2020 Was The Year Female Rappers Dominated To know what tomorrow sounds like, one need only listen to the women in rap today. Our 23-song playlist represents but a handful of the many women rappers who left their mark on 2020.

2020 Was The Year Female Rappers Dominated

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/944625003/950507411" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This summer, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion made history with their song "WAP." They became the first all-female rap collaboration to debut at No. 1 on the Hot 100 Billboard chart.


CARDI B: (Rapping) Now from the top, make it drop. That's a WAP. That's a WAP. Now get a bucket and a mop. That's a WAP. That's a WAP.

MCCAMMON: But that success is by no means isolated.

BRIANA YOUNGER: For anyone who engages with hip hop - like, women have been a part of it from the very beginning. They're a part of the building block.

MCCAMMON: That's music critic Briana Younger. She says this year...

YOUNGER: They've been putting out some of the most interesting rap music. They've been writing circles around a lot of their peers.

MCCAMMON: So for NPR Music, Younger organized a list called 2020 Was The Year Female Rappers Dominated. She invited other writers like J'na Jefferson to contribute.

J'NA JEFFERSON: You'll get women talking about their experiences growing up. You'll get women talking about what they prefer in the bedroom, as we've seen with "WAP." But we also have women who will talk about mental health struggles. And we'll have women talking about how it took them a little longer to get to the place that they are today.

MCCAMMON: That's true of Jefferson's pick.

JEFFERSON: So I chose Chika's "BALENCIES."

MCCAMMON: Which is all about what it means to make it in the industry.


CHIKA: (Rapping) Four years later and my racks blue, and my whole team is seeing green like yo, she acts, too. Now people take and in your face say, I ain't ask you.

JEFFERSON: I love her perspective on her career and how far she's come. But I also like how she likes to look back and see who she was before the fame.


CHIKA: (Rapping) All that pain and anger and just make rhymes. How I'm uplifting your whole life but still, I hate mine?

MCCAMMON: The pain of 2020 was compounded for Black Americans by continued acts of police violence and crackdowns on peaceful demonstrators. This year had a lot of artists questioning their place within social justice movements.

SHAMIRA IBRAHIM: There's also been a really great discussion and a healthy one about the role of celebrity in society.

MCCAMMON: That's journalist Shamira Ibrahim.

IBRAHIM: Noname has definitely been one of the artists who has tried to publicly educate herself and also create a forum to educate others.


NONAME: (Rapping) I saw a demon on my shoulder, it's lookin' like patriarchy.

MCCAMMON: Hailing from Chicago, Noname is both a rapper and outspoken critic of the American criminal justice system. She runs a book club, Noname Book Club, that highlights the work of authors of color. And though she had said she was taking a break from music, she came back this summer when rapper J. Cole wrote a thinly veiled criticism of her activism into one of his songs.


NONAME: (Rapping) He really 'bout to write about me when the world is in smokes? When it's people in trees? When George was begging for his mother saying he couldn't breathe, you thought to write about me?

MCCAMMON: Her response, titled "Song 33," is Shamira Ibrahim's pick for the list.

IBRAHIM: What it really does is, one, just kind of ground a response in censuring the real objective of what we should be doing but also just remind people that she is an artist.


NONAME: (Rapping) Little did I know all my readin' would be a bother. It's trans women bein' murdered, and this is all he can offer? And this is all y'all receive? Distracting from the convo with organizers. They're talkin' abolishin' the police. And this the new world order.

LATESHA HARRIS, BYLINE: Hip-hop, you think about it and it's, like, men and, like, what men want to do and what men are talking about. But this year really was just, like, women setting not only the bar but setting the tone for the entire year.


HARRIS: Hi, I'm LaTesha Harris. I'm a news assistant for NPR Music.

MCCAMMON: She chose a song called "Telepathy" by rapper Junglepussy.


JUNGLEPUSSY: (Rapping) My problem is I be stuck in my feels. Don't look at me like that. Easy, you turn me on. My friends say I'm just a wreck when I'm in love. Don't mess with me.

HARRIS: Lyrically, it's so funny and witty. But it's about just her obsessing over this guy that's, like, not that cool.


JUNGLEPUSSY: (Rapper) I'm my own snack. Why you brought me to the store?

MCCAMMON: Over at The Gumbo, a hip-hop site for and by Black women, founder Nadirah Simmons picked a song by rap duo City Girls.


CITY GIRLS: (Rapping) I make him grow like Pinocchio. I'ma freak like a Scorpio. Let's go live, make a video. And I'ma ride you like a rodeo.

NADIRAH SIMMONS: The song that really, really stood out for me was "Rodeo." And that was the one where, as I was going through the album, I literally got up off of my bed and started dancing. I was like, this is the song that I need to hear outside.


CITY GIRLS: (Rapping) I got my spurs on, San Antonio. I'm a thoroughbred. You a phony ho.

SIMMONS: I love hearing two women kind of go back and forth on a track and pick up where another person left off.


CITY GIRLS: (Rapping) I'm young, and I'm sexy and reckless, period.

SIMMONS: We remain at the forefront when it comes to being innovative. So I think 2020 just really exemplified that.

MCCAMMON: And along those same lines, Briana Younger wrapped up the list with a track by Yung Baby Tate and Flo Milli called "I Am."


YUNG BABY TATE: (Rapping) I am protected, well respected. I'm a queen. I'm a dream. I do what I wanna do, and I'm who I wanna be.

YOUNGER: Kind of, like, about, like, speaking life into yourself and, like, manifesting, you know, yourself. And I think all of the women on the list do that. Like, all of these women are here because, you know, they've had no choice but to manifest, and they've had no choice but to, you know, speak positively to themselves because it's a genre that often doesn't speak positively to them.


YUNG BABY TATE: (Rapping) I don't need no one. I'm independent on my own. I get that money, and I can spend it 'cause it's long.

MCCAMMON: And looking forward...

YOUNGER: There's still more to learn. Like, we need to invest in these women the same way we invest in digging through men.

MCCAMMON: This list, she hopes, is a step in that direction.


IVY SOLE: (Singing) I wanna name it just for you.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.