Ladies first! Hip-hop has historically been a boys' club but female rappers—like the young women on the new season of Sisterhood of Hip-Hop (premiering July 12 9/8c)—are increasingly shutting down stereotypes and changing the game. Fearless, powerful and unapologetic; these are the most influential women to touch the mic.
1. Queen Latifah
From old school legend to Hollywood A-lister, Queen Latifah has done it all. The rapper who fought for feminism on "U.N.I.T.Y." has transformed into a household name. She's notched award-winning roles in a variety of movies and television shows from Chicago to Set It Off and even has her own line of CoverGirl cosmetics. She received her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006 and we hail the Queen forever.
2. MC Lyte
If there's one female rap OG, it's MC Lyte. Long considered a pioneer for female rappers, she was the first solo female rapper to release a full album with Lyte as a Rock in 1988. Since then, she's expanded into acting and voiceover work and continues to be a source of inspiration for young femcees.
3. Lauryn Hill
Rapper, singer and actress: Lauryn Hill is a triple threat. The socially-conscious rapper burst onto the music scene as the standout member of the Fugees and became a solo star in her own right with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. It's been nearly 20 years since she warned us about "that thing" and gave us the epic breakup anthem "Ex-Factor." Despite her reclusiveness--and chronic lateness--loyal fans are still waiting on the return of Miss Lauryn.
4. Lil' Kim
Wanna bumble with the bee? Lil' Kim proves that big talent comes in a small package. The diminutive Brooklyn rapper honed her chops under mentor The Notorious B.I.G. In the '90s, she brought major sex appeal to rap with sultry tracks like "No Time" and "How Many Licks?" All men wanted her and all women wanted to be her.
5. Foxy Brown
"You a industry b-tch. I'm an in the streets b-tch." Lil Kim had the glam but Foxy Brown had the hood. The two shared a back-and-forth competition throughout the late '90s. The husky-voiced Foxy held her own among rap legends, spitting hot fire on collaborations with Jay Z and Nas.
Who's that girl? Eve was the First Lady of Ruff Ryders Records and this "pitbull in a skirt" had bark and bite. She enjoyed both street and mainstream success, including winning the inaugural Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration in 2002 for "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" with Gwen Stefani. The enterprising Philly native expanded into fashion and acting, including her own self-titled show Eve.
7. Nicki Minaj
The reigning queen of rap is Nicki Minaj. The spitfire earned her lyrical stripes in NYC's brutally competitive rap underground. After signing with Lil Wayne's Young Money, she quickly took over the world with her brash attitude, catchy melodies and bodacious bod. In 2010, she became the first female solo artist to have seven singles simultaneously charting on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. When she's not stealing the spotlight away from the boys, Nicki is busy with film roles, stints on American Idol and raking in big bucks in deals with Adidas, MAC Cosmetics and Pepsi.