Women have always been apart of Hip Hop but have not always been in the forefront. Pioneers like Roxanne Shante opened the doors for artists like Queen Latifah and MC Lyte who in turn opened the doors for Foxy Brown, Lil Kim, Lauryn Hill, Eve, Missy and others.
Their legacies continued with artists like Nicki Minaj, and as her young money labelmate Drake helped to change the sound of music leading more and more male rappers to sing, it left the door wide open for fans who complained there wasn't enough lyricism in the game. Women picked up the torch, kicked down that door, and started spitting, often times rapping circles around their male counterparts.
In Houston alone, MC's like Choice, Liz Monet and 380 Dat Lady helped set the stage for future lyricists. Even Kidz Jam, one of the first opportunities for rappers in Houston to be highlighted on TV was helmed by a woman, Pam Collins. She wasn't even a fan of rap but still created a successful show that helped to lay the foundation for the music we hear today.
There are people that do a much better job at researching the history than I, but the point is women have often been overlooked in a genre that they have a major part in creating. That is all starting to change. Houston, like the rest of the nation, has ushered in new waves of MCs. In the not-too-distant past artists like Troublesum, Just Brittany, Surreal, Boss Lady Jaye and Candi Redd helped to create their own lanes here in Houston. They influenced the next generation of rappers that are running the charts. As more and more women like the City Girls, Rhapsody, Cardi B, Flo Milli, Doja Cat, and more take over it's only right that we highlight the Houston MCs that are poised to leave their mark as well.
It's only right that we start this list off with a talent that is arguably responsible for helping to usher in the next wave of women MCs. Megan Thee Stallion has been at the top of charts and in the news media so much that it is hard to imagine she only burst onto the scene a few years ago. She's been racking up awards, setting trends, and become a marketing powerhouse in a short period of time.
This past year she's had to deal with a smear campaign after being assaulted. Even as she deals with the court case, Megan has managed to move forward, releasing a compilation of new and old music called Something for Thee Hotties, securing multiple Grammy awards, graduating from TSU, inking a production deal with Netflix, and continuing with her plans to open assisted home health facilities in Houston. Megan has followed in the footsteps of MCs before her and opened doors for a lot of new women in the industry and that's all before dropping an official album. For now she continues to release mixtapes that rocket to the top of the charts, inspire plenty of social media dances, help major brands increase their recognition, and leave fans awaiting more music.
Lizzo attended Alief's Elsik High School where she began rapping and studied classical music at the University of Houston. Her explosion onto the music scene makes it seem as though she came out of nowhere but she has been putting in work for awhile. After leaving Houston she worked with Prince, became apart of a soul pop duo & a R&B/Rap trio, and hosted an MTV show. This was all before her breakout single "Good As Hell" went viral and introduced her to the rest of the nation. Since then she has continued to carve out her own style, embracing pop, rap, classical music genres and running the charts. Lizzo has racked up a string of awards and nominations from The Recording Academy, MTV, Bet, Apple, Billboard, with hook driven, radio singles so expect to keep seeing more of her in 2022.
Alexandra Nicks has been gradually building her foundation in the rap world since 2015. Under the moniker OMB (Only My Brothers) Bloodbath, she's been representing Third Ward with stories about her upbringing in the city. Releasing singles like "Shootston" and "Bolt" helped introduce her to audiences and she continues to captivate with new music like "For Me," "Dropout" and her latest "Not Gang." She supports the city with her Everybody Eats Food Festival showing her unwillingness to forget her roots. While her music is hard hitting her social media shows a humor and personality that is prime for the rest of the nation.
Ken The Man dropped two projects in the past two years, 4 Da 304s and What's My Name, which both immediately began gaining traction on the charts. What's My Name was also on our list for top albums of 2021. Ken has been grinding independently for years, dropping freestyles, albums, and creating compelling visuals. Her "Be Careful" freestyle video had her dragging a wrapped up body while wearing a bloodstained wedding dress. Her "New Freezer" freestyle had the northside MC rapping while donning a unicorn headband, surrounded by dancers wearing panda masks, on the front lawn of what looks like a frat house on the morning after. On that freestyle she spits "You know I don't need a cosign to get out the city" and this past year is proving her right.
Lyric Michelle garnered a lot of attention with her debut album Miss Direction. The album featured Kam Franklin, Lee Lon, Jack Freeman, Fat Tony, Kitty Beebe, Suraiye, and Dante Newman, showed Michelle's diverse style and vulnerability. The album introduced her to some national audiences and gained her plenty of praise here in Houston. Wanting to see what more she could accomplish, Lyric moved out west, eventually getting the attention of Punch, the president of Top Dawg Entertainment. The West Coast powerhouse label is responsible Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, SZA, and more. Punch has now put his backing behind Lyric as well as a collective of artists, including Daylyt & Nick Grant, called A Room Full Of Mirrors. The visual EP has the MC collective rapping while recreating scenes from Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. The combination of an industry leader like Punch with Lyric Michelle's eclectic style should have use seeing a lot more from the Miss Direction MC in the future.
