If the past several years have finally proven, without a doubt, that female rappers can compete head-to-head with their male peers—something MC Lyte fans have been aware of for years)—2014 finally proved that those women can outperform their male counterparts.
Aside from Pharrell Williams’s airwave-devouring “Happy,” Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” was the most inescapable song of the year. It spent two more weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart than the two male-led number one rap singles (Eminem’s “The Monster” and Pitbull’s “Timber”) combined—and when Iggy’s Ariana Grande collaboration “Problem” went to number two, she became the only act besides the Beatles to take the top two spots at once with her first two charting tracks. In a year that produced a fair number of newly minted superstars—Grande, Sam Smith, 5 Seconds of Summer—Azalea still managed to get more attention (and hold onto it longer) than any of them.
And Iggy wasn’t alone. Nicki Minaj put two singles–her own “Anaconda” and “Bang Bang” with Ariana Grande and Jessie J–in the Top 10. With eight singles as either lead or featured artist on the Hot 100 ,she had more songs on the pop chart than either Drake or Lil Wayne. If that accomplishment alone wasn’t enough to prove where the real star power on the Young Money roster lies, Nicki used her posse cut “Only” not only to son both other rappers, but also to state, for the record, that she got where she is without sleeping with either of them—despite what rumors might say. When her deliriously salacious “Anaconda” video racked up more first-week views than Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” it became clear that Minaj’s competition now extends well outside the boundaries of the rap world.
While Nicki and Iggy handily beat out all male competition to become the biggest rappers of the year, hip-hop’s girl power moment runs far deeper the Top Ten. Over the summer, a song called “Try Me” by a previously unknown Detroit rapper called Dej Loaf went viral first among Internet rap fans, then with mainstream listeners, eventually cracking the top half of the Hot 100. After pretty much every male MC tried their hand at rapping over the “Try Me” beat–and failed to match Dej’s preternaturally catchy original–she celebrated by inviting Terror Squad’s sole female member Remy Ma, fresh out of prison, to join her on an official remix.
Rapper and internet celebrity (and Iggy Azalea foe) Azealia Banks also made headlines when she successfully dissolved her contentious relationship with her label Universal. In November, she released her long-awaited debut album—Broke With Expensive Taste—on her own label, and landed it at number 30 on the Billboard album chart.
Then there were all the female rap artists who didn’t release albums this year, but still managed to move the needle—including Chicago MCs Sasha Go Hard and Katie Got Bandz, who both released mixtapes that highlight their emerging pop sides. With this much momentum and this much talent waiting in the wings, it seems likely that 2015 will turn out to be the Year of the Female Rapper too.