After my last Top 10 Favorite 1998 Hip hop albums, I had mixed feelings about including Lauryn Hill, only becuz it was more r&b than hip hop. But honestly, there wasn't many dope albums that year, so I included her by default. But acknowledging female rap albums period of all times, it's hard to include it. Now if it was best female album PERIOD or female R&B album or even best Female rap/hip hop single, then it's all good.
Not taking away from her as an emcee, b/c skillfully she can kill most these sistas on this list & most bruthas for that matter. But is it fair to compare a Lauryn album to an MC Lyte album? That's like comparing John Legend to Common. Either way, this is MY list of my favorite female RAP albums, so hey... don't bite my head off, b/c L.'s not on this list. LOL.
I also did this off the strength of a previous list of my top 3 albums per year in the 90's where I didn't acknowledge any female rap albums. One thing about these lists is that mine is liable to change in a minute, b/c nothing is set in stone for me. I love music period. And a lot of times, I do this to introduce ppl that yearn to hear an alternative from the stuff forced down our ears whenever we turn on a radio. It's not for me, b/c I have these albums. But if ppl have other recommendations... hey.. share them... exchange recipes so we all can enjoy the same delights.
no particular order
1. Salt-n-Pepa "Black's Magic" 1990
This might be a shocker to most, since this album don't get the accolades that the albums before (Hot, Cool & Vicious) or afterwards (Very Necessary) got. But one thing this album did that their previous didn't do & no album can do til this day.... release hit records even in a 4 year span. '89-90 - Expression & Independent, '91- Do U Want Me, '91-92 "Let's Talk About Sex" & "U Showed Me". And that's not including bangers that didn't get play like "Black's Magic", "I Don't Know" (w/ Kid'n Play), "Doper Than Dope" & Salt killing it solo on "Swift."
This also the album where they step up out of Hurby's choke hold (just an inch, but enough to let the world know they could write, they were no fad or just eye candy... especially since this was during their fat (oops.. I meant.. pregnancy) stage (although Salt was still fine in all-black). The only thing that hurt them with this album was the remixes that catered more to the UK, but made them appear selloutish over here. I guess the remix came as a result of re-creating songs that were 2 or 3 years old. But the original 1990 album version is a classic, although the original "Let's Talk About Sex" is no longer on it. (sucks cuz the remix omitted the 3rd verse, which was the best verse to me). Plus that album cover is phat!!!!
2. MC Lyte "Eyes On This" 1989
Although her debut is definitely a classic, this was the album that turned me into a fan. At that time, I was a fan of both Lyte & Antoinette, but more so Antoinette becuz of her sound. But Lyte killed not only her with this album, but all competition with this joint. The production was flawless, & her lyrics was amazing. Til this day, this still plays in my I-Tunes every now & then.
The main reason I loved this one more than the debut was becuz it felt more polished without losing the grit that made the debut amazing. She still had her storytelling rhymes... "Cappuchino", "Not WIth a Dealer" & my personal favorite... "Please Understand" where she spoke a lot of real relationship issues & how she dealt with them. The first verse was actually something that reign true with my older sister at the time. But the way she told it was funny as hell. But my favorite was a cut called "Rhyme Hangover".... (sampled Diana Ross' "Love Hangover") which really displayed her lyricism where she came across as a Doctor prescribe good music for those that need it. Classy. I can go on & make a whole blog about this album... LOL... so let me continue. (Just take my word for it... it's tight.)
3. Rah Digga "Dirty Harriet" 2000
The first time I fell in love with Digga was on the Lyricist Lounge joint exchanging bars with Bahamadia, "Be OK". That joint was crazy tight. ANd then later on Busta's 2nd album with Flip Mode. I was that groupie waiting on her debut to finally get released & was well worth it. She had a lot of tight tracks, but my favorite til this day that I play on repeat everytime is the "Straight Spittin' Pt. 2. Sucks her sophomore album never dropped in stores (although it wasn't as good as the first. I have the unreleased bootleg), & she's become another dope femcee from a crew to get suffocated in the overcrowded industry.
