Leikeli47’s latest album made NPR’s 50 Best Albums of 2018, but that’s hardly what makes her such a compelling artist. With her ski mask on at all times, poetic lyrics and wide selection of beats incorporating R&B, jazz and blues, Leikeli47 crafts a fresh vision for the new direction of rap music. With lyrics like “Concealed eyes with a cherry bomb lip / Skin tint, skin tint, skin tint / Keep my makeup artist tied up in the basement,” Leikeli47 is simultaneously humorous and fiercely feminine.
Song to check out: “Look”
Noname takes an entirely different approach to rap, speaking softly on her songs as if she is letting each listener in on a beautiful secret. In her track “Bye Bye Baby,” she personifies a mother having an abortion. In an interview with The Fader in 2016, she explained she tried to “make a love song” because “that shit was just important to me as a woman, as someone who cares about these women.”
Her storytelling, compassionate approach to music and visceral depictions of life have taken her far. Noname has already created multiple tracks with Chance The Rapper and released two full-length albums, making her potential boundless. She explains this in an interview with The Fader, saying that “not having a name expands my creativity. I’m able to do anything.” Noname has already pushed the boundaries of social change through music, and she is definitely an artist to watch.
Song to check out: “Ace” (feat. Smino & Saba)
CupcakKe brings an unmatchable level of confidence and sexual liberation to her music that can only be articulated herself. In a 2018 Interview with The Fader, she explained: “If I feel sexual, if I wanna show my nipples, I do it. If I want to be all covered up and not showing nothing at all, I do it.”
Besides her clever, often funny lyrics, her songs also touch on pressing issues, including toxic relationships, body image, police brutality and promoting acceptance for the LGBTQ community. Her music promotes personal growth in every direction — who else can rap “Suck ramen noodles off that dick, that’s my vitamin,” and one song later, “Every white man is not corrupted as the white men we see / I could vouch for that / But some still stuck in a state of mind / Or putting us behind and making us leave out the back.”
CupcakKe creates music perfect for both blasting at parties and reflecting on alone.
Song to check out: “Exit”
- Queen Key
Born in the Chicago suburbs as Ke’Asha McClure, Queen Key made her first mixtape at only seven years old. Key is all about girl power, confidently rapping lyrics like: “Can’t match this rapper, actress / More powerful than two Cleopatras,” while proclaiming that she’s a “pretty bitch but I fight dudes.”
Each song has an intense, upbeat energy as Key’s rhymes and flow are as hard as the beats she picks. Key pays respect to Cardi B when she remixes Bodak Yellow, followed by several lines about sexual liberation saying “I’m the queen and my pussy a peach … I’m kinda freaky.”
For all her confidence and intensity, Queen Key doesn’t take herself too seriously, often laughing mid-song or rapping about how she’s “turnt as fuck / I left my pizza in the oven / That bitch burnt as fuck.”
Song to check out: “Ayeee”
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, 19-year-old Instagram star-turned-rapper Killumantii said she “borrowed [her stage name] from Tupac” in a 2017 Interview with DJ Smallz. However, nothing else about her artistry is borrowed.
Her fearless, tough-girl attitude, mixed with clever rhymes and confident lyrics, make for some fun music with substance. Her songs use simple beats, making her vocals and concise inflections the center of attention. She uses her platform to create songs with topics ranging from sexist double standards to internet drama, making Killumantii relatable while giving power to those who relate.
Killumantii asks why girls are seen as unfaithful when behaving in the same way men do, rapping “how you get to run around single but I’m still suppose to act like your girlfriend? / And why I gotta sit through the hoe phase, if you ain’t ready to be a real boyfriend?”
Song to check out: “Single” (feat. Omeretta The Great)
Junglepussy is unapologetically confrontational, tackling social issues head on, whether in the form of rapping about not needing a wedding ring or demanding higher standards for the treatment of black women.
“It’s a full-time job fucking loving yourself,” Junglepussy raps in “Bling Bling,” one of her many songs focusing on independence and sexual liberation. Junglepussy creates songs evoking emotions ranging from joyful triumph to inner reflection, rapping in her song “Shower” that there are “scars on my body / cutting like decorations.”
Junglepussy is no single entity, saying in an interview with Dazed that “I am much more than Junglepussy, I am much more than a black woman. I am so much, so many things.”
Song to check out: “Bling Bling”
- Kash Doll
With catchy hooks and a larger-than-life stage personality, Kash Doll creates powerful and irresistible music that has earned her a BET Award and praise from a Pitchfork review: “[Her] queenly personality remains assertive in whatever flow she flips through… she’s the boss.”
Kash Doll’s previous collaborations include Trina and Ca$h Out. She’s worked hard to become a successful and respected musician, embracing her serious work ethic by rapping about how she’s “gon’ keep dropping, I ain’t stopping until I’m a billionaire / See I be grinding, show after show, man I mean I’m thriving.”
Kash Doll’s confidence translates beyond her stage presence. She said in a 2017 interview with The Fader that she believes in higher standards for dating, noting that “I want to go out and be happy and have fun,” reminding her audience that despite all the flexing, there’s a real woman behind the music.
Song to check out: “Check”
Ella Boyd is a first-year from Maine who attends Scripps College. She traded alpine skiing for writing for the student paper, and enjoys creating art through film, music, and poetry.