From viral moments to clothing lines and reigning over the music charts, female rappers like Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, Doja Cat and Nicki Minaj showed their dominance.
There will never be another year in music quite like 2020. Covid-19 restrictions canceled in-person concerts and music festivals, ravaged the touring industry, and changed awards shows as we know them. Without live performances to promote their music, the internet became the only tool for recording artists to connect with their fan bases, and it translated on the charts.
In May, Doja scored her first No. 1 single with the groovy “Say So” remix featuring Nicki Minaj. The achievement marks the first time that two female rappers topped the Billboard Hot 100, and the first No. 1 single of Minaj’s career.
Outside of working with Doja, Minaj collaborated with a bunch of artists this year including A$AP Ferg, Ty Dolla $ign, and NBA Youngboy. The Queens rapper, who reigns as Spotify's most streamed female rapper for 2020, celebrated the 10-year anniversary of her Pink Friday debut last month, and called out the GRAMMYs after the recent nominations were announced.
Never one to hold her tongue, Minaj pointed to alleged favoritism within the voting pool and recounted personally being snubbed for Best New Artist in 2012. Despite GRAMMY controversy, and hip-hop’s famouslybumpy relationship with the Recording Academy, a few female rappers nabbed nominations this year.
Doja, whose “Say So” single received nods for Record of the Year and Best Solo Performance, in addition to her Best New Artist nomination, became a first-time GRAMMY nominee alongside Megan Thee Stallion with four nominations, and Chika, who received a Best New Artist nomination. Chika went viral back in 2017 for her Beyoncé-inspired #EgoChallenge and again in 2019 for a candid freestyle with Kanye West. Besides the GRAMMY nomination, the Industry Games rhymer landed a spot on XXL magazine's Freshman Class cover, and showed her lyrical prowess in the 2020 BET Hip Hop Awards cypher.
Like Chika, Megan is relatively new to the rap game, but her career has skyrocketed in what feels like a matter of months. After a whirlwind year, both personally and professionally, the Houston Hot Girl released her debut studio album, Good News, on Nov. 20. The highly anticipated project debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200.
Between her SUGA EP and Good News, Megan has been on the charts a lot this year.
"I feel like we have a lot of growth that happened over the past year," Megan recently shared with ET of her new album. "I titled it Good News, because yes, we've been having an extremely crazy year and it felt like we were given bad news back to back. I felt Megan Thee Stallion needed to drop some good news."
A week after Doja’s “Say So” remix hit the top spot on Billboard, Meg’s “Savage” remix reached No.1, thanks in part to its TikTok popularity and a boost from Beyoncé.
And then there’s “WAP.”
Love it or hate it, Cardi’s racy single (which features Megan) debuted atop the Hot 100, becoming the first female rap single to do so, and extended the Bronx native’s record for the most No.1s from a female rapper. The track added a second chart-topper to Megan’s resume, in addition to racking up nearly 1 billion streams and topping the U.S. Spotify Charts (another first for female rappers). Cardi was also named Billboard's Woman of the Year.
Not a bad showing for Cardi, who has been taking her time with the follow-up to her GRAMMY-winning debut effort, Invasion of Privacy.
“There is definitely a lot of pressure, which is why I haven’t put out the second album. I haven’t rushed it,” she said in an interview with Footwear News while promoting her new collaboration with Reebok. “Everybody is waiting for that one little mistake. Everybody is dying to say, ‘Her album is trash, her first one is better.’ I have to play it good and make sure everyone likes it and make sure it comes with sick everything. Just the whole roll out has to be sickening.”
Apart from solo success, joining forces with fellow female rappers has become a welcomed trend this year. But it’s not just solo artists making waves. The City Girls released their sophomore album, City on Lock, in June (hours after the album leaked online). The lead single “Jobs” and “P**sy Talk” snagged a combined 14.3 million views on YouTube.
Of course, the music charts and YouTube streams aren’t the only measure of success. Aside from releasing two albums this year, Princess Nokia’s Twitch session with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went viral. Philly’s own Tierra Whack was featured in Beyoncé’s epic Black Is King film (she also appears on The Gift album), and Rico Nasty has been gearing up to release her highly anticipated debut, Nightmare Vacation, this Friday. The year also marked a first for Rapsody as she she received her first award ever for Best Lyricist at this year’s BET Hip Hop Awards (She released album in 2012). Speaking of the BET Hip-Hop Awards, 20-year-old rapper Flo Milli earned a nod for Best New Artist. The Alabama native has been on the rise since her “Beef Flow Mix” lit up TikTok.
This huge year for female rap was not without some controversy. Doja was accused of participating in racist chat rooms (which she denied) and Mulatto has caught backlash more than once this year, mostly over her stage name, which she is thinking about changing.
While notoriety has its pros and cons, many female rappers understand their strength as influencers, and use social media as a tool that allows fans to get to know their personalities. Saweetie, for example, has used social media to her advantage.
The “Back to the Streets” rapper kept the internet talking during quarantine with multiple viral moments (some of which have been with her boyfriend, rapper Quavo), coupled with the singles “Tap In” and “Pretty B*tch Freestyle." And she has more in the works, including the forthcoming Pretty B*tch Music album.
With everything she has in the works for the future, Saweetie understands that looking back on wins and losses is a major part of being a successful artist.
“I really suggest reflecting,” she told ET in October. “Sometimes you have to take a moment and step outside yourself to see what you’re doing great, what you can improve on. We work so much and everything is so much in real time, especially on social media, we really don’t take time to just look in the mirror, put your phone down and sit in silence and just reflect. When you do that, it makes the vision clearer.”