10 Best-Selling Female Rappers Of All Time

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Rap has tended to be male-dominated genre, until recent years saw a meteoric rise in the popularity of female rappers. This list will introduce you to ten of the best-selling female rappers of all time.

The early days of hip-hop were tough for female artists, with very few venturing into the scene. But the two decades have seen a number of female rappers evolve into commercial powerhouses and viral sensations – ruling the charts with a host of multi-platinum records.

But what does it actually mean to be a best-selling artist? There are two main ways to gauge monetary success in terms of music sales.

In an industry now built upon multimedia viewing and streaming it can be difficult to assess levels of greatness fairly. The introduction of ‘RIAA’ (Record Industry Association of America) units confuses matters further with 1,500 song or video streams the equivalent of a single album sale.

To make things simpler, this list focuses on the ‘traditional’ form of record sales with only physical disc or digital downloads counting towards overall totals.

Based on the traditional metric of record sales, here are the best-selling female rappers of all time.

10. Da Brat

Estimated record sales: 2.5 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 0
Best-selling album: Funkdafied (1994)

Born and raised in Chicago, Da Brat began her career in 1992, and within two years she’d released debut album Funkdafied. The LP sold an impressive one million copies, making Da Brat the first female solo rap artist to be certified platinum.

Two of her singles broke into the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 including ‘Funkdafied’ and ‘Not Tonight,’ the latter a popular collaboration with artists such as Lil’ Kim and Missy Elliott.

Da Brat had several other commercially successful songs and albums over the years, eventually selling over 2.5 million records and winning two Grammy awards.

9. Foxy Brown

Estimated record sales: 2.6 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 0
Best-selling album: Ill Na Na (1996)

In 1996 Foxy Brown signed for Def Jam, later that year releasing her debut album Ill Na Na, which sold an incredible 1.1 million copies.

She became a member of Hip-hop supergroup The Firm with fellow artists Cormega, Nas and AZ. Together they recorded their only LP to date entitled The Album, on Dr. Dre’s label Aftermath Entertainment.

Her second LP Chyna Doll crashed into the Billboard 200 at number one, at the time making Brown only the second female rap artist to reach the chart’s summit after Lauryn Hill and her 1998 classic album The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill.

8. Cardi B

Estimated record sales: 3.4 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 5
Best-selling album: Invasion Of Privacy (2018)

Cardi B found fame as an influencer on social media platforms Vine and Instagram. She also became a cast member on the VH1 reality TV series Love & Hip Hop: New York.  

In 2018 she finally released her inaugural studio album Invasion Of Privacy, which debuted at the top of the U.S Billboard 200, selling 3.4 million copies.

The album featured two U.S Billboard 100 number one singles including her debut hit ‘Bodak Yellow’ and confirmed Cardi B as only the second female rapper to top the Hot 100 with a solo song. To date she has recorded three other chart topping hits including both ‘WAP’ and ‘Up.’

Cardi B is the only female rapper to win a Grammy Award for ‘Best Rap Album As A Solo Artist’ and just the second woman in the genre to be nominated for the category. She also holds the record for most songs to surpass one billion streams on Spotify. 

7. Doja Cat

Estimated record sales: 3.8 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 1
Best-selling album: Hot Pink (2019)

Californian singer and rapper Doja Cat began producing and releasing original music during her formative years utilising popular online music platform SoundCloud.

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Her first self-published track ‘So High’ eventually attracted the attention of major music labels RCA Records and Kemosabe, both with whom she signed a joint-deal aged just seventeen. In 2014, she released her debut EP Purrr!.

Over the course of five years, Doja Cat’s viral presence grew exponentially and she capitalised on her newly found success by releasing a second album, Hot Pink (2019)

The LP would climb into the top 10 of U.S chart Billboard 200 and sell 1.9 million copies. Its single ‘Say So’ was remixed to feature Nicki Minaj and reached number one in the Billboard Hot 100.

Doja Cat is especially savvy in the art of social media promotion, producing music videos and publishing songs designed to achieve maximum viral impact on platforms such as TikTok.

She has won numerous awards during her explosive career to date including a Grammy, five Billboard accolades and as many American Music Awards.

6. Eve

Estimated record sales: 3.9 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 0
Best-selling album: Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryders’ First Lady  (1999)

Eve rose to fame as a rapper and also a successful actress. In 1999, she released her debut album Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryders’ First Lady, which hit top spot on the Billboard 200.

The record went double platinum, selling over two million copies, making Eve only the third female rapper to achieve a number one album at the time.

Her LP spawned three hit singles including ‘What Ya Want,’ ‘Love Is Blind’ and ‘Gotta Man.’ Notably, Eve also appeared on Rap Queen Missy Elliott’s ‘Hot Boyz’ track, which burst straight into the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100.

