There is no genre of music that excites me more than hip-hop. I was eleven years old and at my first middle school dance when hip-hop entered my life. The dance was pretty bad—they were holding it in the cafeteria at 3:30 in the afternoon, I barely knew anyone, it was uncomfortable, and I had no idea what was going on. Elementary school dances were easy; you wore something pastel-colored and danced tamely for three hours to Radio Disney as bored parent volunteers half-heartedly chaperoned. Middle school dances, however, were a new realm entirely. The music was louder with heavy bass and little to no melody. Where were Hilary Duff and Michelle Branch? It’s weird to think now that there was ever a time when hip-hop was something foreign to me, but it was. It sounded dangerous and I was positive I would never ever appreciate it.
Fast-forward to the present, where hip-hop is the love of my musical life. Don’t get me wrong, I am an equal-opportunity music-lover with an appreciation for each and every genre, but something about a good hip-hop song just sends the best kind of chills down my spine. Like most great things in this world, hip-hop has so much more to offer than its face value. It is stereotyped as being violent, belligerent, and aggressive. Parents dread the day their children discover hip-hop and typically view the genre as their child’s gateway into crime and rebellion. The truth of hip-hop, though, is that it’s like every other genre. Yes, it can be angry and crude, but it can also be gentle and vulnerable. There are hip-hop songs about love, heartbreak, and overcoming obstacles. When it is done well, a good hip-hop song can be a masterpiece complete with sharp rhymes, clever references, and amazingly produced backing tracks.
My one beef with hip-hop is its somewhat exclusionary nature. The genre has a long history of being a rather difficult world for women to enter successfully. Women are often the subjects of hip-hop songs—referred to with varying degrees of respect—but there are a devastatingly small number of successful female rappers. Lately, however, the hip-hop world has seen a demographic shift. More women than ever are pursuing hip-hop stardom, and I could not be more pleased with the result. This new freshman class of lady rappers has the talent and potential to change the hip-hop game forever. I know we still have a long way to go. We are far from an equal-opportunity hip-hop world where women (and members of the LGBTQ community) are openly embraced. In honor of these first steps in the right direction, though, I’d like to dedicate this week’s post to my favorite new ladies of the genre. These are my top five fresh female faces of hip-hop.
Iggy Azalea has proven herself as a hip-hop game changer for more reasons than one. Obviously, she is a woman, but in addition, she is white and Australian, two demographics that rarely occur in the predominantly African-American genre of hip-hop. Azalea came to the U.S. alone at sixteen years old with dreams of finding luck playing the rap game. While it took her a few tries to find her bearings, Azalea eventually found her place in hip-hop. She’s since released two fantastic mixtapes, and her first studio album drops this year. You’ll love her for her voice’s distinct hybrid of an Australian accent and a Southern twang, as well as for her clever, smirk-worthy rhymes. Check out her single “Work” for a preview of all she has to offer. It is a somehow seamless combination of an upbeat twerk jam and the essential “overcoming struggle” anthem.
Up next is Angel Haze, a fast-talking Detroit native who is quick in both verse and wit. Though she’s a newcomer to the industry, she can trash talk with the best of them and brag like it’s nobody’s business. Haze released her first EP New York late last year. While it only holds four songs, it is a flawless composition and is sure to leave you wanting more. Earlier this year, she released “On the Edge,” a biting and catchy diss track reportedly aimed at fellow female rapper Azealia Banks. BBC, MTV, and XXL have called her one of the best new hip-hop artists. I highly recommend her slow jam “Chi (Need to Know).” It’s got all the tenderness of a Bon Iver song under a tough and sway-worthy exterior.
Nitty Scott, MC
Hailing from Brooklyn, Nitty Scott, MC has taken a more organic approach to hip-hop. From her smooth flow to her grassroots “for the people, by the people” style, Scott calls to mind the old-school hip-hop greats. Her rhymes are never awkward and seem to pour out effortlessly. Scott has released three EPs in the past two years, performed at the 2011 BET Hip-Hop Awards alongside Estelle, and has appeared in MTV’s Sucker Free Countdown. For a true sense of her mellow vibes, check out “Flower Child.” It’s got a sweet melody, a tranquil flow, and a verse by Kendrick Lamar. What more could you ask for?
It’s hard to decide what’s better about Cambodian-Canadian rapper Honey Cocaine—her tough and boldly delivered verses or her brassy, loud backing tracks. She may be only nineteen, but Cocaine already has the bravado and skill of an old pro. She has toured with artists Kreayshawn and Tyga, and was signed to the latter’s record label Last Kings Entertainment. Her mixtape 90s Gold has all the freshness of modern rap with the essence of a good old-fashioned throwback. I recommend her remix of TLC’s “No Scrubs” for a perfect sample of Cocaine’s tough but fun sound.
Rounding out the countdown is K. Flay, an Illinois native and Stanford University alum. Flay’s hip-hop career started as a joke. She wrote her first rap in 2004 solely to prove to friends that she could, but soon discovered that she had a knack for it. Since 2009, Flay has released six EPs and mixtapes with another one set for release this year. Her remixes are dynamic and her music videos are remarkably creative. With no street background, Flay is true proof that hip-hop talent is not contingent upon origin. Flay’s raps are relatable and her style is nonchalant but effective. There is an honesty in her words that even the least hood among us can feel. Listen to her heartbreaking song “The Cops” and I promise that you will fall in love.