Kiara Celestine was born in Baton Rouge where she developed her love for poetry, eventually developing into her rap as she continued her craft her in Houston. Dropping freestyle videos begin to gain her popularity here in the city. She attracted the attention of Da Baby with the release of her EP You Ain't Heard Yet and the chart topping MC signed Kayy Kilo to his label, Billion Dollar Baby Ent. This year she's released a string of singles, including a track with her label boss called "Yeah Bitch" and "In My Bag." Prepare to see more of her in the new year.
There's not a lot of info out there about Jet The 3rd except for music, but the music is strong enough to stand on its own. Her 2019 EP Au Courant display her melodic, singing/rapping style, similar to the likes of Don Toliver or Travis Scott. The album was strong enough to get a nod from DJ Candlestick, who chopped the album in 2020. This year Jet returns with R&R, a short EP that should give new fans a taste of her style and have them waiting for more.
Lebra Jolie has been garnering attention with her strings of freestyles and videos. Her 2018 debut, Brianna, helped solidify her spot in Houston's rap scene and her newly released EP, Now What, is helping to extend her reach on the national stage. She made our list for Houston's rising talent and with viral hits like the recent "Now What", "Offended," "Talk My Shit 3" and "Look At Me." Hopefully we will get a lot more content from Jolie in the upcoming year.
C-Red is from Tallahassee, Florida but has been making a name here in Houston with the release of independent albums like For The Listeners, The Stroll, Credible Sources, and I'm Ready. I'm Ready contained stand out tracks like "Black Bijoux" featuring Killa Kyleon, "Hot Sauce" and "Airplane Mode" which displayed her lyrical ability and diverse subject matter. When not rapping she's working in the medical field and her social media showcases her skills via "Whitecoat Wednesdays", a series of post where she freestyles over various beats while on breaks from school and work. She's currently getting ready to release a new album on the heels of her new single, "Forever's Soundtrack" featuring Shay Butter and produced by Backpack Beatz. Look forward to hearing more from C-Red in 2022.
I first saw Big Jade live as an opening act for the Texas Smoke Break. She may be small in stature but her presence was commanding, controlling the crowd and bringing them to their feet with the short time she was given. Big Jade is from Beaumont and has been steadily building up a following via a flow of freestyles over popular beats and production by Beat King. Her second album, Pressure, contains ten tracks, with production by Beat King and appearances from Queendom Come, OMB Bloodbath, and Erica Banks. It was also on the list for one of out top albums of 2021. Tracks like "Dem Girls" and "Respectfully" show her developing talent and potential to truly grab the mainstream.
Beatking's smash hit "Then Leave" filled the airwaves and social media throughout 2020. The single helped propel his album, Gangsta Stripper Music 4 nationwide and the voice driving the hook was by Houston's own Queendom Come. It wasn't the first time the two had racked up numbers on the charts. The duo have worked on numerous tracks including "Throw That," "U Ain't Bout That Life," "Keep It Poppin" and their latest with Big Jade, "Respectfully." Queen knows how to create a hook but she can also rap and sing. As her music gains traction on TikTok, Youtube, and the radio, expect to hear hooks and more from Queendom Come.
Martina Marie started out as a working nurse while consistently releasing freestyles in her car via instagram. After a freestyle over So Gone went viral she decided to start taking it more serious, increasing the amount of freestyles she released and getting nods from celebrities like Jill Scott, Sevyn Streeter, and Hitmaker. The work eventually led her to connect with Carl Crawford and his label 1501 Certified Entertainment, the group known for originally signing Megan Thee Stallion and Erica Banks. Marie recently released her first single with the label, "Daddy," which is starting to pick up steam. Her proven consistency coupled with the backing of a label mean fans should expect to see a lot more of Martina Marie.
Richelle Gemini spent the early part of her career performing poetry. As she gained popularity in that world she gradually began her expansion into Hip Hop, eventually leading to the release of a few albums. In 2015 she dropped Words From A Baby Momma, an album that presents her life as an open book. The openness resonated with her fan base and since 2018 she has released Sweet Gemini Jones, As For Me And My House, and a poetry album, Gems. Gemini's lifestyle is displayed throughout her art, releasing a book alongside her third album titled, As For Me and My House We Will Serve Veggies: A Daily Cookbook for Transitional Vegans meant to help those around her looking to cut meat out of their diets. She was even tapped by Onlyfans to provide her poetry on the site as it tries to expand its content. Look for more content, poetry, books, and events from Richelle in the near future.
