Hazelann Williams, Voice Reporter
THE '90s and early 2000s was a golden age for female rappers. Whether it was Lauryn Hill, Lil Kim, Eve, Missy Elliot, Queen Latifah, Da Brat, or Foxy Brown, women were on par with their male counterparts and no rap clique was complete without its leading lady.
Fast-forward a decade and it's a struggle to name three female superstar rappers. But there is one at the top of her game and the only one on the would-be list: Nicki Minaj.
In the last three years, Minaj has managed to become a platinum-selling artiste with her own clothing line, fragrance, and string of number-one hits. However, veteran rapstress Rah Digga, who rose to prominence as part of Busta Rhymes' collective Flipmode Squad, believes that Minaj has enjoyed such success simply because of her financial backing and good timing.
"I think it [her success] was just really good timing for Nicki," said the New Jersey-born lyricist.
"She came at a time when everyone had started to say, 'Ok, seriously, no females are out?' She came at a time when she didn't have any competition with backing that could match a camp like Young Money, and they were able to go all the way with her."
However, Rah Digga also praised Minaj, famed for hits including Super Bass and Starships, insisting the rapper's success has set new standards and raised expectations when it comes to female MCs.
"Now, she's raised the bar for female rappers. I don't think female rappers were trying to go so far into pop as she did. A lot of her success comes from the crossover music that she makes, whereas if she was doing straight hip hop like the rest of us, she would get similar results. But because she was willing to take that leap and dabble in the pop world, she has seen huge success."
If you were wondering why there has been a decline in the numbers of women in the hip-hop industry, Rah Digga offers an explanation.
"I blame the labels. At one point, there was so much money spent on grooming female artistes, and the record sales weren't transcending to the massive amounts the labels were spending for the stylists, hair, makeup, wardrobe, and all of the things that go into grooming female rappers. Then the labels got scared of signing females and it got to a point where most of the females, that continued to rap were doing so on independent levels, on a mixtape level."
Putting to bed any speculation of where she has been over the last few years, the 38-year-old says she is still on her grind, still making music - she has a new album soon to be released - while raising her teenage daughter and also dabbling in local politics.
"I see people say, 'Where is Rah Digga?' but I put music out on my blog every two weeks. I'm still here, I'm still doing it. Now, a label will expect you to have the same success as Minaj, but it's like, 'Dude, I'm not trying to make Starships.' My solo album is going to be the grittiest hip hop you've ever heard in your life from a female.
"People who know music know that Rah Digga has been in the game forever, but there's a whole new generation of people, not just music fans, but bloggers, DJs, and journalists who also aren't familiar with me. So it's kind of important for me to remind them how female rappers used to rhyme.
"I know I have a very distinct voice and my style, my whole flow, and how I approach music is more relatable to people who feel music from the '90s as opposed to people who are out now."