The A-Z of Female MCs Killing it in the Game Right Now

Words by Chris Palmer:

At this years BET Awards, Nicki Minaj was crowned Best Female Hip-Hop Artist of the Year for the seventh consecutive year. Whilst this is an amazing accomplishment and Nicki is the Queen, we here at Howl & Echoes would like to highlight some of the other dope female artists currently slaying the game.

Don’t worry Nicki, we still love you.

Awkwafina (USA)

Hailing from Queens, New York via a Chinese/Korean family, Awkwafina (pronounced Aqua-feena) first came to prominence with her track My Vag, which highlighted her blend of satire and strong rhymes. Educated in both the USA and China, she initially studied journalism before recording My Vag on Garageband and putting the music video onto YouTube, where it blew up.

She has an incredibly interesting sound, a gangsta rap-style flow combined with self-deprecating comedic lyricism. Slowly but surely Awkwafina is breaking into the comedy rap territory usually dominated by men, and we are all better for her existence.

She dropped her debut album Yellow Ranger in 2014, which she produced and released independently. It featured My Vag as well as NYC Bitche$ and a collaboration with Dumbfoundead. In 2016, she teamed up with legendary comedian Margaret Cho for a track called Green Tea as part of Asian Pacific American History Month.

CL (South Korea)

CL, real name Lee Chae-rin, is probably best known as the leader of South Korean K-Pop group 2NE1. Spending her youth living between South Korea, Japan and France, she signed with South Korean entertainment group YG. She eventually moved to JYP Entertainment, after going through the lengthy training process all Korean stars go through, and was put into 2NE1.

CL began getting Western acknowledgment when she started working with the likes of Skrillex, Diplo and Riff Raff, as well as becoming a staple of fashion design houses like Moschino. She caught the eye of Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun, who also manages PSY, who now manages the Western side of her career.

Her debut solo EP Lifted is due out this year after a long singles process that saw the release of tracks The Baddest Female and Hello Bitches challenging the rules for what a Korean mainstream musician could say and do. CL’s badass attitude and sick rhymes are about to change K-Pop and K-Rap forever.

Coda Conduct (Australia)

Sally Coleman and Erica Mallet are Coda Conduct, the Australian duo making waves out of Canberra. Blowing up after dropping the infectious Pool Room from their debut EP Butter Side Up. Coda Conduct were the 2015 Groovin’ The Moo local artist for the Canberra leg and have also supported the likes of Tkay Maidza and Citizen Kay.

Coda Conduct have a fun style backed by slick production and strong rhymes. Citing Hilltop Hoods as an influence is a huge call, but if you listen to tracks like Paint It Gold that connection is undeniable. They just recently dropped the booty filled video for their new single Click Clack (Front N Back) and are slated to appear at Canberra’s Cream Festival as well as BIGSOUND in Brisbane. Expect massive things from these ladies.

Dawn Laird (Australia)

It would be remiss of any article on important female MCs to not mention Dawn Laird. Hailing from Newcastle, Laird has been rhyming and producing beats since she was 15. Her debut single Eva in 2013 propelled her to national attention, garnering her major respect as well as support slots with some of the biggest acts in Australia.

In 2014, Dawn Laird was also selected by Music NSW to collaborate with Seth Sentry on a songwriting workshop. There is something classic about Dawn Laird’s sound, a reminder of the classic Aussie hip-hop sound blended with something unapologetically fierce, tenacious and modern. Her EP Third Cycle Raps is due out this year.

Make no mistake, Dawn Laird is a force to be reckoned with in the scene.

Dej Loaf (USA)

Dej Loaf has the honour in this article of being the only MC to be nominated in the BET category alongside Nicki Minaj. Picked as the favourite to win, the Detroit native has had an insane 12 months. From being listed as part of the 2015 XXL Freshman Class List, a huge hip-hop honour that names the ‘ones to watch’ in the game, to dropping two solid projects: the EP ….And See That’s The Thing and her 2016 mixtape All Jokes Aside.

Writing original music since the age of 9, Dej Loaf first came to prominence after being featured on Eminem’s Detroit Vs. Everybody and opened for Nicki Minaj on her recent Pinkprint Tour. She was quickly signed to IBGM (I Be Gettin’ Money) and her distinct sound is clear she has a bright future.

Whilst many female MC’s adopt a deeper, some would say masculine, voice Dej’s high tones and light inflections make her stand out from the crowd, and give her a really interesting sound.

Lady Leshurr (UK)

Coming from a Caribbean musical family that migrated to the UK, Lady Leshurr or Melesha O’Garro grew up listening to Bob Marley and Sister Nancy. Writing poetry from the age of 4 she transitioned into writing music and then into rapping. Undeniably influenced by the UK’s legendary grime scene Lady Leshurr spits machine gun fire every time she flows on a track.