Inayah Lamis is another example of viral success. We've covered her before and she continues to grow in the industry. Starting out with the goal of being a song writer, she used the skills she honed while working as a jingle writer to build up a following on social media. The practice of creating commercial songs that needed to grab audiences within seconds transferred over to social media with ease. Her freestyle over Ella Mai's Boo'd Up was the beginning of her viral success which has gained her close to 2 million followers. She can sing and rap and she divides her talents between the two, dropping R&B songs like "Best Thing" alongside her melodic flows like "Melody" off her recent EP, Side A. Keep looking for more Inayah in 2022.
Last year Monaleo burst on the scene with her song "Beating Down Your Block". The single sampled Youngstar's 2000 hit "Knocking Pictures Off The Wall" and quickly went viral, amassing 10 million views for its video alone. That video was released less than a year ago and since that time Monaleo has been dropping more music and working on the creation of her album. She is one of our artists to watch, and with her confident flow and openness about her life expect to hear more from the new upstart.
The world of battle rap is often overlooked but it's focus on lyrics, theatrics, and presentation has been growing internationally for years. Quiet as it is kept, Houston is a major hub for battle rap and one of the leading organizations in the industry is Houston Bar Code. Putting on events like H.O.M.E (Houston's Own Main Event) brings competitors and viewers from all over the nation to Houston to witness some of the best battle rappers in the game. Houston Bar Code wouldn't be what it is without one of its leaders/owners Buretta Blaze. The MC's battles have garnered close to half a million views and helped to solidify her place in the rap battle community. Its a community that she continues to expand with Houston Bar Code so expect to see more from her this year.
Erica Banks is from Dallas but made waves in the music world with Houston's 1501 Certified Entertainment and her single "Buss It." Banks, who was interested in poetry at a young age, started rapping in high school and continued her journey in music as she attended Texas A&M for nursing. After deciding to pursue music full time she continued to make music and eventually signed with 1501 Certified Ent. Since signing she has released singles like "Toot That" featuring Beatking and, of course, "Buss It" the single that inspired a worldwide TikTok trend while running up the charts. Banks is showing no signs of stopping so expect more from her in the new year.
The beginning of Milli Bucks song 10-4 (Blame Ken) has Ken The Man singing Milli's praises over voicemail and letting her know to just drop music on everyone. Milli listens and immediately goes in. Milli is from Jacksonville, Florida but has been here in Houston since a teenager. She has built up a following with her no-holds-back flow and, even though she hasn't been doing it long, is slowly becoming your favorite rapper's favorite rapper. After a friend uploaded her freestyle, Milli not knowing how good she was, quickly came to the realization after seeing the viral response. She shouldn't have any doubts about her skill now and neither should anyone else, as she continues to release music a build up her fan base. You can blame Ken because now that Milli Bucks is starting to move expect more from her in the upcoming year. Her 2019 album, The Mill Ticket, followed by 2020's 4th Quarter Pressure is just the beginning.
Esco Llaiya was born in Los Angeles but raised here in Houston. The daughter of a songwriter who worked with artists like Babyface and Whitey Houston, Esco got into music early, eventually turning her interest in poetry into songwriting. In 2019 she released Intergalactic with the single "Self Love" and returned in 2020 with the even more melodic Jupiter Hotel. Tracks like "Io/Devils Playground" and "Calisto" show the sound that Esco Llaiya is creating. Prepare to hear more from her in the future.
Sunni Tha Rapper use to be one half of T.O.D (Topic of Discussion), a group signed by Matthew Knowles. After having creative differences with the artistic direction as well as changes attempting to be made to the group the duo split from the label and went independent. They recently had an amicable split and now Sunni is continuing her string of independent releases. Given the recent split there isn't a lot of recent solo work from Sunni but the speed in which she is releasing freestyles shows the penchant for hard work and dedication that she has developed in groups over the past few years. Don't expect that to stop as we go into the new year.
Jazz Anderson is another Houston transplant. Born in Beverly Hills to reality star Tami Roman and basketball star Kenny Anderson, she has been successfully creating her own lane and coming into her own here in Houston. Her 2020 release, Separation Anxiety, featured DJ X.O. and her most recent, The Experiment, contains interludes from multi-disciplined artist Tierney Malone. While not shying away from having celebrity parents she is helping to establish her career as a musical artist, television host, and media entity in her own right. Expect more from this self proclaimed Houstonian as she develops her sound.
That Girl Lay Lay
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The last person on this list is the youngest but certainly not the least. Just a few years ago Alaya High was rapping in the car with her dad while he recorded. A few viral videos later and she has over a million followers on Instagram, close to 2 million subscribers on YouTube, a Nickelodeon comedy series which debuted in September, four albums, a clothing line, and American Girl Doll sponsorship, her own doll, and the title of youngest girl to sign to a major record label. She's 14. There's no doubt we will be seeing more of her in the future.
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Houston Press contributor DeVaughn Douglas is a freelance writer, blogger, and podcaster. He is 1/2 of the In My Humble Opinion Podcast and 1/1 of the Sleep and Procrastination Society. (That last one isn't a podcast; he just procrastinates and sleeps a lot.)