All too often, the women in British rap get overshadowed by the men in their international reach, but their breadth of talent in delivery, lyricism, style and swagger is bountiful. There’s a clear drill sensibility with a high level of depth and playfulness, with female spitters doing justice to the boom bap and grime scenes as well.
Across the pond, it would appear the prominent players in the industry are caught somewhere in between the United States’ two female rap renaissances. The British conglomerate of emcees are a combination of the 90s Queen Latifah to Lil Kim era and the 2010s Nicki Minaj rebirth. Within it all reveals a collage of voices you must know of and hear. These are some of the ones who are worth a highlight.
1. Little Simz
Easily a contender for best female rapper from the UK of all time, Little Simz has a slew of stellar bodies of work under her belt, most of which were assisted by the super producer of the collective Sault, Inflo. Simz has a flow as pristine as a shimmering lake and as grimey as a North London alleyway. She effortlessly fuses a purist ability to rap with an affinity for cinematic songwriting over glossy compositions.
Simz’s fifth studio album, No Thank You, could very well be her magnum opus, which cemented her in UK rap lore. With a concise 10 tracks, she seamlessly raps about navigating the music industry as a Black woman from the UK and peels back the layers of her conscience one by one. There is a fluidity to her work here that rivals many of her peers in rap from anywhere in the world.
A rookie with wild potential lands next on this list. Cristale has as sharp of a pen in the drill space as anyone. She uses the UK garage and Chicago gutter blended beats like a technician, fitting much more depth into her tracks than your average rapper.
With a scene on the hit show “Top Boy,” featuring her potent single “Roadents,” it would seem the sky’s the limit for her reach. Her best work to date is her 2022 What It’s Like To Be Young project, which has seven sharply intense tracks.
3. Ivorian Doll
With some distinguishable bass in her voice, Ivorian Doll has one of the most unique sounds in drill. Her delivery is powerful as she exudes all the charisma of Pop Smoke and all the playfulness of Busta Rhymes through her trunk-rattling bangers.
Her best song is “Rumors,” where she dismisses haters and beefs with vigor. The track’s power catches your attention right away and keeps you hooked with its consistent fortitude. Ivorian Doll continuously raps with the bravado that garnered her initial success.
As poignantly introspective as they come is the next entry on the list: ENNY. Her biggest star-filled moment came from her generational track “Peng Black Girls,” which earned a remixed from Jorja Smith. The song fuses reggae and grime and is riddled with empowerment and pride.
ENNY’s most purposeful body of work, though, is her 2023 EP, We Go Again. She grapples with topics like self love, healing, toxic dating practices and generational patterns with an impeccably deft hand.
5. Ms Banks
Ms Banks is as fun as she is cold. The London-bred rapper started off her career with street-certified mixtapes that built a loyal audience. Then, she made her way to fully realized projects that match her verve with a smooth production that intertwines UK grime and drill textures with Nigerian Afrobeats.
In 2017, Ms Banks supported Cardi B on her UK tour and has had a few shoutouts from Nicki Minaj, who quoted her lyrics on social media. With as much talent and cosigns from UK female rap powerhouses as she has, there is no ceiling to her success.
6. Lady Leshurr
It would be utterly disrespectful to not mention Lady Leshurr’s freestyles on this list. Her “Queen’s Speech” series of bar filled efforts solidified her status in 2016, and she never looked back. Naturally, they put her on Nicki Minaj’s radar and she toured with her that same year, even appearing on her track “Likkle Miss” in 2022.
The thing that separates Lady Leshurr’s flow is the rhythm. Her flows feel like she’s transitioning dance styles when she raps from tap dancing to break dancing on the beat.
7. Stefflon Don
When you think of UK female rappers, Stefflon Don most likely comes to mind. She, more than many of her peers, has already has crossed over into U.S. awareness due to collaborations with the likes of Big Sean, French Montana, Halsey, Sean Paul, Demi Lovato and more.
What has made her so popular has been the fusion of her Jamaican background and Birmingham-influenced grime. The pulsing energy behind her raps lifts every instrumental she spits on.
Born in Nigeria, this London-raised rapper has been nicknamed “Queen of the South,” so that’s what she called her debut album. A distinct blend of African music and UK rap makes Shaybo the most genre-bending rapper on the list.
Her swagger lives in that grey area between genres that she thrives in. On her debut album, the transition from “Bad Gyal” to “Broke Boyz” exemplifies this distinct ability. She knows better than anyone how to slide on one beat and annihilate the next.
9. Ms. Dynamite
Dynamite is one of the OGs of the group here, as she originally got her start within UK garage and transitioned into rap. She is the only rapper on this list to appear as a musical guest on “Saturday Night Live,” which she did in 2003 when Queen Latifah hosted.
Her biggest song is “Dy-Na-Mi-Tee,” which is an enticing blend of sung raps and boom bap stylings. It was a part of her album, A Little Deeper, which won Britain’s coveted Mercury Prize.
With only two songs out so far, Ceechynaa has already a British Vogue story written about her. Her distinctly posh accent blended with a drill sensibility is something that sounds completely different from any other rapper on this list, propelling her to wide notoriety despite her low musical output.
On her standout track “Last Laugh,” which even received a remix from NLE Choppa, we hear the dynamic artist flex and dismiss rumors about her conquests. Ceechynaa is as cheekily funny as she is assertive and dominating.
11. No Lay
This rapper may be best known by modern audiences for her dynamic role on “Top Boy” as Mandy. That said, her rap career is where she first became solidified in the UK in the early 2000s. She entered the scene as a part of a collective called Unorthodox and soon after stamped herself with her first breakout single “Unorthodox Girl.”
No Lay is the only rapper on this list who can say they opened up for Mobb Deep. Her classic style has given her an over 20-year career in the game.
12. Lavida Loca
Loca’s prominence is due to going viral two months after her release from prison, when she was screen recorded on Snapchat rapping her song “The King’s Back.” This became her first prominent single in 2019 and is full of guttural passion.
She has a distinct come up story that drives the core of her lyricism. On one of her most prominent songs “No Drama” she dazzles with bars like “I remember jail dinner was horrid/ I swear I never wanna see another bowl of porridge/ Now you see me lookin’ solid/ Business meetings and see me eating crabs with some olives.”
13. Miss Lafamilia
There are few better “Fire In The Booth” freestyles than Miss Lafamilia. Her seemingly effortless flow is filled with charisma and slickness, and cuts through the speakers. As she switches flows midway and speeds up the bars, she uses the beat as a crescendo until it maxes out and leaves your jaw dropped.
Lafamilia is as good at flex bars as she is at being vulnerable about love and relationships. Hearing her stunt on competitive on songs like “Like Us” and “Big Body” juxtaposed with the heartbreak on “Without You” is impressive.
14. Nadia Rose
Listening to Rose’s 2017 album Highly Flammable feels like a never-ending onslaught of heat. Her playful yet intimidating demeanor is displayed throughout and especially with bars like, “Excuse me, Madam/ How did you get on the premises?/ Well, I came to kill off my nemesis/ So, used my juju and came up in the crevices.”
Rose even got the opportunity to deliver on a track with Spice Girl Melanie C, aka Sporty Spice. The song gave her a unique new pop canvas to float on, and she knocked it out of the park.
BXKS is one of the most promising young rappers in the UK. Her 2021 mixtape Full Time Daydreamer cleverly combined drill with electropop-styled sounds. She has catapulted herself relentlessly into the limelight since then.
Her comic book aesthetic on her project covers matches her style perfectly. She is a storyteller but also tends to be a bit animated in her delivery and song structure. BXKS is a prime example of where female UK rap could be headed in the future.