 10 times as hard for equal respect with these n***as," Latto concludes. "I feel like I got something to say. Maiya got something to say. Flo got something to say, Mello got something to say. Mona got something to say. And she just had a baby, like c'mon, girls is girlin'."

See the ladies unite for the XXL Cypher Lab interview, presented by the Starz Original Series Power Book III: Raising Kanan, below.

Watch Latto, Flo Milli, Monaleo, Maiya The Don and Mello Buckzz Unite for a Real Conversation About Women in Hip-Hop

Read interviews with LattoFlo MilliMaiya The DonMonaleo and Mello Buckzz in the Winter 2023 issue of XXL Magazine, on newsstands now. The new issue also includes the cover story with Latto and conversations with Killer Mike, DD OsamaSexyy RedBigXThaPlug, plus more. Additionally, there's an exclusive interview with Fetty WapQuality Control Music's Coach K and P discuss 10 years into the label's growth, in-depth stories on the popularity of sampling in hip-hop in 2023 and the state of hip-hop touring, and the best moments of hip-hop's year-long 50th anniversary celebration.

See Photos From Latto's XXL Magazine Winter 2023 Cover Story

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