So many things happened in summer 2019, but no words better summarize the whirlwind break like “female rap.” After Megan Thee Stallion dubbed this year’s summer “hot girl summer,” it’s no wonder the season saw an amazing rise in the mainstream popularity of female rap.
There have only ever been a few mainstream female rappers at a time. Soon to be MTV Video Vanguard award winner Missy Elliott, fashion icon Lil’ Kim and monster female rapper that defined the 2010s, Nicki Minaj, represent the three biggest female rappers, arguably, of all time. All three are the only female rappers to have at least three platinum-certified albums.
As mentioned before, Nicki Minaj has been virtually the only mainstream female rapper of the 2010s. Since the release of her first album, “Pink Friday,” in 2009, Minaj has sold millions of units, and according to the Recording Industry Association of America, Minaj was the first female rapper to top 100 million units sold earlier this year. Some of the most recognizable hits of the decade have been of Minaj’s making, between “Super Bass,” “Anaconda” and her countless features.
Of course, Cardi B’s single “Bodak Yellow” came out in the summer of 2017 and launched her into superstardom. Ever since, millions of fans have compared her to Minaj in what ultimately turned out to be a rivalry between the two, culminating in an altercation at New York Fashion Week in 2018.
It’s striking how totally different the current topography of the mainstream female rap game can look compared to what it was one to two years ago, when fans could support a grand total of two mainstream female rap artists. Now at the end of summer 2019, fans have a much longer list of mainstream female rappers to choose from.
No female artist owned summer 2019 like Megan Thee Stallion. Megan’s tweet calling this summer a “hot girl summer” has inspired shows and companies to use the name to promote their content and products. “Hot girl summer” has graced the captions of summer selfies for months.
It’s perhaps the essence of what a “hot girl” and what a “hot girl summer” is that can begin to explain the current movement in rap and female rap.
“People who like to be in control, people who are naturally the boss, that’s who my music is for,” Megan said in an interview for Refinery29’s “The Come Up” series.
Megan has ultimately scorned the physicality of “hotness” and defined a “hot girl” as someone who is confident and unapologetically themselves, and thus this “hot girl summer” was about having fun, being yourself and not answering to anyone but you about it. For Megan, anyone can be a hot girl.
And now, as more girls realize their hotness and flaunt it, more women are cropping up on the scene like Meg herself. Megan was one of three women on the XXL Freshman Class of 2019. Right next to her were Rico Nasty and Tierra Whack.
“A lot of us are doing music but we not saying the same thing, we not saying it the same way, the delivery is so different,” Megan said in the same interview.
Megan Thee Stallion succinctly combatted the previous notions of one female rap artist at a time, supporting the fact that there’s room for multiple female rappers just the way there’s room for multiple male rappers.
One of the most defining songs of the summer wasn’t by Megan Thee Stallion, and was in fact “Act Up” by City Girls, comprised of Yung Miami and JT. The themes of “Act Up” surround money, how you can get it and how the women see sex and competition.
Much of the messages in female rap surround open female sexuality, money, confidence and selective partnering. The content these new mainstream female rappers are putting out captures a kind of female empowerment that tells male artists “it’s our turn now.” Much of Megan Thee Stallion’s lyrics are about sex and female sexuality and supplementing her income through her man’s, such as in “Cash S—t” from her EP “Fever.”
This summer also saw the way women can be an overwhelmingly powerful audience. Lizzo’s song, “Truth Hurts,” is about how men just aren’t great and, frankly, aren’t necessary, and it is No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, despite the music video coming out two years ago.
Another level of depth to the newly-shifting female rap game is the greater frequency of collaborations between artists. Lizzo’s big girl anthem, “Tempo,” features the legendary Missy Elliott. City Girls’ “Twerk” featured Cardi B; the music video, featuring girls twerking on beaches in bikinis, is reminiscent of almost every man’s rap music video, but the distinct absence of men shifts the purpose of the provocative dancing from men’s choice and pleasure to that of women.
Rico Nasty used her platform earlier this summer to name another female rapper, Flo Milli, whose music video for her song “Beef Flomix” went viral on Twitter. Rico Nasty was also featured on “Moo,” rapper Doja Cat’s song “Tia Tamera.” The two did a joint Genius lyric video for their song.
“I feel like it’s important for girls to see that, like we can get along, no drama,” Rico Nasty said in the video. “Maybe we’ll have some dynamic duos come out after this.”
Perhaps one of the most anticipated collaborations was between Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion after a screen recording of them on Instagram Live together went viral. The two recently delivered with Megan Thee Stallion’s most anticipated project of the summer, “Hot Girl Summer.” The song also features Ty Dolla $ign.
“Hot Girl Summer” is an important collaboration, considering many have criticized Nicki Minaj. Her critics think that she did little to support up-and-coming female rappers during her decade long reign as the only mainstream female rapper and that her supposed bitterness and self-serving tendencies are what kept her on top and fueled her feud with Cardi B, the only equally big name in female rap at the time.
Whatever her reasons for collaborating with Megan Thee Stallion, as the premier female rapper for more than a decade, Nicki Minaj’s participation on “Hot Girl Summer” is the biggest sign that rap is expanding to include women’s voices. From rapping about women’s sexuality to boss women with their own money, the women in rap are unifying to give female listeners more of what they want: rap made by and for them.