Selections from Music by Women 2017: Hip Hop/R&B

Our shortest playlist, Hip-Hop/R&B can sometimes be a world unexplored by those accustomed to Indie Rock.  However, this provides you with a chance to reach outside your comfort zone and listen to some truly innovative artists who are pushing the boundaries that their genre has set for them by their male predecessors.

Stream the full Hip-Hop/R&B Playlist: Apple Music / Spotify

Aristophanes – Humans Become Machines


Stream: Apple Music / Spotify

Most well-known for her collaboration with Grimes on 2016’s Art Angels, Aristophanes debuts her first mixtape with a number of collaborators, including Grimes, who produced the title track.  She spits her lyrics out at the speed of light, but with precision – once her vocals kick in, you won’t know what hit you.  Spoken mostly in her native language of Mandarin, don’t worry if you don’t speak her language, as she told Bullet:

“I love to explore with my lyrics,” she said, “I don’t even expect people to understand them. I just want to share my point of view with the rap world, generated from all my identities—I’m Asian and Taiwanese; I’m a woman, a literature fan and a cat lover.”

cupcakKe – Queen Elizabitch

Apple Music / Spotify


In a culture where male-created rap music is a seemingly endless objectification of sex concerning women’s bodies, cupcakKe is here as a counterpoint – and not in the way you’d think.  Being just as open as any man about her sexual preferences, cupcakKe breaks the mold with her dirty mouth on her second album.  Her fearless approach in her lyricism when it comes to topics like sex, love, violence, body positivity and more, cupcakKe is certainly one of rap’s rising stars.  If you enjoy this one, you’re in luck, she’s already released her third album, Ephorize, to rave reviews from publications like Pitchfork.

Jamila Woods – HEAVN

Apple Music / Spotify

jamila.jpgAlthough it was released in 2016 as a mixtape, HEAVN was re-released in 2017 by Jagjaguwar, and it’s hard to think of an artist more deserving of a wide release than Jamila Woods.  Woods glides through her lyrics and soulful instrumentation, featuring songwriting about her upbringing in Chicago.  The album also features from some of Chicago’s best artists right now, including Noname and Chance the Rapper.  Spoken interludes tie each song together, similar to last year’s album by Solange.  The highlight of the album, “Blk Girl Soldier”, is an ode to the black women who have changed the world despite the odds, and lists some of them off – Rosa Parks, Ella Baker, Audre Lorde, Angela Davis, Sojourner Truth, and Assata Shakur.  It’s one of the most enjoyable history lessons you’ll ever sit through.  She told NPR:

“My mission as an artist is always to create art that’s useful. I want my music to feel like it has a tangible effect on people, like it allows them to check in with themselves, feel affirmed, feel able to continue into their day or into their path with renewed energy and a renewed sense of self, because … that’s what I hope to manifest in myself.”

Linn Da Quebrada – Pajubá

Apple Music / Spotify


On Pajubá, Linn da Quebrada tells her story, living as a queer transgender woman in Brazil, through powerful lyrics and hard-hitting dance beats.  The album’s is named after a common dialect shared between LGBT people in Brazil, and the lyrics of the album stays to that theme, of exploring your identity within your community and language.  The album also was released with a crowd-funded music video series for every song on the album, which she referred to as a “Trans Lemonade”, each video its own artistic accompaniment to the song it visualizes.  While her lyrics are in Portuguese, those who don’t speak the language will often hear a few English words, some being what many would rightfully consider slurs, but also words that many who speak Pajubá try to reclaim, including in one of the song titles, “Bixa Travesty” (“f-ggot travesty”), a phrase she uses to describe herself in an interview with Remezcla.  She also says, concerning her identity within her music:

“I make music to create strength to sustain this femininity.  I make music to reinvent in my own imagination the possibilities of potency that exist in feminized bodies.”

Sampa the Great – Birds and the BEE9

Apple Music / Spotify


African-born & raised, but now based in Melbourne, Australia, Sampa the Great speaks about her identity in her new home as a visitor.  On the song “Bye River”, she laments the systemic racism in the country, asking “How you supposed to be black down under?” .  Songs like “Black Girl Magik” and “Protect Your Queen” pay tribute to black identity and the matriarchal power structure of her native continent.  Her words are truly poetry, and her music has some funky, soulful instrumentation to boot.

Still navigating the Music by Women 2017 playlists?  I’ll have more recaps of each genre playlist in the future, but also be sure to follow our Twitter account, where I regularly post songs from albums on the list!

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