"I don’t want to be Nicki Minaj or Cardi B"
Indian hip hop has seen a remarkable rise in recent years, with numerous Indian female rappers showcasing their talents and gaining a massive following.
While male rappers have dominated the scene, female artists have been slowly making their mark in the industry.
These talented women bring their unique experiences and perspectives to the genre, breaking stereotypes and challenging societal norms.
Here, DESIblitz will introduce you to the best 12 Indian female rappers you should be listening to.
Meba Ofilia could be considered the artist who made a significant impact on Indian hip hop.
Hailing from Shillong, Meghalaya, her music is primarily influenced by hip-hop and R’n’B.
Meba gained recognition in the independent music scene of Shillong in 2016.
Her debut track, ‘Done Talking,’ which was created with the collaboration of Khasi Bloodz’s co-founder and experienced MC, Big Ri, brought a unique and refreshing flavor to the music scene.
With ‘Done Talking’, Meba Ofilia exhibited her exceptional vocal abilities, leading to the duo winning the Best Indian Act award at the 2018 MTV European Music Awards, representing their hometown of Shillong.
In 2022, she released her debut album Untitled.shg and the rapper explained:
“Each song comes from the depths of my being and whatever capacity of understanding I have of this life I call my own.”
Her passion for music continues to shine as she breaks down the barriers for Indian female rappers.
Annie, a rapper from Kashmir, uploaded her first lyrical video, ‘Last Ride’, on her YouTube channel as a tribute to her friend who passed away in a bike accident.
The founders of Cyphernama discovered her through the video and invited her to perform at an underground cypher.
Annie’s father, who was concerned about societal judgment, initially questioned her decision to perform.
Unlike other genres, rap is often misunderstood in Kashmir as obscene due to artists who promote sexism, misogyny, and substance abuse.
At the cypher, which had an all-male lineup except for Annie, she received immense support as soon as she started rapping.
She quickly became a household name within Kashmir and also become one of the first female rappers to excel in that space.
Rapping since she was 14 years old, and inspired by artists like Eminem, her music shines a light on politics, society, and emotion.
Whilst she has received some backlash from community members, she hopes her music inspires other girls to pursue their dreams without fear.
One of the most fierce Indian female rappers is Iqra Nisar, also known as Yung Illa.
Similar to Rapper Annie, Illa is from Kashmir and first gained notoriety from her song ‘Kash-Gang’.
The track was about the killing of Burhan Wani, a popular commander of the Kashmir armed resistance movement. Speaking about ‘Kash-Gang’, Illa said:
“As a young rapper, I believe that I need to resist these human rights abuses through my rap songs.
“If not me, then who will stand well for my people and narrate their suffering? I have written only one but I’ll write more about it at any cost.”
Illa is all about addressing the violence and misconduct of her community. She finds the best way to do this is through music.
Whilst it can come with some dangers, it doesn’t deter the young MC from following her mission.
Even though she is yet to release continuous projects, she is on the radar of many hip hop fans.
Rapper and singer Irfana Hameed from Kodaikanal made history by becoming the first female artist to join Def Jam Recordings India.
Irfana began her musical journey with traditional Carnatic vocal and veena training, but was introduced to hip hop through Eminem.
Her track ‘Kannil Pettole’ turned her into a rapping sensation across Southern India.
But, she didn’t stop there. Irfana’s 2021 EP Ko-Lab highlighted her wordplay, delivery and rawness with the stand-out tracks being ‘Program’ and ‘Zig Zag’.
She has also contributed to various projects, including the title track of Netflix’s web series Masaba Masaba and a Women’s Day campaign featuring Rashmika Mandanna.
Despite being buoyant and pop-focused, her music delves into sincere themes such as anti-fascism, Tamil and Muslim culture, and femininity.
All these elements have skyrocketed the musician’s career and Vogue profiled her under the “Emerging Women in Hip Hop” to look out for.
WON Tribe is a rap duo, consisting of Krantinaari (Ashwini Hiremath) and MC Pep (Pratika Prabune).
After meeting at a party in Mumbai, the pair was struck by their shared energy and they soon released their first song ‘Labels’ which spoke out against discrimination.
Subsequently, the group released tracks like ‘Tyranny of Power’ and ‘This Is My Freedom’ which again called for societal change.
In an interview with SheThePeople, the rappers cited Zack De la Rocha, the lead vocalist of Rage Against The Machine, as a significant influence on their rap music.
De la Rocha’s social and political consciousness appears to have left a lasting impression on WON Tribe’s music.
They are all about dedication and hard work and their music shares that same passion and power.
Using experimental production methods, edgy compositions and thought-provoking lyrics, the duo are breaking the stereotypes around women and Indian female rappers.
Reble, whose real name is Daiaphi Lamare, is a young talent from Meghalaya, India.
The artist has been rapping for over nine years and despite being from Nangbah West Haintia Hills, her desire is to represent the entire Northeast of India.
She draws inspiration from eminent artists such as Eminem, Biggie, and Andre 3000.
While focusing on the lyrical and technical aspects of rap, she believes that it is crucial to make music that connects with people instead of being too complex for the average listener.
Reble released her first single ‘Bad’ in 2019 and went on to create other songs like ‘Believe’, ‘Manifest’ and ‘Reasons’.
The songs highlight the rapper’s daring nature and ability to explore different sounds of rap, from pacey flows to emotive symbolism.
She is also keen on staying independent and is well aware that mainstream music has not yet addressed its issue with noticing Indian rap:
“Record labels are also hesitant in approaching Northeastern artists because they think our sound won’t sell, since most of the population prefers to listen to Hindi music.
“The labels are not very forward-thinking with respect to experimenting or introducing newer sounds.
