The so-called femcee has always been a gift and a curse to hip-hop – a gift, in the sense that there are a handful (literally) of women rappers who have always held their own on a track and even find themselves listed amongst people’s favorites… as top rappers PERIOD, not just top women rappers. However, in a sense, they are a curse because they often still fall short of being taken seriously or at least given as much consideration in the male-dominated and male-driven world of rap. Guaranteed, for every one great lyricist who just happens to be a female that is denied a record deal, two male rappers who are mediocre at best get signed somewhere.

The female rapper in 2011 again flew under the radar. With the sole exceptions of Young Money’s First Mistress Nicki Lewinsky First Lady, Nicki Minaj; Bay Area n-word abusers representers Kreayshawn and V-Nasty; and to a lesser degree Florida mainstay Trina and video girl-turned-spitter Lola Monroe, no women rappers really got any major shine. A pity, given that BET had at least hinted towards progress – and promoting said progress – with their 2011 documentary My Mic Sounds Nice. However, just because she may not have had a mainstream presence, doesn’t mean the female rapper wasn’t present. Indeed, a number of faces familiar and brand new made waves last year and laid strong foundations to make the femcee more than just its usual one or two a calendar year showing. So I’m running a series throughout this month, during which I intend to highlight the “Breakout Queens”: the female emcees who made the strongest showings and developed enough momentum in 2011, to be serious problems in 2012.

Rapsody

No, I’m not talking about the online music streaming service. In one way or another, you no doubt heard Marlanna Evans – aka Rapsody -‘s name brought up this year. 

The North Carolina native was truly a beneficiary of “it’s not what you know, but who you know,” gaining a strong cosign from producer 9th Wonder and being signed to his JAMLA Records label under the It’s A Wonderful World Music Group (IWWMG) imprint. In a stark contrast to, say, Nicki Minaj and Lil’ Kim, Rapsody didn’t market herself a sexpot first and rapper second. In fact, her first mainstream appearance was on a joint with Mac Miller, “Blankin’ Out.”

With the personal mantra of “Culture Over Everything,” Rapsody was all about the music, and that dedication coursed through every word she said on every song she recorded. With the support of IWWMG and 9th Wonder himself, Rapsody released not one but three consecutive solid albums from December 2010 through November 2011 – Return of the B-Girl; Thank H.E.R. Now, and For Everything. With each release, Rapsody’s skill increased and her supporters grew. One wonders if Rapsody could ever have imagined that the very inspirations and influences she shouted out on the “Intro” to Return of the B-Girl, from Jean Grae to MC Lyte, would end up collaborating with her sooner than she thought.

No doubt, Rapsody always knew she had the passion and capacity. Her body of work is one that encompasses a variety of subject matter, from matters of the heart (“You Make Me Say” featuring fellow JAMLA labelmate Heather Victoria, “Baby Yeah!” featuring Marsha Ambrosius) to personal reflections (“1983,” “Thank H.E.R. Now”). Her love of hip-hop culture is as much present in the homages her song titles pay to classic hip-hop staples of old (“Rock the Bells,” “A Crush Groove”), and she’s already aligned herself with the up-and-comers in the game, from the aforementioned Mac Miller, to Kendrick Lamar and Big K.R.I.T.

After dropping a year’s worth of free material, Rapsody is primed to capitalize in 2012, as her official album will drop under IWWMG sometime this year. She already has the support of one of the biggest producers alive right now, and she has a continually growing industry and social media following. But most importantly, Rapsody provides a refreshing alternative image of the 21st-century female rapper, one who would rather tell stories than sell sex when it comes to reaching new listeners and gaining fans. For that reason above all else, Rapsody is guaranteed to Breakout.