With a flurry of ferocious new female rappers breaking out and some of rap’s top performers finally receiving big-name recognition, it’s been a big year for women in hip-hop. Unfortunately, due to the continuous onslaught of new music to check out from an ever-increasing number of artists (crafting ever-longer collections of songs in an effort to game streaming service stats for additional sales), it’s easy to overlook great albums from great rappers, even if you’re actively looking for them.
From the “Invasion Of The Dolls” to Cardi B’s takeover of all things even tangentially related to rap, women are coming up in the game in a big way. While Cardi, Nicki Minaj, Rapsody, and pop acts like Beyonce and Rihanna lead the charge, a burgeoning underground movement includes raunchy rappers like Cupcakke and raspy rebels like Rico Nasty.
Here are just a few of the albums that have been released in 2018 that showcase the seismic shift in hip-hop opening doors for diverse voices and styles in a genre where women were formerly better known as video vixens than vicious spitters. Those days seem long past, rapidly washing away by the tides of time — here’s your chance to catch the wave or get left behind.
City Girls — Period
Fans of Miami bounce mavens like Trina and Jacki-O finally have a new dynamic duo to look forward to. Miami’s own J.T. and Young Miami started making noise last year with their Quality Control, Vol. 1 single, “F*ck Dat N—-” and have taken off ever since, garnering the praise of hometown hero Trina and the attention of Drake. The latter landed them placement on The Boy’s double album, Scorpion, on the catchy viral sensation “In My Feelings.” The increased notoriety provided by the breakout hit has shed more spotlight on their bouncy debut, Period, and fortunately for them, the project was one of the better debuts of 2018.
With standout, Parliament-sampling single “I’ll Take Your Man” paving the way, City Girls’ bawdy rhymes and skittering, uptempo bounce tracks provide a summery blueprint for getting money, flossing all-new everything, and turning out potential sugar daddies without catching feelings. Unfortunately, J.T.’s hustle included credit card scams that ended up getting her sent to prison for the next two years — even if City Girls’ newfound cultural cachet from association with Drake is rumored to have helped her delay her sentence for a bit. While their Quality Control cohorts Migos experienced a similar downturn in fortunes and seemingly came out on the other side intact, if anyone can keep their names buzzing, it’s QC’s Coach K and Pee. Until then, the group’s 16-track debut will have to serve as both their stunning coming-out and premature swan song — with just enough bounce to keep it in rotation until J.T. comes home.
Tierra Whack — Whack World
Tierra Whack’s debut has the most potential to shift the paradigm of hip-hop this year. With its off-kilter sensibilities, innovative approach to song structure and content, and imaginative relatability, it has garnered Tierra more than a few fans online since its release in May. While only 15 minutes long from end-to-end — even shorter than any of Kanye West’s seven-song, GOOD Music experiments released in June — its surreal aesthetic and weird, cartoonish sonics are sure to stick with listeners long after their second or third mandatory repeat listen. The accompanying visual album only ups the ante, matching the unexpected, colorful visuals to her topsy-turvy rhyme schemes and minute-long tracks.
While Whack initially cut her teeth on quick-witted, scathing freestyles, she warped lightyears beyond straightforward battle raps to a new, ever-shifting, oddball style that finds her doing everything from hyperfast slick talk to warbling, wistful, and deeply personal revelations. She’s equal parts Missy Elliott and Playboi Carti, every bit as engaging, engrossing, and shocking as she slides across the whole spectrum of everything hip-hop has been while guiding it toward what it can be.
Saweetie — High Maintenance (Icy, Artistry/Warner Bros.)
Saweetie first made her rap presence known with her Instagram freestyles, which slowly but surely began to attract both interest and respect in the young, Bay Area’s rapper. Then, last year, one of those freestyles, to the beat of Khia’s 2002 hit “My Neck, My Back,” took off in a huge way when it became the foundation for her viral hit, “Icy Grl.” The song, whose video has since garnered nearly 52 million views on Youtube and spawned a remix featuring fellow Bay area native Kehlani, became the springboard to national renown and a partnership with Warner Bros. Records and Artistry Worldwide.
High Maintenance features eight songs and an intro and finds the 25-year-old rapper trampling rugged, rumbling beats with her jagged threats and polished boasts. She demonstrates her penchant for catchy, slick hook-writing on “Good Good,” her storytelling abilities on “23,” and waxes contemplative on “Too Many.” While her rhymes occasionally sound strained, she covers a lot of stylistic territory from the sing-song delivery of the day to the punchy style she pioneered on her Instagram posts. The EP demonstrates that the fundamentals are all in place for a big come-up when Saweetie hits the groove that she’s clearly headed for.