Eve’s talents expand beyond music. She is an established actress, appearing in comedy films such as the Barbershop Franchise and also playing the lead role of Shelley Williams on sitcom Eve. The rapper also co-hosted CBS Daytime talk show The Talk and won two Daytime Emmy Awards as a result.

5. Lil’ Kim

Estimated record sales: 4.08 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 1
Best-selling album: Hard Core (1996)

Brooklyn born Lil’ Kim found herself catapulted to prominence from humble beginnings, her teenage years spent growing up on the streets of New York without a stable home to speak of. In 1994 her immense freestyle rap talents were finally discovered by true giant of the genre, Notorious B.I.G, who insisted she become part of his group Junior, M.A.F.I.A.

Her debut LP Hard Core sold over two million copies worldwide, achieving double platinum status and gave birth to a selection of highly successful singles including ‘No Time’ and ‘Crush On You.’ 

Today, Lil’ Kim is known for much more than musical prowess. She is celebrated as a twenty-first century fashion icon, credited with a pivotal role in helping ‘women embrace their sexuality and femininity.’

Lil’ Kim’s lifestyle has also brought controversy. In 2005, she served a year-long prison sentence for lying to a jury about one of her friend’s involvement in a shooting.

4. Salt ‘N’ Peppa

Estimated record sales: 8.9 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 0
Best-selling album: Very Necessary (1993)

New York born Salt ‘N’ Pepa formed in 1985, the rap duo still renowned as early innovators of the pop/hip-hop niche and wider rap genre as a whole. 

The pair’s first successes came with the release of their album Hot, Cool and Vicious in 1986 and single ‘Tramp,’ which included hit B-side ‘Push It,’ propelling them into the top 20 of the U.S chart Billboard Hot 100. 

However their most successful LP arrived a full seven years later, as 1993’s Very Necessary. The record sold over 5 million copies, making them the best selling female rap artists in music history at that time. 

One of Salt ‘N’ Pepa’s finest accolades was winning a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for their song ‘None Of Your Business.’ The honour saw them named one of the first female rap artists to claim the award alongside Queen Latifah and earning them the title of the ‘First Ladies Of Rap.’

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3. Nicki Minaj

Estimated record sales: 9.5 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 3
Best-selling album: Pink Friday (2010)

Trinidadian rapper Nicki Minaj found notoriety with three mixtapes released over the course of two years from 2007 to 2009. Gaining credibility as a result, she finally released her debut studio album Pink Friday in 2010, the LP topping the U.S Billboard 200 and selling 3.3 million copies in the process.

Her song ‘Anaconda’ reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and its music video became the first upload by a solo female rapper to hit one billion views on YouTube.

Billboard named Minaj the most successful female rapper of the 2010s having registered twenty-one top 10 hits on the Hot 100 list. She has accumulated an estimated forty major accolades including MTV Video Music Awards, Brit Awards and even Guinness World Records.

In 2016, Time Magazine included her on their prestigious annual list of 100 most influential people in the world.

2. Lauryn Hill

Estimated record sales: 20.7 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 1
Best-selling album: The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill  (1998)

The second best-selling female rapper of all time is Lauryn Hill.

Lauryn Hill is widely regarded as one of the greatest female rappers of all time and one of the most significant musicians of her era. She has been credited with bringing melodic rapping, hip-hop and neo soul to the masses.

Formerly a member of the Fugees, Hill finally released her 1998 solo album The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, and with a total of over 20 million copies sold it became one of the best-selling albums of all time. The LP entered the U.S Billboard 200 at number one and accumulated the highest first-week sales for a debut album by any woman in the 20th century.

In 1999, Hill set a record for the most Grammy nominations in one evening for a female artist, winning five awards including Album Of The Year and becoming the first hip-hop artist to do so.

Billboard ranks her seventh on the list of their ’10 best rappers of all time’ and she is the only female on the list. Hill appears as a solo artist and also with The Fugees on Billboard’s list of 500 Greatest Songs and Albums.

1. Missy Elliott

Estimated record sales: 30 million
Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 singles: 0
Best-selling album: Under Construction (2002)

The best-selling female rapper of all time is Missy Elliot.

Missy Elliott began her music career with R&B girl group Sista and later became a member of the Swing Mob. She launched her solo career in 1997, with debut album Supa Dupa Fly climbing up to number three on the Billboard 200, the highest charting debut for a female rapper at that time.

In 1999, her second album Da Real World was released and included the single ‘Hot Boyz’ with the remix of the track, smashing the record for most weeks at number one on the U.S R&B chart – spending a total of 18 weeks at the top.

Missy Elliott unleashed her monstrous LP Under Construction in 2002 and sold an unbelievable 2.2 million copies. She later went on to establish her international career with the release of ‘Get Ur Freak On.’

She has since been crowned ‘Queen of Rap’ and gone on to sell over 30 million records worldwide. Elliott is the first female rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame and in 2021 was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.


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