"Us women have always been talented. But it was a thing where there could only be one woman [rapper] at a time. You got all these guy rappers out here who ain't really talking about a lot! [Laughs.] But we all would commend them, as many as they come."
That's how Megan Thee Stallion described the state of gender equality in the rap game to Billboard in late 2019. And she's not wrong. The male-dominated genre—not to mention its fan base—has long had a complicated relationship with the female MCs daring to edge in on their turf and spit bars like the best of them.
And yet, at every point in rap's storied history, you can find women pulling the spotlight, proving that they just might be "the best" of them.
From the pioneers like MC Lyte and Queen Latifah to the '90s queens like Lil' Kim and Missy Elliott, the modern divas like Nicki Minaj and Cardi B—who celebrates a birthday on Sunday, Oct. 11—to the rising stars like Meg and Doja Cat, there are queens reminding these so-called kings that this has never been just their kingdom.
"The culture doesn't move without women, and it's great because it shows there's room for all of us—and we're doing it at elite levels," Rapsody told Billboard. "We make some of the best music that's out right now. We don't have to fight each other for one spot, because that's an illusion. It's been super-diverse, especially if you look at music outside the mainstream TV and radio."
In honor of Cardi's birthday, we thought we'd celebrate her and 19 of her sisters. This list is by no means meant to be exhaustive, but it is a great thing to send to the next fool on your TL who parrots Jermaine Dupri and asserts, as he did in a 2019 People interview, that the women in the game are "all rapping about the same thing...It's like strippers rapping and as far as rap goes I'm not getting who's the best rapper."
(Originally published July 11, 2020, at 12 p.m. PT.)