March is Women’s History Month, and the Diversions desk here at The Diamondback loves to write about music. So, in the interest of both, below are seven women who have shifted the scope of the music industry. We are better off because of it.
Queen Bey has reigned supreme since most of us young folks were old enough to walk. Her flawless vocals and awe-inspiring performances have set a high standard for what an artist can be, with the stats to back it up. She’s had all six of her solo albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard album charts. She’s the most nominated woman in Grammy history. And she set a new standard for “visual” albums when she dropped her self-titled album in 2013. Her name is used to express the best of something — people want to feel like her when they leave the hair salon or get a new outfit. No one comes close.
Fashion queen. Clapback queen. Certified pop hitmaker. The “Avon lady.” Rihanna has evolved from a cute pop princess to the “good girl gone bad” with an edginess we all love. Her reach is expanding to so much more than music with ventures such as her lingerie brand, Savage X Fenty, and her dazzling makeup company, Fenty Beauty, as if we didn’t already have enough reasons to love her.
Lady Gaga has always known how to shake up a scene, exemplified by decisions such as wearing a meat dress to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. Her eccentricities have always made her special and tend to leave you wanting more. Her music is a beckoning call for those who are different, and she’s always advocated to embrace the things that make you so.
Since before the turn of the century, Missy Elliott has been a sharp visionary, lending her skills as a rapper, writer and producer to others in the industry. She’s the embodiment of having fun with what you do. In January, she became the first female hip-hop artist to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in May she’ll be the first female rapper to receive an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music.
The Kansas City native has blended genres like pop, hip-hop and funk together for more than a decade, and has crafted an otherworldly ArchAndroid universe in which her artistry has roamed free. Inspired heavily and mentored by Prince, she is a force on and off the stage — giving us ethereal content while steadily pushing for women’s rights through ventures like Fem the Future, which aims to create more opportunities for women in the arts. She is indeed an “Electric Lady.”
For a lot of the younger crowd, Nicki Minaj was the most consistent female rapper in the game for a long time, prior to the current resurgence of female emcees. She could be sweet, she could be fiery and she could be somewhere in between. The multiple personas she crafted, her brightly colored wigs and her ability to go toe-to-toe with her male counterparts kept all eyes on her for years. Minaj held the throne for a long time and pushed the boundaries that the female rappers before her created. Throughout the 2010s, she was able to hold that place while many others’ times had begun to pass.
Cardi B has not missed. She continues to break records, and her accomplishments seem to resonate with all of us. Her backstory of making funny Instagram videos and being a cast member on Love & Hip Hop: New York perhaps made her an underdog in the rap industry, in addition to the hurdles of being a woman in a male-dominated field. Yet she’s rocket-launched her way to the top, with a trajectory well worth following.
All the women on this list have shown uncanny resilience and dedication to their craft. They have opened doors and walked through the ones left open for them. And thankfully, they’re here to stay.