What are the best IRL rap battles
Of course, “female rap” is not a genre. But: If you want to discover hidden hip-hop jewels, then you should finally take a look at your female artists. Because in almost no other subject women are so underrepresented, you have to look for them with a magnifying glass in best lists. There are many very good and also very good early hip-hop records by rappers. Annett Scheffel has selected ten of them for us.
MC Lyte – LYTE AS A ROCK (1988)
Back then, MC Lyte wrote pop history. Even if others had already done pioneering work with singles and EPs (see Roxanne Shanté): LYTE AS A ROCK was the first solo LP by a rapper - the blueprint for all Latifahs, Missys and Nickis after her. As one of the few women in the boys club at the time, MC Lyte was wonderfully undeterred. Not a quota rapper, but a proud heavy lady and not only better than most of them as a language acrobat: cooler than Big Daddy Kane, more witty than Boogie Down Productions, tougher than Salt-N-Pepa, but just as cheeky. Many of their breakbeat tracks have a feminist undertone, but they never rest on them.
Roxanne Shanté – BAD SISTER (1989)
At a time when rap was still a battle of words, Roxanne was the first Queen of Rap: the voice was rather high and shrill, but of raw energy, the lyrics clever, sexy, brazen and rhythmic so to the point that they also went beyond the heavy ones , rushing bass beats of the era always sound sharp-edged. Her first LP was released five years after she became a local heroine as a 14-year-old braces kid from a social housing estate in Queens (the single "Roxanne's Revenge" sold a quarter of a million copies in New York alone and influenced young Nas) and has it all what a good rap record needs: solid dance tracks ("Go On Girl"), conscious advice on emancipation ("Independent Woman"), self-confident sex talk ("Fatal Attraction") and loud territorial behavior ("Bad Sister") ) - everything with a lot of humor and flow.
Da brat – FUNKDAFIED (1994)
Admittedly: not a real insider tip, rather a G-Funk classic and a hit album as an island in the middle of the testosterone ocean of its time (Nas! Snoop Dogg! Biggie!). The first platinum album by a solo rapper. Aged very well and yet it never shows up in leaderboards. FUNKDAFIED offers an ingenious mixture: a self-confident rapper from the Midwest, a bit of gangsta, a bit of scene darling, with a distinctive catch phrase ("Brat-tat-tat-tat"), for which the southern producer Jermaine Dupri has a super smooth Califonian Swagger Sound designed. The party jams, padded with buttery soft funk grooves and Isley Brother samples, are still fun to this day.
Bahamadia – COLLAGE (1996)
HipHop is in the process of transformation: 2Pac is dead, Biggie only has a few months left, Boom bap, the still defining style, is being mixed up with new sounds. One of the most misunderstood records of the time is the Bahamadia debut. The rapper from Philadelphia (with production help from Guru and DJ Premier, aka Gang Starr) already hits exactly the warm hip-hop, trained in neo-soul and jazz, which The Roots will refine in the next few years and which with “Uknowhowwedu” here an early one Hit has. Bahamadia doesn't rap aggressively about sex, drugs and money, she's cool, that old school way, with calm confidence and dry humor.
Nicki Minaj – BEAM ME UP SCOTTY (2009)
On the third and final mixtape from her early phase, Nicki brings all her talents into position: the looks, the megalomania, the glaring vehemence, the explicit lyrics, the eccentricity. But above all her phenomenal rap skills: this speed, this precision, this joke, the razor-sharp word games, the legendary nuances - BABOOM! PAHP! YUH! At the end of the 2000s, it was rap's greatest promise of all - shiny, cocky and still wonderfully weird. In addition to her weirdo alter ego with extraterrestrial and pansexual inclinations, even Lil Wayne pales as a feature guest. One of the best hip-hop mixtapes of the noughties!
Kamaiyah – A GOOD NIGHT IN THE GHETTO (2016)
This debut mixtape by the then 21-year-old rapper from California is an absolute recommendation, especially because it masters a delicate balancing act: Kamaiyah conjures up the 90s swagger from TLC and is at the same time completely in the now of her own coming-of-age story. More than precise puns, it's about a feeling, and she preserves it in a fresh, honest, contagious way: being young, cruising aimlessly, drunken nights and dreams of fame outside the ghetto.
Dua Saleh – ONLY (2019)
Dua Saleh is doing hip hop for the new decade. The Sudanese-American rapper identifies herself as a gender non-binary and presents on her debut EP such a visionary, fluid, haunting sound between minimal Afro beats and future R'n'B that it hits you hot and cold . The best part is her elastic voice, which can change from an elegant purr to a dark growl. By the way, “only” means “light” in Arabic. We see it. As a greeting from the future.
Rah Digga – DIRTY HARRIET (2000)
"First and only female unmatched by anyone," raps Rah Digga at the end of "Imperial". And it's true: in 2000, when Foxy Brown and Lil ’Kim shaped hip-hop with G-strings and sexy talk and Missy Elliott was simmering new beats in the laboratory, Digga was a rap rapper - undisputed in skills, flow and intensity. That's why there is only the pure form on their debut: astute, technically impressive rap. Digga can gangsters, Digga can club bangers, Digga can be political and easily take on feature guest Busta Rhymes.
Rapsody – THE IDEA OF BEAUTIFUL (2012)
Already on her first LP, Rapsody shows herself to be a complex poet and thinker: conscious with a view to social problems and the reality of black youth (“We all know somebody that remind us like Trayvon”), sincere in tone, imaginative in language images, in Storytelling and emotional compression easily on the level of Kendrick Lamar (who later brought her into the studio for TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY), plus a fantastic production (by Jamla founder The 9th Wonder), which amidst boom-bap beats, Soul brass and flowing synth melodies create a warm pull.
Fantasma Goria – FANTASMA GORIA (2917)
There have been some interesting albums by German rappers in recent years (Ebow, Haiyti, Eunique etc.). Too little attention is paid to this wonderfully weird and versatile record, which strikes quite extravagant and arty tones for German rap standards. The Hamburg native masters the breathless ADHD rap style that is known from Nicki Minaj (“clear text”), but rarely heard in this country and in times of the trap. Not a perfectly composed album, but playful, poppy and full of ideas.
This article first appeared in ME 05/20:
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