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7 Hip-Hop Queens to Hear Now: Tkay Maidza, CL, Nadia Rose, and more

With its mix of international imports and viral breakouts, hip-hop’s current class of rising stars has never been more vibrant

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maidza: Cassandra Hannagan/Getty Images; cl: VCG/VCG via Getty Images; dreezy: Scott Dudelson/FilmMagic; kamaiyah: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images; leshurr: Jo Hale/Redferns; rose: Darren Gerrish/WireImage for DKNY x Dazed; tempest: Joseph Okpako/Redferns

In the new issue of EW, on stands now, we profiled rapper-singer Lizzo and highlighted seven other women in hip-hop getting heavy rotation on our headphones, below. Lizzo, who just dropped her new Coconut Oil EP, is happy to talk about female rappers—though that might come as a surprise to some fans, considering the 28-year-old once said the “female rapper” category “takes us 10 steps backwards.” “When [the media talks] about male-versus-female rapping, it’s just slight things in the way that they word everything that make women rappers a little inferior,” she tells EW. “It’s always, ‘How is it being a woman in hip hop because hip-hop is misogynistic?’ You’re already setting the stage for me to be inferior! What do you mean, ‘What it’s like to be a woman in hip hop?’ You trying to say poor me?”

But according to Lizzo, the differences between male and female rappers are visible and worth celebrating. “Being a woman in rap because women have a different perspective and women come from a different energy? I can answer that question,” she says. “We use rap as a tool for empowerment and men don’t—they’re already empowered! They’re using it for swag and flossin’ and bragging. They’re bragging about the power that they already assume. Women are trying to get that power through rap, in my opinion. And that’s why it feels so much more empowering when women do it.”

Here are seven hip-hop queens to hear now.

Tkay Maidza

Why she rules: The Zimbabwean-born, Australian-bred artist, 20, is equally comfortable singing over EDM beats (check out her Martin Solveig collab “Do It Right”) as she is spitting rapid-fire verses on her debut album, Tkay, out Oct. 28.

Stream this: “Carry On,” which gets an assist from Run the Jewels’ Killer Mike.

CL

Why she rules: The rapper-singer, 25, was a member of the South Korean girl group 2NE1 before going solo with the help of übermanager Scooter Braun (Justin Bieber) and Diplo (who featured her on 2015’s “Doctor Pepper”).

Stream this: “Lifted,” a summery party-starter that samples the Wu-Tang Clan.

Dreezy

Why she rules: The Chicago native, 22, effortlessly juggled trap anthems and soulful slow jams on July’s No Hard Feelings, her major-label debut.

Stream this: “Body,” a bouncy duet with Jeremih that cracked Billboard‘s Hot 100 this summer.

Kamaiyah

Why she rules: Instead of looking to the future, the Bay Area rapper, 24, drew on ’90s hip-hop and R&B styles for this year’s acclaimed mixtape A Good Night in the Ghetto.

Stream this: “How Does It Feel,” which she says she wrote in a mere 15 minutes.

Lady Leshurr

Why she rules: The British MC, 27, captured the internet’s attention last year with her Queen’s Speech freestyle series, a barrage of clever pop culture references and witty insults.

Stream this: “Where Are You Now?,” a sharp dressing-down of her rivals.

Nadia Rose

Why she rules: Her visuals are as fearless and in-your-face as her rhymes—the British talent, 23, once filmed a music video in front of an oncoming train.

Stream this: “Skwod,” a grimy club-banger that redefines #squadgoals.

Kate Tempest

Why she rules: Outside of releasing rap albums—her second, Let Them Eat Chaos, out now—this Brit, 30, is also an award-winning poet, novelist, and playwright.

Stream this: “Don’t Fall In,” an endlessly hypnotic tongue twister.

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