Despite having lived through Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott, ‘Lil Kim, and Nicki Minaj, it seems as though hip hop, even in 2017, is still very much a man’s world. Hopefully, that’s all about to change, with a new crop of rappers set to reign in 2017. Those who stand poised to make a racket in this game are women of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and orientations – many of them, of course, prescribing to the Missy Elliott school of rap badassery.
With diversity still so often lacking in entertainment, from music to movies and art and literature, and with the global political landscape set to go full white guy, it’s time to start paying attention to the voices on the fringe. We could call them “minority” or “alternative” voices, but they’re not really – they’re the voices of the many (if you consider that, globally, 50 per cent of our population is female, and that people of colour far outnumber white people) that for whatever reason have been disenfranchised by a powerful few. Here are the rappers you should be adding to your playlists for 2017.
With songs titled “Spider-man Dick”, “Deepthroat”, “Best Dick Sucker”, “Juicy Coochie”, “Vagina”, and “Doggy Style”, Cupcakke isn’t shy. She’s not only selling self-possessed womanhood and sexuality like they were the most natural things in the world, she does it all with a sense of humour and generous helping of fun. Cupcakke’s got that ‘Lil Kim power mentality, but with a decidedly more thoughtful, mature edge – even though she’s only eighteen. Songs like “LGBT” let you know squarely where Cupcakke’s politics lie, while “Pedophile” addresses childhood abuse head on.
South London MC Flohio has been cruising just under the radar, but not for long. “SE16”, her track with UK producer duo God Colony (full disclosure, one half of God Colony works at Dazed), sounds like a London rap classic – the kind of thing you’d find yourself dancing to at 4am in the sweaty basement of a secret afterhours club. Her debut EP, Nowhere Near, released in 2016, promises of bigger things to come as Flohio prepares to release her first record in 2017. Her precise, rapidfire vocals suggest an experienced artist far beyond her years, and bode well for her future.
Kamaiyah’s got an unmistakable early 90s party sound. Her debut mixtape A Good Night In The Ghetto, one of Dazed’s favourite albums of 2016, is full of accessible, unpretentious hip hop without the heavy club beats or vocal gimmicks of a lot of contemporary chart rap, and is the kind of high energy, pared back rap that will take you back to the days when you first fell in love with the genre. She’s already collaborated with Drake and YG (“Why You Always Hatin?”), so don’t be surprised if she turns in more high profile collaborations – or, more to the point, becomes the next big thing in her own right.
A product of the internet generation, Kari Faux is a social media star whose conversational style of rap has already caught the attention of hip hop’s biggest names with Childish Gambino remixing “No Small Talk” on his mixtape STN MTN. Faux’s style is chilled out and relatable (even some of her party tracks like “This Right Here” have mesmerizingly laconic beats), but still purposeful and lyrically blunt.
Ms Banks is addictive. The South London MC is an independent artist whose vocals are so smooth you’ll find yourself listening to tracks like “Roll” on repeat. She’s fiercely female and at 22 years old has an enviable confidence and natural swagger that suggests she won’t be under the radar for long. Combining old school R&B beats with her silky vocals, Ms Banks is for anyone who grew up listening to Aaliyah and believes the 90s were the golden era of hip hop.
Paradise Sorouri is an Afghan rapper who survived a brutal beating at the hands of ten men in the street, and has since been protesting violence against women in Afghanistan through rap. Music is a radical act for a woman in her culture, but Sorouri refuses to back down, rapping in Dari about the savage injustices women too often face. She and her collaborator, Diverse, now live in Berlin and make music as the 143Band.
In late 2016 Quay Dash dropped her debut EP, Transphobic, a hip hop treatise on the struggles of being trans in the terrifying right-wing apocalypse that is modern America. With hip hop’s long tradition of homophobia, Quay Dash is breathing life into the genre with her no bullshit attitude to addressing gender and sexuality. She spent the latter part of last year on tour with Peaches, so she’s already gotten her approval from the queen. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on.
With her track “Ooouuu”, Young M.A. was the first female rapper to break into the Billboard Top 10 as a lead artist in 2016. (In 2015, it was Missy Elliott with “WTF (Where They From)”, so make of that what you will.) Tough and unrelenting, Young M.A. does explicit, unapologetic rap that beats dudes at their own game. Like Missy, M.A. embraces sex without fitting into the prescribed ideals of masculine fetishized beauty, rewriting desirability on her own terms – often with glorious, toe-curlingly explicit lyrics.
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