By Michael Endelman
November 07, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

Despite Missy Elliott’s efforts, mainstream hip-hop is still a testosterone-fueled playground. For a femme-friendly outlook, head to the underground, where you’ll find plenty of b-grrrls with more than booty on their brains. Never one to mince words, JEAN GRAE begins her new EP, THE BOOTLEG OF THE BOOTLEG (Babygrande), on an especially bold note: ”F — – you/F — – you,” goes the chorus of ”Hater’s Anthem,” a blast of Eminem-worthy venom. And like Mr. Mathers, Grae has skills to spare. Her rhymes tumble out in long strings of witty disses and unflinching self-analysis. TARA DELONG, on the other hand, is a punk rocker who’s discovered the power of rap. On the quirky YOU DO THE MATH (Fatal), she kicks verses in Spanish (”Orgia de Sangre”) and takes on plastic surgery (”Silicone Joan”) over lo-fi beats. The CD is a bit uneven, but Delong’s goofy charm could win over even the most jaded thug.