4. Foxy Brown "Ill Na Na" 1996
This was when Foxy was at her best & sexiest, even if Jigga wrote most of her shit at that time. It was a dope album. Actually my favorite cuts on the album was "Holy Matrimony" & "The Promise" that I think she did write. Although she's done later albums each with mixed views, this was the album where she set herself a part from other females, even Lil' Kim, although ppl were lumping them together. She came across more classy & sophisticated with her flow & one of the most unique, distinctive voices. This was before she got hollywood, then later hollyhood to the 3rd power.
But I still hope she come back strong, b/c dope female rappers that actually still RAP. (not sing or with a singy song flow... but RAP & tight with it.) is rare. Her unreleased "Ill NaNa 2: The Fever" is also another bootleg I got a hold of & it was actually tight. But fell into the curse of the "push back til eternity until label change & never see the light of day" that happens a lot with especially new artists & female rappers that labels don't know how to promote. Black Roses (her supposed next album) might meet the same fate as "The Fever" since it's been 4 years since it was supposed to drop & been 8 years since she's had an official album released... (Since Brooklyn Don Diva came out without her consent.)
5. Jean Grae "Jeanius" 2004
Don't act like yall didn't know. LOL. Actually I was torn btw this & her debut, Attack of the Attacking Things... & even the new "Evil Jeanius" (I recommend downloading, cuz her former label's did a "Suge Knight" on her...*) But the original Jeanius album is a masterpiece. I say "original", b/c the version that dropped this year (2008) had to be tweaked for uncleared samples. They did a decent job to try to keep the same vibe, but the original 2004 version is 9th in his element & brought out the best in Jean's flow. But it's another example of how the industry is killing the art.
6. Lil' Kim "Hardcore" - 1996
I almost put "La Bella Mafia" b/c that was a dope album. But the thing I love about this album was it's originality at the time. I just wish her remixes (Crush On You & Not Tonight) would've been on the actual albums instead of the originals (Although the original "Not Tonight" is funny as hell. Keep that...). But in comparing her & Foxy at the time, I think Foxy had a better album as a whole, but Lil' Kim had hotter singles. "Drugs", "Spend a Lil' Dough" (great storytelling), "Queen Bitch" & "MAFIA's Land" were among fav. joints. And that "No Time" video was the shit. To be honest, I liked the clean version better than the explicit one (it omitted my favorite bar... "I'll have you speaking in French... oooo la. wee wee." LMAO)
Even today, I'm still a fan. I might joke about the surgery & the clothes or whatever stunt she pulls. But IMO, she still put out good music. It's evident with her last 2 albums (The Naked Truth & La Bella Mafia), even her mixtape.... Mz. G.O.A.T. where she paid tribute to female pioneers & doing them justice while proving she can still rip the mic without her clothes following. Even Notorious K.I.M., although it gets a lot of flack, when had too many songs... 5 were fillers she coulda omitted & came with a better package. But Hardcore will always be the shit for me.
7. Mystic "Cuts for Luck & Scars for Freedom" 2001
For those never heard her album but aware of her hit single might think I'm being hypocritical acknowledging her & not Lauryn Hill. But although she does sing on her album, her rapping is more dominate... just like Mos Def. But the one thing I love about her is her emotions. She speaks from a personal standpoint which is something very few rappers do, especially women, cuz they're trying to come across as hard as the guys. There's only been a few females that show emotions in their music through wordplay. Foxy Brown & Jean Grae... off the top of my head are 2 examples... although they're both not acknowledged for it b/c their machismo takes away from their humanistic sides. She can spit with the guys, but her heart is what makes her album timeless b/c they stick out more than her boast songs. "Fatherless Child" & "A Dream" are true gems, just to name a few.
