Hip-hop music has only been around since we launched the Nigerian naira but has enjoyed more stability than naira. At 50 years old, it’s one of the most digitally consumed genres in the world. Yet, it still struggles to enjoy mainstream acclaim and coverage in Nigeria. And of course, female rappers suffer most.
If they aren’t fighting sexist comments about their bodies, they’re warding off trolls making jokes of their lyrical skills. Still, women have done some incredible work in the industry.
Since the 1990s and early 2000s, women like Weird MC and Blaise have been trading bars and creating anthems — Blaise held her own as crew member in the male-dominated Trybe Records, Weird MC already had a critically acclaimed hit in 1996. Many often forget Allen Avenue makes Weird MC the first Nigerian to release a self-produced music video. Her Ijoya became the first animated music video in Nigerian music and one of the first few to play on MTV Base when it launched in Nigeria (2005).
Sasha P was the first female Nigerian artist to perform at the World Music Awards (2008), the first Nigerian to go home with the MTV Africa Music Award for Best Female Artiste (2010).
With these talented pacesetters and veterans like Muna, B.O.U.Q.U.I, Kel, Eva Alordiah and Mo’Cheddah, some still argue that we’ve barely had any solid female rappers. Others only bring up female rappers when nostalgia hits. They’re often overshadowed in a mostly sexist industry, but even their male counterparts struggle to make a break. The rap scene isn’t the most popular, and women are still scarce, because for every ten male rappers out there, there’s one or two female rappers struggling to get the industry’s attention.
But women no longer have to go through the same strenuous grind like getting access or needing a label to prove themselves like their predecessors. The new cats can literally start their career with the internet. There hasn’t been a better time for them to unapologetically express themselves through rap.
Artists like Rebelwav are getting creative with their sounds and the themes they cover in their songs. Many young listeners crave her confidence and sharp techniques in trap, drill and emo-rap. In her latest two-song single, Champion Pack, she raps about being “unfuckwithable” and fearless in the face of both the industry games and life’s adversities. That’s her MO as she trailblazes her own lane with a loyal fan base that keeps growing. There’s also Abuja-based singer-rapper, Mannie Tseayo baring her soul and spazzing on any mf beat.
Before Chocolate City signed her, Candybleakz started as the front-man and only female member of defunct music group, Street Billionaires. Known for her commanding vocals and broad vocabulary of street lingo like in the hustle-inspired song Tikuku, Candy continues to inspire young Africans as the most visible female street-pop artist in Nigeria.
Rap freshman, Shalom Dubas, has gained more attention since her verse on Show Dem Camp’s Draw Me Close. With her firm yet emotive and poetic lo-fi sound, she came in with the vim of an OG rapper. In the same breath, we have rappers like Reespect and Phlow who’ve been on a similar journey for a while now. They’re lyrically sophisticated, flowing on the best beats they can get. Reespect balances cockiness with vulnerability. Phlow is known for sharp verses that cut tensions in rooms like a butter knife. Her discography is a slew of collaborations with artists and producer like Maka, Mz Kiss and Teck-Zilla.
SGaWD made a strong impression with her 2020 drop, Like Me, before she properly introduced her sound with debut EP, Savage Bitch Juice. She basks in her sexual liberty and reclaims narratives that objectify women. In Boytoy, she doubles down on sexual and material desires.
On August 9, 2023, Mavin Records unveiled its first female rapper, Lifesize Teddy, the second emcee on the label since they signed Ladipoe in 2017. On her five-track EP, she declares her arrival, non-conformity and the manifesting prophecies of her success on hypnotic beats that span from r&b to afropop to amapiano. It’s very welcoming news as Lifesize Teddy is one of the two rappers housed by a company whose other acts like Rema, Arya Starr, Magixx and Crayon are primarily singers. The timing of her announcement and official debut couldn’t be better as the celebration of hip-hop at 50 is ongoing.
The block party Cindy Campbell threw 50 years ago has grown into a multicultural platform millions around the world, including Nigerians, now use to express themselves.
Women in Nigeria are currently fighting the good fight to own their spot in the Hip Hop scene and kill stereotypes — competing and taking control of their narratives. Not any of us, labels or the industry will tell them not to represent. It’s their time to shine.