Can Real Female MCs Recapture Their Success?

In the late 90’s and into the early 2000’s, female MC’s experienced huge success. Stars like Lauryn Hill, Da Brat, and Foxy Brown were all on top of the rap game. Just like when Whitney, Mariah, and Toni were the shining stars for each of their respective record labels, the same was happening with Lil Kim, Eve, and Missy Elliott. Still, just as quickly as they blew up, their time had passed. But in an industry where the top (and pretty much only) female MC is Nicki Minaj, are we ready for a female MC resurgence?

Let’s examine three former rap stars (and their proteges) looking to relaunch their careers.


Eve burst on the scene in the late 90’s as the first Lady of Ruff Ryders. With her trademark paw-print tattoos on her breasts, she had a real tough image, and her musical content only backed that up. Amongst her labelmates DMX, The Lox, Drag-On, Swizz Beatz, and Jin, she was the only dose of estrogen in the group. Still, she always held her own and had a true affinity for balancing her rough exterior with her femininity. And all of this fed right into her wide appeal. She also tried to make serious statements, releasing her song “Love Is Blind” to raise awareness for domestic abuse.

But after the release of her third album Eve-Olution, things started to dry up for her. She pursued acting but never hit it big. She was featured on a number of singles, including the Grammy winning “Let My Blow Your Mind” by Gwen Stefani, but her performances were never strong enough to revive interest in her. And she released two singles, “Tambourine” and “Give It To You,” came and left without the release of an album.

But now she’s giving music another try. She has released the single “She Bad Bad” to build buzz for her upcoming album Lip Lock which is due out in April. The album is her first release on her new label Blondie Rockwell Inc.

The song has a strange feel to it, almost like it’s trying to be a reggae song, but it didn’t have the guts to go all the way there. And I cannot find anything about the song that seems to be even attempting to have mass appeal. It’s just not catchy. Needless to say, it didn’t really catch on.

And just this week, Eve released her follow-up single “Make It Out This Town” featuring Gape Saporta of Cobra Starship.

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This one was clearly branded to reach the masses. It’s very, very pop, and honestly, it doesn’t really even sound like an Eve record. But this is what she needs to regain the spotlight … right?

Missy Elliott

Missy has been trying to make it in the music game since the early 90’s. She was first part of a girl group where she utilized her vocal skills. It was during this period where Missy forged relationships with Timbaland, Magoo, and Ginuwine. Missy worked hard to make a name for the group, but they didn’t do much more than get a few soundtrack placements. The group never hit it big and the record label folded.

From there, Missy and Timbaland began to work as a songwriting and production team, most notably working on Aaliyah’s debut album One in a Million. And Missy springboarded from that album’s success to release her own platinum certified album Supa Dupa Fly. This was led by the landmark single (and video) “The Rain.”

Success continued with the release of her subsequent albums Da Real World, Miss E … So Addictive, Under ConstructionThis Is Not a Test!, and The Cookbook. But as she geared up for her next album during 2007, her work got caught up in a myriad of delays, pushbacks, and failed singles. And while she has continued to work for other artists and feature on a few tracks, her profile has been pretty low, due partly to an autoimmune disorder known as Graves’ disease.

However, September 2012 marked the sudden release of new Missy material. With the release of a single YouTube video, fans were juiced for Missy’s return. The video encompassed two songs, “Triple Threat” and “9th Inning”, the second of which starts at the 3:48 mark.

But with all or the hype and excitement, the singles failed to chart. So where does that leave Missy’s comeback?

Well, Missy is also at work supporting her own protegé, Sharaya J. Check out her video for her song “B.A.N.J.I. (Be Authentic Never Jeopardize Individuality)” below. She’s got a flair for bright colors and her own distinctive style. And with her rapping and dancing skills, one could say that Missy is training her up to be her second coming.

Lil Kim

Lil Kim has remained true to herself from the moment she stepped onto the scene. She started out in 1996 as a part of The Notorious B.I.G.’s group Junior M.A.F.I.A. And in 1996 she had solo exposure with the release of her debut album Hard Core, which went on to go 2X Platinum. It featured one of her most iconic videos to date, “Crush On You” featuring Lil Cease.

And she maintained her role as a chart-topping rapper for nearly a decade, releasing the albums The Notorious K.I.M., La Bella Mafia, and The Naked Truth. She made waves the whole time with her upfront sexuality, penchant for plastic surgery, and a court case that eventually landed her in jail. She was also involved in a litany of hip-hop fueds with the likes of Foxy Brown, Shyne, and Nicki Minaj. Despite being nominated for numerous Grammys, she won her first and only Grammy for “Lady Marmalde” in 2002.

But that jail sentence rocked her career in a way that she has not yet been able to recover from. Lil Kim has failed to chart since the release of The Naked Truth, the album that was released while she was incarcerated. And though her name continues to draw attention and paparazzi cameras, not even a turn on Dancing With The Stars was enough to return the musical success has alluded her.

But she is stepping back into music again, alongside her own mentee: Tiffany Foxx. She seems to be following right in her mentor’s footsteps with the sexed up image and lyrical content. Check out the video for her song “Twisted” featuring cameos from Lil Kim and Miley Cyrus to see what a new age Lil Kim looks like.

My Take: Looking back over the careers of these three ladies, it is clear that they were instrumental in the long legacy of female MC’s that have fought for success and respect. They are all Grammy winners. They have all made their own marks on the rap game and inspired others to follow in their footsteps. But does the public still have an appetite for their work? The likes of Nicki Minaj ruling the radio right now. And can you even name any other successful female rappers right now? What about successful male rappers? There’s just not that many. The problem here is that rap’s reign in the 90’s has waned in favor of much lighter fare. The landscape got bloated, and suddenly everyone fell off the map. The sound has changed. And Eve’s new single “Make It Out This Town” is evidence of that. It’s just so far from what she was at her height, it almost sounds desperate. And is that what all of these artists need to do in order to stay relevant?

I grew up on this music, so I might be a bit biased, but I would welcome a return to the 90’s rap scene. Even in the silly, fun music from that era, there was still depth. There was still a standard of quality that made the music be respected. No matter how talented or entertaining you think Nicki Minaj or Lil Wayne are, rap has lost respect. And maybe, just maybe, an infusion of some of the classics is just what music needs right now.

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Daren W. Jackson

Daren is one half of the Water Cooler Convos team. He's a writer, music connoisseur, and comic book geek who spends his free time working on his novel and other short stories.