Before Nicki Minaj dropped her Super Bass and Iggy Azalea got Fancy, they put in work as up-and-comers in a male-dominated genre. USA TODAY rounds up six other female rappers you should have on your radar, with insight from AllHipHop.com CEO Chuck Creekmur and Rap Genius executive editor Shawn Setaro.
SNOW THA PRODUCT
Who: Claudia Feliciano, 26
What she's done: A California native with a Snow White-inspired name, this Latina rapper with fiery rhymes has been featured on tracks with Tech N9ne, Pitbull andLupe Fiasco, recruiting artists such as Ty Dolla $ign and Riff Raff to guest on her Good Nights & Bad Mornings 2: The Hangover mixtape last year. She independently released album Unorthodox in 2011 and signed to Atlantic Records in 2012.
Why you should know her: "She's super-talented and has done records with people like Tech N9ne, and completely held her own," Creekmur says. "She's definitely taking a lyrical approach to music."
Who: Keyona Reed, 18, Shontel Moore, 19, Kandise Nathan, 19
What they've done: PTAF (an acronym for Pretty Taking All Fades) is a Los Angelestrio consisting of Alizé (Moore), Kandii (Nathan) and K Duceyyy (Reed). They scored a viral hit with Boss Ass Bitch, which inspired a popular remix from none other than Nicki Minaj. The infectious rap took on a life of its own on social video app Vine, and the girls signed a single deal for the track with Capitol Records in January.
Why you should know them: "Actual rap groups are shockingly rare these days, so I'm very excited to hear more from (them)," Setaro says. "It's great to see teenagers doing their thing — a rarity in what is generally thought of as a youth-led genre."
Who: Marlanna Evans, 29
What she's done: Singled out by XXL, Vibe and Time as a rapper to watch, the North Carolina native is a protégé of esteemed producer 9th Wonder (Jay Z, Destiny's Child). She's shared the stage with Wale and J. Cole, and nabbed Chance the Rapper, Common and Mac Miller for featured spots on her She Got Game mixtape last year.
Why you should know her: "She's a throwback of sorts," Creekmur says. "Not in a negative sense, but just in pure hip-hop form. She's definitely that artist that reminds me of an MC Lyte or a Rah Digga — she's like a lyricist's lyricist."
NITTY SCOTT, MC
Who: Nitzia Scott, 23
Achievements: The Michigan native was born to Puerto Rican and African-American parents and raised in Florida, moving to Brooklyn at 17 to pursue a rap career. She initially gained attention for her freestyle of Kanye West's Monster in 2010, and has since worked with Kendrick Lamar and Action Bronson, who appear on her The Boombox Diaries, Vol. 1 EP, released in 2012.
Why you should know her: "She's one of those artists where it's like, 'Why hasn't she crossed over?' " Creekmur says. "She's very attractive, she's extremely lyrical, she's gotten the respect of her peers — she's pretty much done it all."
Who: Taliyah Smith, 22
Achievements: Spotlighted by MTV's RapFix Live web series, this Philadelphia-bred MC has opened shows for Talib Kweli, DMX and Young Jeezy. She became the first woman to sign to Rick Ross protégé Meek Mill's Dream Chasers Records, and released her In My Own Lane mixtape last year.
Why you should know her: "Her music is authentic and heartfelt," Creekmur says. "On the flip side, she can speak to the commercial aspects necessary to be attractive to the business side of the rap game. I think she'll go far if the team she runs with is strong."
Who: Nyemiah Streeter, 24
Achievements: After graduating high school, the Queens native became a backup dancer for Chris Brown and Lil Mama on tour, and then a personal assistant to rapper Juelz Santana. Now, she has been taken under the wing of influential producer Timbaland (Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé), who signed her to his Mosley Music Group label and is featured on her song Rock & Roll, released last year.
Why you should know her: "The backup-dancer-to-rapper pipeline was a strong one in the '90s. ... Nyemiah may bring it back," says Setaro, noting that Tupac Shakur was once a backup dancer for Digital Underground. "Musically and aesthetically, she's very similar to Missy right now. Hopefully, she'll be given time to develop her own style."