From Lil’ Kim to Cardi B, these are some of hip-hop’s hottest female rappers who aren’t just rap stars, but style stars too.
Hip-hop has always had an ongoing dialogue with fashion. Since its inception, the genre has had a symbiotic relationship with style, beginning with the B-boy and DJ era. With the advent of rappers, hip-hop has steadily grown as a source of fashion inspiration, and women have – and continue – to play an important role in this regard. To celebrate hip-hop’s 49th anniversary, we’re taking an immersive look at the most prominent female rappers who have navigated as rap and style stars, and paving the way for their successors in the process. Whichever era they belong to, these women have made statements on red carpets, in music videos and beyond, helping to cement the ongoing dialogue that rap continues to have with fashion.
Salt-N-Pepa’s personal style was juxtaposed amidst the cultural tumult of the 80s, when there was still a stigma attached to the fact that black women were so open about sex and sensuality. The pinnacle of their stylish reign was captured in the “Push It” video, where they donned eight-ball jackets created in collaboration with Kid ‘N Play’s Dapper Dan and Christopher Martin. But they also had other fashionable contributions: color-blocking bomber jackets, leather ensembles, oversized denim cuts and blunt asymmetrical bobs. Salt-N-Pepa’s catalog was one of the first modern examples of the depth of creative complexity of women: how we can be cheeky and sexy and sweet, yet powerful and incredibly self-aware, all of this at the same time. —Bianca Betancourt
An innovator who incorporated high fashion and fabulous ghetto elements, Lil’ Kim is the fashion model for women in rap. With her signature style partnership with Misa Hylton, Kim has turned the unimaginable into moments that have led to countless recreations over the years. From catwalks to Halloween, many of her most memorable looks have added to her repertoire as a fashion trailblazer. From loud pops of colorful wigs and mink coats, exotic animal prints and designer monogram pieces to risque pieces inspired by Dancehall culture, the anatomy of Kim’s iconic status in hip-hop is layered by its presence both on and off the track. Muse of designers such as Marc Jacobs and Donatella Versace, she became essential for couture magazines and photographers like David LaChapelle. In the words of longtime stylist and fashion collaborator Misa Hylton, “She made fashion come to her.” —Kia Turner
She entered the scene with absolute confidence, a commanding flow and raunchy lyrics to match. At the age of 17, Foxy Brown began to carve out a place for women in the male-dominated landscape of ’90s rap. But beyond her musical genius and ability to outshine her male counterparts, her love for fashion was felt in every appearance and everything she touched. The self-proclaimed “dark-skinned Christian Dior poster” became a muse for John Galliano and Calvin Klein, and frequently stopped on red carpets wearing Gucci, Tom Ford and, of course, his signature minks. Like her music, the fabrics she wore complemented her overall style, making her one of the sickest – and most fashionable – to ever grace the stand. —Maria Mora
It seems impossible to think of Queen Latifah’s style without the very thing her nickname signifies – the almighty crown. The iconic rapper and actress was known for pairing royal headpieces with vibrant yarns, generously incorporating the African diaspora. Snapshots of her Nature of a sister’ album cover and HBCU paraphernalia on To live alone come to mind, to begin with. But her fedoras, baseball caps and newsboy caps also showed how savvy she could be in her casual clothes. She also forged her own empowering style lane at a time when “curvy” celebrities like her were the exception. —Nia Groce
There’s no debating who “Supa Dupa Fly” really is when it comes to misdemeanor herself. With her outfits and costumes often reminiscent of the theater, her creativity flourished through her idea of reinvention, making her one of hip-hop’s most beloved fashion icons. His dazzling early 2000s Adidas tracksuit and sneakers that were an homage to ’80s hip-hop, the iconic black inflatable trash bag from “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” the orange fur-trimmed suit, and the gold dress with an exaggerated collar for the “Beep me 911” video, her denim-on-denim ensembles at her Gap run, and even her pink and white Aaliyah tribute jacket from the 2001 MTV VMAs. Missy’s androgynous style paired with her sense of fashion has made her the icon of tomboyish style for women in rap. —KT
Ruff Ryders First Lady Eve is well known for her ability to capture the attention of hip-hop listeners with her sharp wordplay. However, the Philadelphia rapper was also a huge style star who constantly fused street style with high fashion. On red carpets throughout her rap career, she frequently wore Fendi, Tom Ford-era Gucci and Chanel. In tandem with designer clothes, Eve also daringly sported statement designers like floor-length fur coats, mini skirts, wife beaters and striking hair colors. The height of her experimental style moments can be seen in her “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” video, where she leaned heavily on a chic biker look complete with a color-block leather jacket with feminine pieces. At one point, her briefly successful Fetish line determined how willing she was to push her ideas into the fashion realm. Eve’s style heritage is marked by the way she’s always exuded a ‘girl next door’ aura while showcasing her tomboy-inspired versatility. —Robyn Mowatt
Trina is a Miami rap pioneer who has always played the game by her own rules. A timeless beauty who is affectionately nicknamed the “Diamond Princess”, Trina’s looks over the years have always exhibited a kind of scintillating flair. Her glow dates back to her debut in the early 2000s. In Trick Daddy’s infamous “Naan N*gga” music video, she donned a dazzling diamond bralette with matching choker and Chanel earrings. Along with her sultry lyrics in the hit single, Trina’s shimmering outfit set the tone for years — and acts — to follow. —Shelby Stewart
Lauryn Hill doesn’t follow trends, she sets them. The “Doo Wop” rapper’s maximalist style didn’t start with her clothes, however. It all started with her beauty: From her long locs to her burgundy and dark brown lipstick colors, Lauryn wasn’t afraid to experiment. Even when it comes to wearing catwalk brands, she models them with her own style. Her floor-sweeping dresses, baggy jeans, knitted kufi hats and hair bandages — she made a statement with whatever clothes she was draped in, and it made a cultural difference. In an industry where female rappers are known for wearing skin-tight clothes and showing off their skin, Lauryn gives us the unexpected and the unorthodox. —Asia Milia Ware
When Nicki Minaj goes wild pink friday more than 10 years ago, she cemented her place as the sexiest rapper of that era. Along with the accolades she has accumulated over the years, she has also experimented a lot with her personal style. In the mid-2010s, during the Young Money era, she donned extravagant, campy red carpet outfits paired with eccentric blonde wigs (the heyday of this style era is documented by her “Super Bass” video) . Over the years, she adopted a more elegant look and wore clothes like Alexander McQueen and Tom Ford. In recent years, she’s continued to keep people on their toes by donning custom pieces from Alexandre Vauthier Couture, Off-White, Pamela Rolland and Marc Jacobs. The Met Gala, where she is a regular guest, has also allowed her to push back the conventions, where she has collaborated with Prabal Gurung, Burberry and even H&M on custom pieces. What sums up Nicki’s status as a style star is the fact that she’s managed to transform herself from a style chameleon into a confident woman in her fashion choices. —RM
Cardi B, like many of her predecessors, proudly stands at the intersection of fashion and hip-hop. The rapper is, quite simply, a fashion chameleon. She can effortlessly transition from high-end streetwear to a fully custom Schiaparelli look, staying true to her native Bronx aesthetic while pushing fashion boundaries. It’s couture but relatable. Since her debut, fashion and Cardi have become so intertwined. From her performance at the 2017 BET Hip Hop Awards wearing then-emerging designer Christopher John Rogers to accepting her first Grammy in 2019 wearing a white fringed Mugler dress, Cardi has become one of the hottest figures in hip- contemporary hop. —Shelton Boyd Griffith
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