Performing and releasing consistently since 2009, Lady Leshurr has been garnering a massive underground following in the UK. Releasing a series of video’s titled Queen’s Speech, Part 3 went viral and brought her global attention, which was followed up by Part 4 which SPIN magazine named the Crowning Freestyle Of 2015.

She just dropped a new track with grime legend Wiley Where Are You Now?, which is the first taste of new work in 2016 and coming at a renaissance for grime music in the world, the timing couldn’t be more perfect for Lady Leshurr’s world domination.

Leikeli47 (USA)

It often feels like artists now have a choice when it comes to their image, totally open to their fans or a complete mystery. No prizes for guessing which Leikeli47 favours. Notoriously private and vague about her history, it only fuels the interest in her artistry and her music.

Cited as Diplo’s favourite rapper, it’s easy to see why. She dropped her latest release lk-47 Part III around 8 months ago and it’s a monster of a tape. Leikeli47’s flow, especially on tracks like Bitch Switch, is absolutely insane and it’s built around self-produced beats. She even creates her own 808’s.

It’s amazing to think that some of her videos are still sitting at under 100,000 views on YouTube. Articles like this exist because artists like Leikeli47 exist.

Mirrah (USA/Australia)

Mirrah really is everywhere. With Indonesian and African American heritage, and living between Los Angeles and Sydney, its easy to see the artistic reach that Mirrah has within her. Channeling hip-hop and neo-soul legends like Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu and merging it with the fierce tenacity of Nicki Minaj and Missy Elliott, she is a perfect blend between hype hip-hop and conscious rap.

Currently she is collaborating with our very own L-Fresh The Lion, as well as appearing on his track Takeover. About to drop a new EP in the coming months, Mirrah is well on her way to becoming a staple of the Australian rap scene. She was also present during Urthboy’s The Past Beats Inside Me Like A Second Heartbeat tour and wowed fans with her skills and energy.

Netti (Australia)

Big things come in small packages and that’s very true for Netti. The Melbourne local is one of our best kept secrets and her future is bright. Spitting a flow that needs to be heard to be believed, Netti blends spiritual imagery with strong lyricism, which she then performs over infectious beats.

This year she dropped a remix to Desiigner’s Panda and it is arguably one of the best out there. When the beat drops and you first hear her spit, it’s like being hit by a brick wall. Her take-no-prisoners style of rap is proof of why the scene needs to invest more time into female MCs. Watch this space.

Sa-Roc (USA)

If this article is an indication of anything, it’s that female MCs represent the varied styles within hip-hop and that a female rapper can be just as hard and as ‘gangsta’ as any man. Sa-Roc is proof of that last statement. She goes hard. She goes hard as any gangsta rapper of the 90’s ever did. I would even go as far as to say, no one has triggered this flow sonically since Lil’ Kim.

Her attitude, style and flow all call back to an old school style. When rappers rhymed about how amazing they were and could back it up right then on the flow. You’ll have your head bopping in no time with tracks like ‘Eye of the Phoenix’. You can also hit up her mixtape MetaMorpheus online and get hype over the rawness that is Sa-Roc.

Sampa The Great (Australia)

Sampa The Great’s rise in Australian hip-hop has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. Alongside Tkay Maidza she has, in a very short time, become one of the most important and talked about figures on the scene. Sampa Tembo was born in Zambia and raised in Botswana before moving to Australia. Her influences range from hip-hop artists to soul artists to activists and world changers. Her skills as an artist and MC have earned her touring spots with the likes of Little Simz and even Kendrick Lamar.

Sampa’s style reflects one of the elements of hip-hop that many passionate fans thought had been lost: lyrical artistry. With the rise of trap, many feel the words in hip-hop have lost their meaning. Sampa defies that and proves it’s not even close to true. Engaging in both hip-hop and spoken word poetry, Sampa’s lyrics blend the personal and the political in a really beautiful way.

Stay tuned, Sampa The Great will be one of the all time greats.

Yvé Gold (Australia)

I first caught Yvé Gold when I was producing a hip-hop radio show called No Scrubs focusing on women in the game, presented by women who loved the game. She came in as part of promotions for Coda Conduct’s EP launch, where she was supporting them for their Melbourne show.  I headed along early to check her out and was absolutely blown away by her talent.

Blending soul, hip-hop and pop music, Yvé Gold is well on her way to becoming a major star of the Australian music scene. Her careful eye for good music, strong imagery and knowledge of who she is both as a human and as an artist. All of these qualities will ensure she will go far. Check out her video for Said + Done, but the best way to first experience Yvé Gold is to get along to one of her live shows. You won’t be disappointed.

There are so many more that I could list, get out there and get some good hip-hop in your ears!

Image: Songs We Like