8. Bahamadia "Kollage" 1996
I was a fan prior to this album, after her first video in 94, "Total Wreck" & a year later on guru's Jazzatazz Vol. 2 "Respect the Architect", Big Kap's joint "Da Ladies" that also featured Lauryn Hill. I couldn't wait for her to drop. I even bought the "Uknowhowedu" single that had "True Honey Buns" on the B-Side. Funny thing, I liked the B-side joint better. I was totally blown away when it finally came out, b/c It was a lot better than I expected. Not only did her butter flow & clever wordplay make this album the masterpiece it was... but DJ Premier produced if not the whole album... a huge chunk of it. I don't think he did... Da Jawn which featured The Roots, but that is my favorite joint on the album. Then again, I always get jones for music when B & The Roots get together on a track. Always make me wish I was in Philly to absorb some of the soul that was being transported thru the music back then.
9. Queen Latifah "Black Reign" 1993
A lot of ppl praise Latifah's debut when acknowledging albums of all times. Honestly, when it comes to ppl rating classic hip hop albums, ppl never look beyond a female rapper's first album. BUt in my opinion, this has to be the best album she's done. ANd it came after the death of her brother, Lance, too. So she put her heart into this album. Just about every song on there could've been a hit single, but U.N.I.T.Y. was definitely needed during that era (even now).
I thought it was jacked up how she got a mediocre review from the Source (3.5) where they complained about the singing. Honestly, I think with this album it worked best compared to her previous. On her first, it was nice... but the singing didn't work at times with certain songs & often took away from her rapping. On her second, she was trying too hard to do both & a lot of times felt like she should just rap & stop trying to sing. This one, I think it worked better hand in hand. Where she stayed on point lyrically & added a singing hook as icing on the cake.. As much as I love Latifah, she is no Lauryn Hill when it comes to singing. But it does work for hooks (Just Another Day) with sometimes a ting of reggae (Weekend Love). But as far as heart, I feel her more when she raps & that's what she did with Black Reign.
10. Lady of Rage - Necessary Roughness 1997
The only thing that hurt this album was the fact that it came out at the wrong time. 1. 2Pac has just passed; 2. Everyone fell out with Suge Knight, plus he was incarcerated; 3. The east vs. west was in full effect & she stayed out of it. Folks might have a fit by me saying this, but fuck it. I always thought Rage was the illest lyricist in Death Row, but she never got her shine. She should've been the first female to go platinum, if Death Row didn't push her back & let Brat take that opportunity away. ANd that album was proof. cuz it was straight fire. This was also during a time when a new crop of females started selling records (Lil' Kim, Missy & Foxy Brown) either through sex appeal or, in Missy's case..., being animated. And if you weren't showing some sex appeal.... forget it. MC Lyte escaped the omission barely... thanks to Puff's "Cold Rock A Party," & Brat finally showing a feminine side, while YoYo, Latifah & SNP fought to stay relevant. (Luckily, Latifah still had her TV show, talk show & Hollywood later on). This was when the hard core female emcee, like the Rage's, Heather B's, Nikki D's, MC Lytes) started becoming extinct.
11. Heather B - Takin' Mine 1996
Most notably known for "The Real World", I don't think she truly got the props she deserved as an emcee. I was a fan b4 TRW, b/c she was a part of BDP & she was spitting fire back then. I still would love to get my hand on some of those tracks she was spitting while on TRW. But her first studio album definitely didn't disappoint. She was the true personification of hard core & hip hop at its grimiest, cuz every track she was on, she was ripping it harder than most men & with mad passion. So much so, you felt what she was saying when she used to spit, "If Heads Only Knew... how I feel about the rap game." b/c you was chanting it along with her & believing that shit.
