It’s been a long time coming, but hip-hop is no longer an exclusive boys’ club. Women like Cardi B, who made history this year as the first solo female act to win a Grammy for Best Rap Album, are dominating charts and streams while rising stars like Philly eccentric Tierra Whack are turning critics’ heads. And if Beyonce and Jay-Z’s joint 2018 album Everything Is Love proved anything, it’s that Queen Bey is clearly the superior rapper in the relationship.
The male-dominated rap world’s day of reckoning is coming, and this year’s Emerge festival is here for it. The two-day celebration of diverse voices, coming to Hard Rock Hotel May 31-June 1, features a host of women leading the charge.
Every Dessa release — be it a song, video, or collection of writing — is a gift. There’s beauty, tenderness, and a touch of ferocity in everything the Minnesota artist does, whether she’s singing about hardship on “Good Grief” (Bust the hydrant, let it spray champagne / Wings are broken but I feel no pain) or taking down gender norms on “Fire Drills” (I'm here to file my report as the vixen of the wolf pack / Tell Patient Zero he can have his rib back). Far from a newcomer, she’s made noise since the mid-2000s as a member of indie hip-hop collective Doomtree and as a multi-threat solo act. Last year alone saw Dessa deliver her fourth album, Chime, and her third book, My Own Devices, along with a TEDx talk about falling out of love, proving she can take on any stage or page.
Doja Cat can make anything sound or look good. Case in point: “Mooo!,” a ridiculous song about cows (sample lyric: B****, I'm a cow / I'm not a cat, I don't say meow) that went viral and amassed nearly 44 million views. But the SoCal singer, rapper, and producer is much more than a meme. Her latest release, Amala, is a steamy, banger-filled masterpiece with songs that place women in control sexually (“Go To Town”) and praise natural, curvy bodies (“Juicy”).
We don’t understand why she isn’t one of the biggest rappers in the game yet, but hopefully she will be soon. ☺ “All of You” is a righteous, “Frontin’” era Pharrell-esque jam, but she can also trade bars with the best of them. Her fiery lyrics will leave some of your favorites charred to a crisp with lines like, Rather rise above than to lay back complacent / You think you up next but b**** I'm adjacent, from her aptly-titled “State of the Union.”
Leikeli47 is a force like no other. The masked New York rapper bulldozes beats with a mix of laidback cool and gritty swagger. She broke out in 2015 when her song “F*** the Summer Up” caught the attention of Jay-Z, and she’s been effing each summer up ever since. Her 2017 studio debut, Wash & Set, spawned the paper-chasing soundtrack “Money” and the ain’t-got-no-time-for-that anthem “Miss Me.” She followed that up with last year’s hard-as-nails Acrylic. If the last two years are any indication, we’re in for a scorching summer.
Though Swsh’s catalog is small, the young singer, rapper, and producer’s potential is massive. You can hear the growth in the span of her brief career. She’s gone from a youthful R&B bounce in her 2017 Soundcloud uploads to a more polished, powerful, and soulful turn. Listen to her recent singles, “Come With Me” and the acoustic rendition of her “Break the Fall,” and you’ll come to the same conclusion we did: Swsh is going to be the next big thing.