2015 the year of.... the female mc

Here's to twelve glorious months of women utterly slaying it in the rap game.

by i-D Staff
17 December 2015, 5:30am

Singling out gender in the context of artistry, specifically in the realm of music, has long been a contentious issue. Does making lists of "powerful women in pop" help or hinder female equality? Is referring to Nicki Minaj as the "Queen" of rap make her inferior to the "King" or insinuate that there is only room for one woman at a time? Arguments can be made for and against but what is undeniable is that across musical genres, from rock to rap, the stats are weighted so unevenly in celebration of men it seems foolish not to note and applaud when female artists reach heights greater than their male contemporaries.

In 2015 a wave of diverse female mcs debuted, flourished and ruled in an unprecedented fashion. Perhaps it's no coincidence that this year has seen much cultural conversation around inclusivity for women of colour in feminist debate, discussion and a recognisable voice and presence in the creative industries. It was the year that Binx Walton was the 'IT girl', that Jourdan Dunn took home the model of the year award, that Rihanna became the first black woman to front a Dior campaign and that i-D future icon Winnie Harlow broke down the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation.

In the rap world 2015 saw veterans like Nicki Minaj call out industry racism and sexism for what it is, whilst the greatness of Missy Elliott was confirmed with a return to form, like she'd never left us. The abundance of fresh faces coming up in the game entirely on their own terms, with full control of their lyrical content, distribution and image was both exciting and necessary and proved that if major labels keep sleeping they'll be rendered irrelevant. Here is to the year of the female mc, raise a glass and salute as we present some of i-D's favourite women who spat glorious game in 2015:


Photography Elijah Dominique

2015 was DonMonique's year. The New York artist went from rapping about Kylie Jenner, in her breakout track Pilates, to linking up with the reality star irl. When i-D met the rapper back in June, she talked us through Pilates' indelible refrain: got Kendall, got Kylie, got Miley. "Miley is obviously molly. Kendall and Kylie is just whatever you've got," she explained. Later in the year her debut EP, Thirst Trap, came through with more gritty, keep-it-on-repeat tracks. Unsurprisingly, the record has landed on more than a few end of year round ups, but DonMonique isn't the type to look back. She's got her sights set on future, pushing to collaborate with "the OG dogs," like 50 Cent. We're looking forward to DonMonique going up in 2016.

i-D's favourite track: You Ain't Heard


Photography Bibi Borthwick

The first thing you notice about Leikeli47 is the mask she wears. Of course, once she opens her mouth and spits, the mask is that last thing on your mind: all you're thinking about is her sound. It's sparse, deliberate and direct. In her first-ever interview, the Brooklyn rapper told i-D her songs are almost always self-produced; "there's only two and a possible three [people] that I co-produce with, and that's very rare. For the most part what you're hearing is just me." Leikeli's first full length release, LK-47 Part III, dropped last month, and proved she's no Soundcloud hero: she's here to stay. It's a diverse record that toys with stadium rock guitars, political lyrics and those call-a-fireman bangers that put her on our radar. If 2015 was Leikeli's breakthrough year, 2016 is her time for total domination.

i-D's favourite track: My Ex Is a Ho

Lady Leshurr

Queen's Speech Ep. 4

We've already said it: 2015 is the year grime went global. Skepta and Stormzy are on the frontline of the movement, but Lady Leshurr is right there next to them. She's not the first lady of grime, she's the queen: and she knows it. The series of tracks that put her on the map were titled the Queen's Speech. The viral freestyles and the one-take videos that accompanied them introduced us to an MC whose flow was flawless and whose punchlines were relentless and relevant. In i-D's book, she's a leader of the new grime guard. Lady Leshurr told Noisey that 2016 is the year she'll drop her first-ever studio album. Yes queen!

i-D's favourite track: Queen's Speech Ep. 4


Photography Alasdair McLellan

"Describe yourself in five words." That's what we asked of Tink in March. Her reply: "The voice of my generation." This kind of statement might seem arrogant coming from another artist, but from Tink, it just sounds astute. The Chicago rapper's been at it since 2013, but this year has seen her take over. Timbaland was even visited by Aaliyah in a dream, where she told him Tink was "the one." We're looking forward to her debut album, Think Tink, dropping in 2016. 

i-D's favourite track: L.E.A.S.H


Photography via Noisey

"Junglepussy is my universe-given name," the New York rapper told i-D "I never planned any of this..." But all of 'this' - incredible mixtapes, MoMa shows and a cult following - happened for the artist anyway. While we've loved Junglepussy for a couple years, 2015 saw the release of her first studio album: Pregnant With Success. It's a killer combination of club-ready tracks and smoother home-alone listens. This year, the world became Junglepussy's oyster. We can't wait to see what she'll do next.

i-D's favourite track: Get to Steppin

Tkay Maidza

Photography courtesy Dew Process

Tkay Maidza is the Zimbabwe-born, Australian-raised rapper, singer, and producer who has owned 2015, both locally and globally, with a constant stream of splashy tracks, videos and live shows. Currently slaying it with her "Switch Tape" in the UK, Takudzwa Victoria Rosa Maidza has spent the past 12 months playing shows with Mark Ronson, producing tracks with Baauer, collaborating on videos with Adult Swim and starring in a haunting fashion short exclusively for i-D. With an album on the way, 2016 might just see our 15' Tkay crush become a little bit like love. 

i-D's favourite track: Ghost

Nicki Minaj

Photography still via Nicki Minaj's Anaconda video

It was this time, exactly one year ago, that Onika Tanya Maraj dropped the now iconic soundtrack for the entire world's holiday season, The Pinkprint. The 22 track deluxe album that included monster pop culture moments in bangers, Anaconda and Beyoncé collab Feeling Myself , delivered much more than chart toppers it proved that Nicki could sing, rap, dance and write in equal measures and ranks as one of the great records of our time, surpassing the offensive and prevalent, "good for a female rapper" or "great for an urban artist" ignorance of traditional media. Nicki took this media to task in 2015 by calling out MTV for ignoring black women's artistry, shutting down The New York Times journalist who fixated on sexist and offensive questions about the Drake and Meek Mill beef and questioned American sweethearts Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus over their appropriation of black culture and defense of award show caucasian bias. Nicki's political pull, artistic greatness and love for other women in the game have us hype for whatever she decides to rule in 2016.

i-D's favourite track: Truffle Butter, I Lied and Shanghai threeway


Text Courtney DeWitt and Isabelle Hellyer