It's 1973, and Cindy Campbell needed school clothes. The way to get cash for them is to persuade her brother Clive 'Kool Herc' Campbell to throw a party in their apartment building on Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx... so she MCs, probably taking all the proceeds after the price of sound hire. Well, that's how the legend goes for one of the first ladies of hip hop.

Welcome to the latest Bluffers Guide...

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Listen: Aidan Kelly's Bluffers Guide to Female Hip Hop

It’s a boys' world when you think about Hip Hop, but I remember some great female voices among that history, and why not list them for something different? Of course, this is not a complete list, but it's a start, I hope. 

I remember Blondie in Rapture, I remember Salt n’ Pepa in those jackets on MTUSA, and I’ll never forget Missy Elliott's videos. Then there's Timbaland's sample from Bjork's Joga. Am I allowed to talk about Nicki Minaj? Heir to the throne...

So to counterbalance all those half-naked ladies on the west coast, here's my list of the ladies of hip hop and rap... These trailblazers brought something different to a musical genre full of history and style.

Roxanne Shante - Roxanne's Revenge (1985)

Her first single reportedly came out in 84 - 85 as a b-side; she's only 14-15 after speaking to Marley Marl and a local DJ named Dr. Magic - they produce a rebuttal to UTFO Untouchable Force Organisations' tune Roxanne Roxanne which dishes the dirt on her refusing their advances, and becomes more popular than their release, rubbing their noses in it...

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MC Lyte - Lyte as a Rock (1988)

Lyte first gained fame in the late 1980s, becoming the first solo female rapper to release a full album with her 1988's critically acclaimed Lyte as a Rock - she was later recognised for her career with the "I Am Hip Hop" Icon Lifetime Achievement from the BET Hip Hop Awards.

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Queen Latifah - Ladies First (1989)

The writer, Robin Roberts cites Latifah's track Ladies First, and her overall feminist leanings as one of a handful of female artists "Who have got their own voices" in an otherwise predominantly male-dominated art form. Ably assisted by London's Monie Love, Ladies First reminds us of who the boss really is...

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Salt n' Pepa - I Desire (1988)

Thinking back at their presence on stage with that live version of Push It in 1987, you can see they were inspired by Run DMC, their style and swagger. Salt n' Pepa, though, had sass. Gold and platinum sass, with top ten hits in numerous countries, selling over 15 million records worldwide proving their actual worth. I Desire is raw and of its time, with that drum loop (from The Winstons' Amen Brother) used much later in jungle and hardcore.

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The Lady of Rage - Afro Puffs (1994)

Lesser known and discovered by Dr Dre, she has appeared on many Death Row releases including Snoop's Doggfather, eventually releasing her own album in 1997. Going on this track, there's an excellent chance she gave as good as she got from those west coast headers...

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Foxy Brown - Get Me Home (1996)

Struggling through clinical depression, this talented and troubled lady still had the savvy to be a powerful voice when the industry was hugely misogynistic. Compared to and highly competitive with her contemporary Lil' Kim (see below), she had a brashness and style that stood out from the rest. Again another provocative, divisive character.

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Missy Elliott featuring Lil' Kim - Hit Em Wit Da Hee (1997)

Friends with Timbaland way before her first solo release - she was already a prolific writer-producer for Aaliyah, amongst others - Elliott's singular vision eventually became a reality with Supa Dupa Fly. She would have been on heavy MTV rotation via those amazing wide-angle videos by Harold Hype Williams around 97-98. Visually and lyrically stunning...

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Lauryn Hill - Final Hour (1998)

There's one track on the Miseducation album that gets behind the softer side of the ex-Fugees vocalist, an enigmatic genius with many talents. I loved that glimpse into her world; her mother is her manager and will only pay you cash, and meet in a specific Starbucks, I think in Manhattan.

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Nicki Minaj - Chun Li (2018)

I think when it comes to this loud, and no punches pulled rapper, Nicki Minaj from Queens via Trinidad, You either really like or really detest - and this is an energy onto itself. She holds her own in terms of her work ethic, with an estimated 100 million records sold, plus 10 Grammy nominations. She’s miraculously taken the Japanese Shinjuku girl style and made it her own. With a British accent! NB: Some language may offend. 

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Coi Leray - No More Parties

From New Jersey working in Los Angeles, the brand new single from Coi Leray arrives under the radar and has all the makings of a very individual sound with something very different. Watch for this young lady

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Want to hear more? Try this list of women trailblazers in hip hop and rap, and listen to more Bluffer's Guides here.