In honor of hip-hop's 50th anniversary, here’s a look back at just some of the many firsts that women in the industry have achieved over the last five decades
It’s been a major year for women in hip-hop.
From the quick ascent of rap’s princess Ice Spice, to Missy Elliott's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, to Doja Cat scoring the first hip-hop Hot 100 No. 1 of the year, to Megan Thee Stallion’s theatrical debut in Dicks: the Musical, to Latto achieving her own first chart-topper with the Jungkook collab “Seven," it’s safe to say that women are continuing to push the genre to new heights, just as they have been doing in the five decades since its inception.
In fact, thanks to the efforts of icons like Foxy Brown, Eve, Remy Ma, and newcomers like Doechii and Coi Leray, every year has been a major one for the women continually pushing hip-hop forward. In honor of their continued dominance, and the culture’s 50th anniversary back in August, PEOPLE is looking back at some of the women who’ve made today’s successes a possibility.
From MC Sha-Rock’s milestone performance on Saturday Night Live in 1981, to Nicki Minaj becoming the first woman rapper to top 100 Million RIAA sales, here are a few standout milestones from the superstar women who’ve made their mark and have made their voices heard.
MC Sha-Rock Rocks the Stage
In 1981, MC Sha-Rock, long hailed to be the first woman MC, made history when she and her group — Funky 4 + 1 — took the 30 Rock stage as performers on Saturday Night Live.
The performance, as Sha-Rock’s website notes, made Funky 4 + 1 the first hip-hop group performers on national television. And yes, that also means Sha-Rock was the first woman MC to ever perform on national television, too, a feat that broke ground for decades of iconic performances to come.
Roxanne Shanté Makes a Mark
Often considered one of hip-hop’s first women stars, Roxanne Shanté has made history in more ways than just one throughout her career. But perhaps her earliest known achievement was the release of 1984’s “Roxanne’s Revenge,” which she recorded at just 14 years old. Over time, the track (aimed at group U.T.F.O.) has reportedly earned the title of the first diss record in hip-hop’s history.
"Hip-hop has been a home for me since I was a teenager and in adulthood, I’ve grown to love it even more,” Shanté told PEOPLE in August.
Mc Lyte Lights Up the Charts
Mc Lyte, often applauded as the first woman MC to release a full-length studio album thanks to 1988’s Lyte as a Rock, made even more history just five years later.
In 1993, Lyte’s smash “Ruffneck” made her the first solo woman MC to be certified gold by the RIAA, as the single sold 500,000 units within just months of its release. Lyte later took the Recording Academy by storm, too, when her No. 35 Hot 100 hit made her the very first solo woman rapper to be nominated for a Grammy in the category for Best Rap Solo Performance.
Queen Latifah Ascends to the Grammys Throne
Just a year after Lyte’s milestone Grammy nod, a few other women came in to break more barriers at the annual ceremony.
In 1995, Queen Latifah became the first solo woman rapper to win a Grammy, for Best Rap Solo Performance, thanks to her hit “U.N.I.T.Y.”
That same year, icons Salt-N-Pepa made themselves known by the Recording Academy as well, when the rap group also became the first women to take home a rap Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for their song "None of Your Business" — all on the same night!
Salt N' Pepa Go Platinum
The Grammy victory wasn’t the only milestone for Salt-N-Pepa, as the trio (with DJ Spinderella), also became the first women in rap to score a platinum album a few years before — all thanks to 1986’s Hot, Cool and Vicious.
“That is a nice feeling because to just see that you ... not birthed but went hard for it. Like women, y'all went for it,” Sandra "Pepa" Denton told PEOPLE in August. “Took it to succeed, what hip-hop is made of and it's just to see women, to acknowledge us and how we inspire them, or they say we are the soundtrack to their lives. I'm like, ‘Yo, thank you.’"
Da Brat’s Solo Triumph
Back in 1994, Da Brat released her breakthrough debut LP Funkdafied, which just months later cemented her into history books.
Shortly after its 1994 release, the album went platinum, making Da Brat the first solo woman rapper to sell 1 million units of an album. The record was officially certified on January 6, 1995, according to the RIAA, just months after its title track (and single) did the same.
Lauryn Hill’s 'Miseducation' Makes History
In 1999, when Lauryn Hill took home five Grammys for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, she just didn’t make history for women in hip-hop or women in popular music. She made history for hip-hop as a whole.
On that February day, Hill’s now-iconic debut album became the first hip-hop record to ever win Album of the Year — an achievement that’s only been followed once since, when Outkast took home the same trophy in 2004 for their double LP Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.
Lil' Kim Threepeats
Lil' Kim may be best known for her smash singles like “Magic Stick” and “Crush On You,” but she's got the magic touch when it comes to album sales as well. In 2003 she secured her third consecutive platinum album, La Bella Mafia — which followed Kim’s Hard Core and The Notorious K.I.M. — made Kim one of the few women in rap to ever accomplish the feat.
Cardi B Doubles Up
Beyond the success of her Grammy-winning debut Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B has etched her name into history books with her charting performances.
Back in 2018, the MC became the first woman in rap to earn two No. 1 hits on the Hot 100 — with “I Like It” following in the footsteps of her breakout hit “Bodak Yellow.” Since then, other women have done the same such as Doja Cat with “Say So” and this year’s “Paint the Town Red,” and Nicki Minaj with “Trollz” and “Super Freaky Girl.”
Doja Cat and Nicki Minaj Are a Dream Duo
Doja Cat and Nicki Minaj have also broken records as a pair.
The two MCs topped the charts in unison with their 2020 “Say So” remix, making them the first women rap duo to peak at No. 1 on the Hot 100. They even earned a Guinness World Record nod for the feat!
Nicki Minaj Rules the Charts
Nicki is — of course — no stranger to solo successes. She has broken barriers as one of the best selling musicians of all time.
The rap queen has sold over 100 million albums world wide, making her one of the best selling women in music ever. And beyond that, her triumphs have extended to the charts — where she boasts 133 charting hits on the Hot 100 as of October 2023, per Billboard.
Megan Thee Stallion Takes the Oscars Stage
Megan Thee Stallion may have just made her movie debut in 2023, but she's already been seen on the Oscars stage.
During the 2022 Academy Awards, the H-town hottie made history as the first woman in rap to perform at the annual award show, when she rapped to “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” alongside Becky G, Luis Fonsi and the cast of Encanto.
Ice Spice, Baby!
Even as recently as this May, women in rap are breaking barriers.
Thanks to her verse on Taylor Swift’s "Karma (Remix),” rising star Ice Spice earned the biggest streaming debut for a woman in rap ever, topping a record previously held by her friend Minaj. The song, released on May 26, ended up raking in 5.036 million streams in just its first day of availability.
Missy Makes the Hall(s)
Missy Elliott has always been a trailblazer, but her greatness has been on full display this year and back in 2019 — when she became both the first woman rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and later took her place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The icon’s induction ceremony into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame officially happened on Nov. 3 when Missy celebrated with fellow inductees at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on People.