The New Ladies of Hip-Hop

Studio 360

Hip-hop gets a bad rap for being male-dominated and misogynist. But female MCs have been on the cutting edge of hip-hop since the beginning. The 80's saw outspoken artists like MC Lyte, J.J. Fad, Salt-n-Pepa, Queen Latifah; in the 90's we had Missy Elliott, Eve, and Lauryn Hill. If you take a look around this past decade, though, you might wonder, where the ladies at?

Fear not. Last month at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, I saw an amazing range of female hip-hop artists -- from the provocative political rap of Detroit's Invincible, to the soulful tunes of Nigerian artist Nneka, to the booty-shakin' club rap of Chicago's Kid Sister.

If you thought hip-hop was dead, Invincible says look no further than its women. 'The revival of hip-hop is the women in hip-hop movement. We're here to smack people out of their slumber and wake them up.'

On Studio 360 this week, Invincible, Kid Sister, Maluca and Nneka talk about what inspires their music. Listen to the piece here:

You can catch most of these artists on tour right now. Here's a sampling of videos of their best tracks.

Nneka is Nigerian but got her record deal while living in Germany for a few years. This is 'Walking' from her debut US album, Concrete Jungle. Like Lauryn Hill, Nneka both sings and raps, and mixes styles from reggae to R&B.

Invincible considers herself an 'artist-activist' and started her own independent label in Detroit called Emergence Media. She organized the first Women in Hip-Hop showcase at SXSW this year. This is 'Sledgehammer' off her album Shape Shifters.

New York's Maluca has just released her first single, 'El Tigeraso.' The electro-merengue track was produced by Diplo, best known for his work with MIA.

Chicago rapper Kid Sister released her debut album, Ultraviolet, last fall. Her deliciously fun 'club rap' has already caught the attention of Kanye West, Cee Lo, and Estelle, who all guest on the album. But I think the best tracks don't even need those heavyweights.

Ana Tijoux is Latin America's best known female MC. She broke through in the 90's with her group called Makiza, and after a short hiatus has launched a solo career. Her new album 1977 (the year of her birth) is being released here this month. Tijoux grew up in France because her parents were exiles of the Pinochet regime. She returned to Chile as a teenager, and that's where she fell in love with hip-hop.

Kings of hip-hop, consider this your 21st century wake-up call. The new queens are here.

- Leital Molad

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