Hip Hop 50 Beauty: How Female Rappers Changed The Hair Game

How female rapper changed the hair game.

female rappers hair impact
Photo Artwork: Joy Adaeze

When Cardi B sat front row during Paris Couture Week in July, the “Bodak Yellow” rapper stunned paparazzi and onlookers daily. The Bronx, NY native accentuated her couture looks with her signature smoky eye, winged eyeliner, and nude lip gloss accentuated with dark brown liner for an extra full pout. 

[SEE ALSO: 50th Anniversary Of Hip-Hop Beauty Tribute]

I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is it. This is the pinnacle for us to have our classic b-girl touch of dark lipliner considered the look du jour during one of the fashion industry’s greatest events of the year.’ Unbeknownst to the global fashion press, Cardi’s beauty look has been the standard in inner cities in the Black community for decades.

Hip-hop culture influences various aspects of our lives, including fashion and beauty. And there’s no denying female rappers’ significant contributions to the beauty industry. In addition to their lyrical prowess, women in hip-hop have played a crucial role in shaping beauty trends on the street and fashion runways worldwide.

Some of the most iconic looks that are a testament to this are Doja Cat’s head-to-hand bejeweled beauty look by the celebrity and runway makeup artist Pat McGrath; Lil Kim’s Chanel logo stamped blue wig; Missy Elliott’s bald head covered with full black makeup with rhinestone eyebrows. 

These legendary looks prove female MCs are trailblazers when setting trends and redefining beauty standards. From bold, bright colors to intricate styles, they continuously push the boundaries of what is acceptable or mainstream. Let’s look at some beauty trends popularized thanks to female rappers in hip-hop. 

The Short Bob

In the late 70s, relaxed hair with no makeup was the beauty style of choice for the first female rapper, MC Sha-Rock, and the first female rap group, Mercedes Ladies. As hip-hop became more prominent, permed hair styled with a bob of various lengths became the first beauty standard in hip-hop.

I remember begging my mother for my first sponge rollers and a haircut after I watched music videos featuring Roxanne Shante, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, and the late Ms. Melodie. I was blown away by their female-empowering lyrics, skills on the mic and their curled crop cuts side-parted with shaved back and sides. 

My fellow Brooklynite MC Lyte switched up her crop cut in her natural honey brown shade with added length in the back. MC Hammer’s rapping dance trio 357 followed suit on the West Coast. One member wore it asymmetrically with horizontal shapes. SaltnPepa were the first to wear their short bob in blonde. Later, in the early 90s, the bob would be popularized by the First Lady of Def Jam, Nikki D, as well as Missy Elliott. 

Au Natural

When Queen Latifah spewed female empowerment rhymes as a response to misogyny in hip-hop, the Newark, New Jersey native spawned the popularity to showcase your cultural heritage. Her Afrocentric garb and crowns she wore in her “U.N.I.T.Y.” and “Ladies First,” music videos inspired other female M.C.s and fans alike, to wear natural hairstyles. 

Whether it was intricate cornrows, box braids, crop cuts, shaved heads, dreads, and Afros, by the early 90s more female rappers would ride the wave, including Lauryn Hill, Harmony, Bahamadia, Nefertiti, Lady of Rage, Jean Grae and Digable Planets’ Ladybug Mecca. Rapsody, Tierra Whack, Sampa the Great, Sa-Roc Noname, and Lil Simz

Sleek & Straight

In the 90s, flat irons became a staple tool as women sought to achieve smooth and shiny hair. Foxy Brown, Hurricane Gloria, Mia X, Roc-A-Fella’s Amil, Terror Squad’s Remy Ma, Trina, Flipmode Sqad’s Rah Digga, Shawna, and T.L.C.’s Left Eye kept their natural or relaxed hair or weaves straight with loose curls for a minimal aesthetic. 

Lola Brooke, Lady London, Latto, and Rubi Rose are just a few in modern female rap known for following Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, the first to stand out with long and sleek 30″ 40″ lace front wigs.  

Baby Hairs

Edge styling—the look of gelled-down edges in swoop-like patterns first became popular in the Black community thanks to Josephine Baker. In the 80s, it resurfaced when Black girls sported intricate and meticulously styled baby hairs to add a touch of elegance and flair to their hairstyles, and it has since gained significant popularity. There are many creative ways artists’ style their edges to enhance their overall look.

The 2000s ushered in new female rappers with iconic looks to shape the beauty landscape. New MCs emerged carrying the torch from pioneers with both sound and style, ultimately elevating classic b-girl trends. Thanks to social media, in the early 2010s, we saw a significant increase in female rappers, leaving an indelible mark on beauty trends over the years. 

From the relaxed and cropped hair of the 1980s to the understated looks of the 1990s and the bold and flossy styles of the 2000s, they have consistently showcased their individuality and creativity through their beauty choices. As hip-hop continues evolving, we can expect it to continue pushing boundaries and inspiring new beauty trends.

What’s your favorite hair trend started by female rappers? Let us know in the comment section!