“We aren’t seen as profitable by them so we just get ignored.”
However, Reble is keen to knock down these barriers through her projects.
By hearing her releases, listeners will understand she’s more than capable of doing that.
TribeMama MaryKali’s love for music developed from a young age due to her family’s history in the circus industry, particularly the live band performances.
Becoming a mother to two daughters brought about a significant change in Anna’s life.
She took on the moniker Mary Kali, named after two powerful mothers from history, representing the duality of her personality.
Her 2020 EP, Tribe Sessions, ignited the rapper’s career.
The electronic project is pieced together with folk influences and explores unconventional themes of love and self-discovery.
The EP includes a song about being self-aware and actualising one’s best version, blending R’n’B and electro to create a unique and calming sound.
This self-awareness is the main aim of MaryKali’s catalogue and she wants to expand the themes that women address in her music.
Some of the striking songs of her career so far include ‘Bless Ya Heels’, ‘Concrete Jungle’ and ‘Sacred Blunt’.
With over 51,000 monthly Spotify listeners, she’s one of the best Indian female rappers out there.
Trichia, who was born and raised in Mumbai, also spent time growing up in her native home of Goa.
Her family has an extensive background in music which led to Trichia playing the piano at the age of four, focusing mainly on western classical compositions.
After completing her formal music education at the age of 14, Trichia explored other genres such as jazz, rap, and hip hop.
By the time she was 16, she found her own sound and felt more comfortable playing different genres.
Through jazz elements like scatting and bebop, she found particular excitement in bringing these aspects to her rap songs.
Using fast tempos and complex chord progressions, Trichia began releasing her innovative music.
Songs like ‘Hocus Pocus’, ‘Duchess’ and ‘The Queen’, announced the starlet onto the hip hop scene. The latter is a track for producer Bulli Binbridge’s debut album SEASONS.
Dee MC is an eminent hip hop artist hailing from Mumbai, India, who has been rapping for over 10 years.
In 2012, Dee picked up the mic for the first time and has since represented India in countries such as the UK, Belgium, and Canada.
The first inkling of how special Dee could become was through the movie Gully Boy in which she rapped her self-written verses.
Quickly after, she released her debut album Dee=MC². Listeners finally had the chance to hear her powerful voice and methodical approach to rap.
Songs like ‘Piece of Mind’, ‘Vadhaiyaan’ and ‘Mumba’ were astounding songs of the project.
Dee’s following releases like ‘Dil Kit Baat’ and ‘No Boundaries’ have gained her 21,000 monthly Spotify listeners, making her one of the most listened to Indian female rappers.
Agsy, a Faridabad-born artist, has won awards for her music and is known as an independent rapper, singer, lyricist, and composer.
She offers music that appeals to fans and performs in Hindi, English, Punjabi, and Haryanvi.
Agsy is the only female rapper to have received a direct entry into the Top 15 Charts following her success in Season one of the series MTV Hustle.
Her Desi style has a diverse range of melodies and compositions infused with various rap flows, making her a unique artist who is celebrated nationwide.
Agsy has collaborated with brands such as Flipkart, Samsung, and Red FM’s Official World Cup Anthem.
She also never shies away from collaborating with other artists and has a long list of partnerships that include Shankar Mahadevan, Shah Rule, and Deep Kalsi.
In 2023, the musician released her EP Rap Goddess which includes the bold songs ‘BE LIKE THAT’ and ‘LOVE MUMBLE’.
The project, along with her other releases like ‘Janini’ and ‘Khai’ emphasise why she has become one of the faces of Desi hip hop.
Sofia Ashraf gained recognition for her music due to its thought-provoking messages and unapologetic attitude toward the government.
Her previous projects have highlighted the neglect of corporations in cleaning up industrial disasters.
One of her songs, ‘Don’t Work for Dow’, criticises Dow for not compensating the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy that occurred in India in 1984.
Her music video ‘Kodaikanal Won’t’ brings attention to mercury pollution in Kodaikanal caused by a thermometer factory owned by Unilever.
Sofia Ashraf has also released ‘Dow vs. Bhopal: a Toxic Rap Battle’
Sofia, who was born in Chennai, began rapping during a college festival, wearing a hijab and questioning attitudes towards Muslims after the September 11 attacks.
She was dubbed “The Burqa Rapper” by the press but she now identifies as an atheist.
Apart from her music, Sofia Ashraf has contributed to Bollywood and Tamil movie soundtracks, recording a song each for Jab Tak Hai Jaan and Maryan.
One of the most followed Indian female rappers is FeniFina, a multilingual rapper originally from Mumbai who has been making waves in Toronto with her socially conscious music.
Her two 2020 singles ‘Rukna Nahi’ and ‘Jism E Roohaniyat’ showcase her unique lyrical and visual style.
For FeniFina, music is a means of discussing important issues. Her track ‘Justice Now’ speaks out against caste discrimination, questioning why justice seems so elusive.
Her other projects like ‘Rukna Nahi’ and ‘KYU’ highlight the star’s aggressive yet polished delivery where her lyrics and unique sound shines.
The artist values the freedom to be true to herself.
She refuses to be molded into someone else’s idea of what a female rapper should be and instead strives to be her authentic self, having said:
“Men want to be in control of your image.”
“In the beginning of my career, I was working with someone and they had a different idea of what a female rapper should be.
“I don’t want to be Nicki Minaj or Cardi B, I want to be me.”
The Indian hip hop scene is becoming more diverse and inclusive, and Indian female rappers are an essential part of this transformation.
These artists are not only making great music but also using their platforms to raise awareness of issues that affect women in India.
It is time to give these talented women the recognition they deserve and celebrate their contributions to the hip hop genre.