Tiny Desk Playlist: Women Run The Rap Game

Writer and author Clover Hope highlights her five favorite Tiny Desks by women rappers.

Chika plays a Tiny Desk concert. (Max Posner/NPR). // NPR, Max Posner

Several bright, young women rappers have owned the Tiny Desk stage in the past few years, and I'm honored to highlight some of my favorites from the archives.

• I love that Chika kept her performance low-key, even with four backup singers behind her. Her set is pure charm, poetry and comedy. At one point, she pulls out a tiny tub of Vaseline and erroneously calls it ChapStick.

• Notice first (as if you couldn't) that Mulatto is sitting in an oversized, tufted, white throne in a studio and not in front of a wall of books per the usual Tiny Desk aesthetic. It's the perfect ambiance for her to suavely rap about riches and insecurity, while a violinist gives the performance an extra air of grandeur.

• In between three songs, Rapsody talks about the emotional challenge of being a Black woman in hip-hop and diversifying the image of women in rap. She's steady and electrifying, especially in performing "The Man," about the lost innocence of Black boys without father figures.

• People were still learning about Megan Thee Stallion in December 2019, post-"Big Ole Freak," when she took the Tiny Desk stage. Amid a sea of cube lights, she brings the same tongue-wagging charisma that's become her signature.

Noname raps with a level of clarity and calm that hangs in the air like smoke. It's a treat to watch her perform selections from her album Telefone and talk about how we should "heal the world with vulnerability." —Clover Hope, writer, professor, and author of The Motherlode: 100+ Women Who Made Hip-Hop.

Tiny Desks In This Playlist

Megan Thee Stallion

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.