12. Monie Love "Down to Earth" - 1990
She'll be known for "Monie in The Middle". But on that note, it's better to be a one-hit wonder rather than never being acknowledged at all. But the sad part is her album was actually pretty good. It was definitely for the Native Tongue heads & ppl might've been brushed off by the album cover with the colors & such. But she touched on a lot of stuff before a lot of rappers did. Not only was she the first rapper I heard spitting a fast flow, but she was the first rapper I heard period to speak on domestic violence (Just Don't Give A Damn) & women prostituting themselves (Pups Lickin' Bones.... 1st joint introducing The Beatnuts). She set a lot of trends that she'll never get credit for. But true heads know the deal.
13. Da Brat "Unrestricted" 2000
This album was Brat at her very best. She wasn't on Snoop's jock anymore, but went back to her Chicago roots with her flow while still keeping the mellow vibe. I was shocked when I heard "That's What I'm Looking For" b/c she was killing it lyrically & at the same time looking sexy as hell. It's easy to say she bit off Twista a little, but I see it as all Chi- love, & at the same time, it was the speedy rap that turned me on to her in the first place when she debuted on "Da Bomb" from Kris Kross' 2nd album. Honey stepped her game up on this album & probably came with the best material she's ever done... "We Ready", "Pink Lemonade", "Chi-Town". If this would've been her first album, I think she would be more acknowledged as a pioneer along with the Lytes & Latifahs, b/c this album deserved more praise than her first that only sold on the strength of JD. On this one, her music sold her.
14. Apani B. Fly - Story to Tell 2003
This was an album I honestly found by accident. I've always liked her off the cameos she did... (Pharoah Monch, "The Ass") but when I heard her & Jean Grae tag team on a joint call "Shut the Fuck Up (that samples another legend, MC Lyte), I started researching her & finding more treasures from her. I don't think this album was ever officially released (at least not in the U.S.)... but its definitely something worth checking out. Like Mystic, this is the only collection of work of hers. But like Jean Grae, she's done enough features on compilations & cameos that it should be a double album within itself. But 2 of my favorite joints on this album.. "Right The Wrong" reminscing on lost friendships due to time (something I can relate to) & "Picture This" talking about the hardships of the street. Whether she rapping about love "Tequila" or dropping knowledge "A Million Eyes" her word imagery overall is something that's timeless, & unfortunately is not something appreciated in this age of mother goose rhymes about tossing dollars.
15. YoYo - Black Pearl
This album was straight fire, that it still baffles me that it didn't get the props it should've. No way was this a sophomore slump when it was musically better than the first & philosophically & conceptually her best work. Homegirl Don't Play That was straight fire... ANd "So Funky" used the same sample as 2Pac's "Keep Your Head Up." (b4 Pac's came out) And her remake of Shirley Brown's "Woman to Woman" is hilarious at best. When she drop knowledge like on "Few Good Men," "A Long Way Home" & "Cleopatra", she's no joke & truly an Intelligent Black Woman that supports her man. I even liked the smooth out R&B collabo with The Good Girls (remember them?) called "Will You Be Mine."
But like Rage's debut, this album suffered from bad timing. It didn't get the props it should've got for 2 reasons... One. It was positive..... and Two. It had r&b samples & hooks that would've sold if the G-Funk era wouldn't have taking over the West Coast sound in the same year of 92. So in less than 6 months after this album was released, YoYo rushed a harder more gangsta album, "U Better Ask Somebody." which also dissed this album calling it wack. But I had to disagree. Honestly, I think this was YoYo's best album where she continued her IBWC movement from her debut with uplifting songs for women. But she also spoke on having real Black pride beyond the X-hats & dashiki's that were the trend back then. This album had everything that the first was missing & a lot more melodic & original than her later that tried to target the Boss market.. making the same mishap Lyte did with Ruffneck, (although that got Lyte her first Gold plaque, it was a far step from her earlier work.)
The Conscious Daughters - Ear to The Streets 1993
Invincible - Shapeshifter - 2008
Antoinette - Who's The Boss? 1989
Nikki D - Daddy's Little Girl 1990
Sweet Tee - It's Tee Time - 1988
Mia X - Unladylike 1997
Missy Elliott - Under Construction - 2001