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International Women's Day: celebrating the UK's female artists from then to now

International Women's Day: celebrating the UK's female artists from then to now

Author: Tom Dingley | Sunday 7th March 2021

International Women's Day: celebrating the UK's female artists from then to now Photograph

When you think of female rappers from the UK nowadays you probably think of the likes of Stefflon Don, Ivorian Doll, Ms Banks and Lady Leshurr. As it is International Women's Day, we are going to have a look at a timeline of those who came before. Those that the women in the game now would have taken inspiration from and looked up to. Those who were coming up in a time where the industry was even more heavily male dominated than it is today and paved the way for female rappers to break through.

First off we are going to have a look at an absolute icon in the female rap scene. Somebody who took the garage scene by storm as part of the legendary group So Solid Crew after her vocals were added to their track "Oh No". Of course we are talking about Lisa Maffia. Lisa Maffia started in So Solid Crew and landed a number one and won a BRIT Award for Best British Video with "21 Seconds" in August 2001. Fast forward a few years and Lisa had left So Solid Crew to go solo where she made her debut at the number 2 position in the UK charts with "All Over". This went on to Lisa releasing her first solo album "First Lady" which reached number 44 in the UK Albums Chart and included promo from some huge names such as Ja Rule, Ashanti, Christina Aguilera to name a few. Alongside her own career as a rapper, she started up her own record label - "Maffia Records" - and signed acts such as North Star and Romeo. Another business venture took Lisa Maffia into the fashion industry, as in 2011 she launched "House of Maffia", her very own fashion boutique. Along the way Lisa won a whole heap of awards including 4 MOBO's and a BRIT award as well as being nominated for a range more.

Following Lisa Maffia into the scene we have Ms. Dynamite who came up at around a similar time during the garage/funky era. Ms. Dynamites flow and the sound of her voice are so unique and are perfect over any garage beat or classic R'nB track but she has always been able to mix and blend her styles so that she can create a range of different types of tracks whether that is a smooth banger like 'Put Him Out' or a drum and bass track such as 'Cloud 9' where she provided the vocals for the legend Shy FX. Ms. Dynamite - just like Lisa Maffia - has proven that her sound and style can create longevity in an everchanging scene, another reason why she is an extra special talent that the UK has produced. Ms. Dynamite has been nominated for almost every type of award you could imagine, from the Mercury Prize - which she won in 2002 with her album 'A Little Deeper' - to MOBO's which she has won 3 of including Best Single, UK Act Of The Year and Best Newcomer all in the same year.
Next up we have an incredibly talented woman from South London who goes by the name Nolay. Nolay first came onto the scene as a part of a collective called Unorthodox and is still active as a solo artist. Nolay has made some big moves in her career one of which includes opening for legendary rap group Mobb Deep, well known for their track 'Shook Ones'. Nolay is killing the game now but people may not know just how long she has been around but she featured on Charlie Sloth's Fire In The Booth 9 years ago now, and is still getting talked about and making music to this day. One of the most gifted talents in the UK scene, Nolay has shown she is not afraid to step to to toe with some of the top tier male rappers, as just a few years ago she had some beef with Wiley who is literally seen as one of the pioneers of the grime scene, and did not back down at all, making an exceptional case for female rappers in this country. More recently Nolay had some back and forth with Trillary Banks and absolutely went in, once again showing just how talented she is with each track she delivered. To show how adaptable she she more recently featured on RA's 'Mortal Kombat Remix' alongside the likes of M24, Snap Capone, Ambush and Kemzi. Stepping out of music, Nolay has had a stint in acting, featuring in the hit series Top Boy, starring as Mandy.
Moving onto a woman now who came up slightly further into the social media generation, Lady Leshurr was making moves, and then blew up even bigger after her Queen's Speech 4 music video dropped and went viral on Twitter and Facebook. One of the most charismatic, energetic female rappers to come out of the UK, the feisty Birmingham rapper to this day has maintained relevance and talent past the viral success of Queen's Speech 4. Just like Nolay, Lady Leshurr has also ventured into acting, starring as one of the lead roles in 2009 movie from Vertigo Films titled '1 Day'. From a musical standpoint Lady Leshurr is a walking catalogue of bars, flows, energy and entertainment. In 2016 Lady Leshurr won the MOBO award for Best Female Act and fast forward to 2019 and she was back collecting the award for Best Rap/Grime Act - a category that is full of male competition, showing just how hard she has worked at her craft to reach the levels that she has reached over the years.
Next up we have got the incredibly talented Little Simz. Coming out of Islington, Little Simz has been killing it for a number of years now and when you think of female UK rappers you would be hard pressed to find a woman with this level of rapping ability. Simz's ability to slaughter any beat she touches is crazy, and she has shown that she can kick it with some of the best of the males - as shown on 'Dead Body Pt 2+3' featuring Kano and Stormzy. Little Simz has also ventured into acting, playing a big part in the Netflix revamp of Top Boy where she played Shelley. Little Simz has received praise from many of her peers such as Dizzee Rascal and Kano, received critical acclaim from Zane Lowe but one person she received praise from is the one and only Kendrick Lamar who is arguably one of the greatest rappers of this generation which goes to show just how talented she truly is.
Now we reach the new wave of females to come through, and the talent that the UK is currently producing is coming thick and fast. You've got the likes of Ivorian Doll, Stefflon Don, Ms Banks, Trillary Banks and TeeZandos just to name a few. Ivorian Doll is only 23 years old and is making waves in the scene, and has been for the last few years. TeeZandos is one of the coldest drill artists in the game, with her sick flows and the detail she is able to go into in her bars making her sound so good. Stefflon Don we all know is just a super talented woman all round and she's doing huge things internationally. Ms Banks is another woman just like Stefflon Don that is making her name known around the world. Trillary Banks is too cold with it, just super talented and sounds sick on every track she touches. These are just some of the women our scene is bringing through right now. There are plenty of others to keep your eyes out for.
These are just a small selection of the incredible women that the UK music scene has produced. We are bound to have missed some people out of this post, but the whole point of this post is to acknowledge and appreciate the incredible women we have in our music industry in this country. There is an abundance of talent out right now and coming through and to see so many women bossing the scene right now is something amazing to witness. Every single one of you is killing it and making the scene a whole lot more interesting to be a part of. From myself and on behalf of LinkUpTV I just want to say a huge shoutout to all the women mentioned in this post, all the women not mentioned, all the women reading this post, you are all bosses and you deserve your flowers this International Women's Day.