2019 has proven to be a banner year for women in hip-hop. At the 61st Annual Grammy Awards, Cardi B became the first female rapper to take home the historically male-dominated best rap album honor. In September, hitmaker Lizzo — who is this year’s most-nominated artist — tied with Iggy Azalea for the longest-running No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit by a female rapper, thanks to her timeless tune, “Truth Hurts.”
Regardless of these major milestones, outside of the two aforementioned chart-toppers — as well as Dreezy and Yung Baby Tate, who were both featured on the best rap album-nominated Revenge Of The Dreamers III — female rappers were entirely shut out of nominations for the 2020 Grammys. Granted, there are some 2019 projects who missed the mark in time for consideration, such as Young M.A. (Herstory In The Making), Lil Kim (9), and Doja Cat (Hot Pink). However, in a year full of triumphant moments on wax, the fact that so many sonically diverse bodies of work were overlooked by the Academy is a disappointment — but not a surprise.
It appears that every year, there is sheer confusion regarding the criteria for nominations in the rap categories. Are they determined by mainstream success and popularity? Is it skill? Content? If any of these are determining factors, female rappers check every box, as they possess the ability to garner attention while redefining hip-hop culture, and also keep up with the fellas when they approach the mic and push their pen.
As we know, Cardi and Lizzo’s respective albums feature songs that catapulted them to superstardom, and their popularity continues to grow with time. Additionally, Saweetie’s inescapable, Petey Pablo-sampling summer sensation “My Type” is the Bay Area MC’s highest-charting track on the Hot 100, peaking at No. 21 on the Hot 100. While she often bends the confines of genre and had two hits (“Truth Hurts” and “Good As Hell”) peak at No. 1 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop chart, Lizzo is not up for any awards in the rap categories.
As for skill, these women are on par, if not stronger, than some of their male counterparts. Rapsody, whose album Laila’s Wisdom was up for a best rap album trophy in 2018, didn’t receive any nominations in the rap categories for 2019’s Eve. The LP serves as a love letter to the culture, and each song (named after black women who inspired the rapper) solidified the North Carolinian as a lyrical force to be reckoned with.
Megan Thee Stallion’s gifts as a freestyler strengthen her culture-defining prowess. Yet she also notably absent from the nominees list, despite garnering rave reviews for her Fever mixtape, securing Nicki Minaj for her “Hot Girl Summer” anthem (which peaked at No. 11 on the Hot 100) and scoring a coveted spot on the 2019 XXL Freshman list. Fellow XXL Freshman Rico Nasty dropped her acclaimed Kenny Beats-produced Anger Management EP to no looks from the Academy, although Lil Nas X’s 7 EP (which was met with mixed reviews) is up for the biggest award of the night: album of the year.
Female rappers’ multi-faceted quality has been applauded throughout their time in the industry, with several ladies rhyming about feminism and sexuality, family, and internal struggles. British MC Little Simz’s third LP Grey Area dropped in March, and features musing about the world issues, such as a global need for individuality. In the same vein, singer and rapper Sampa The Great, who has opened for the likes of Joey Bada$$ and Kendrick Lamar, tackles inner/outer peace and family life in her acclaimed project, The Return.
How will this issue be rectified? It’s not enough to reward one or two visible women and think that’s enough to shift the conversation. If we learned anything throughout hip-hop’s storied history, it’s that female rappers are not a novelty. They are artists who deserve the same type of respect as their male contemporaries.
If the Grammys and the Recording Academy are going to champion themselves for committing to ever-growing diversity, especially with a female president now heading the task force, they need to practice what they preach as it pertains to hip-hop, and keep that same energy of inclusion from year to year. It has been a marvelous eleven months for women in rap, and the Grammys need to keep up with the changes the industry continues to experience.