As the world struggles with equality issues and rights, women celebrities and role-models have a huge impact and voice on the desired outcome. None more so than female rappers, as the field broadens and more and more female rappers come to the forefront of what has been primarily a machismo, male-centric industry in the past. Women are finding a voice through these rappers, and that’s a big step in the right direction.
Many of these female rappers are finding success solely in their music careers, while others have branched out to other mediums like film, production, and philanthropy. Whatever the means, and whatever the direction these women take, these are the 10 richest female rappers in the world.
10. Eve – $8 million
Born Eve Jihan Jeffers, Eve is perhaps best-known for winning the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration with Gwen Stefani for the song “Let Me Blow Ya Mind.” Her 1999 debut, “Let There Be Eve… Ruff Ryders’ First Lady,” put her on the map and was only the third album by a female rap artist to top the Billboard 200 and she’s ranked by VH1 as #48 of the “50 Greatest Women of the Video Era.” Eve is quite the entrepreneur, finding success with her clothing line, Fetish.
As an actress she’s known for her role as Terry Jones in the films Barbershop and Barbershop 2: Back in Business.
9. MC Lyte – $8 million
Tied with Eve, MC Lyte is one of the female pioneers of hip-hop. MC Lyte began rhyming when she was just 12, and in 1988 her album “Lyte as a Rock” became the first full album to ever be released by a female solo rapper. The album was a huge success, and it included the hit song “Paper Thin.” The 1993 anthem “Ruffneck”, from her third album, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Single, making MC Lyte the first female solo rapper to ever be nominated for a Grammy.
Lyte has featured in TV shows such as In the House, Get Real, and many more, and she owns an LA boutique, Shaitel, that specializes in accessories such as belts and sunglasses. In 1997 she launched Sunni Gyrl, Inc., a global entertainment firm that specializes in artist development, management, production, and consulting. She also has a very successful voice over career.
8. DJ Spinderella – $10 million
DJ Spinderella is the stage name of Deidra Muriel Roper. She became a member of Salt-n-Pepa in 1986 when DJ Latoya Hanson was dismissed, and became the group’s DJ for their first album. She was 16 at the time of joining, and the trio of Salt-n-Pepa would go on to become one of hip-hop’s most successful female acts of all time, releasing five studio albums and receiving several platinum and gold singles. From 2003 to 2006, Spinderella was a radio personality on KKBT 100.3 in LA, co-hosting “The BackSpin,” and she also appeared on several episodes of the VH1 reality series The Salt N Pepa Show.
7. Trina – $10 million
Katrina Laverne Taylor, better known as her stage name Trina, first gained notoriety in 1998 after appearing on Trick Daddy’s second studio album “www.thug.com.” She’s released five studio albums since then, and XXL Magazine names her as “the most consistent female rapper of all time.” Billboard included her in their list of “31 Female Rappers Who Changed Hip-Hop,” and she has been celebrated by many hip-hop magazines, editorials, and award programs. She has been nominated eight times at the BET Awards for “Best Female Hip-Hop Artist” between 2001 and 2012.
6. M.I.A. – $10 million
Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, or simply M.I.A., is a British-Tamil recording artist. Her music combines elements of dance, electronic, hip-hop, alternative, and world music. She began her recording career in 2002 after beginning as a visual artist and filmmaker in west London.
Her 2004 singles ”Galang” and “Sunshowers” gave her initial success, but it was the single “Paper Planes” that really shot her to worldwide fame. The single peaked in the Top 20 worldwide, reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100, was certified three-time platinum in Canada and the US, and is one of the top 10 best-selling songs by a British artist in the digital era. Her sound is eclectic and varied, and rapping is just one of her many vocal styles.
5. Pepa – $15 million
Born Sandra Denton, Pepa is a Jamaican-born American rapper and one of the two original members of the female rap group Salt-n-Pepa. The duo was formed in 1984 before becoming a trio with the addition of DJ Spinderella in 1986. Salt-n-Pepa disbanded in 2002, but reunited in 2005 for VH1’s Hip Hop Honors.
Pepa has diversified into acting, first as a cast member of VH1’s The Surreal Life, and then appearing in the movie Joe’s Apartment, the HBO film First Time Felon, as an officer in the HBO drama Oz, and she even had her own reality show, Let’s Talk About Pep. In 2008, Salt-n-Pepa got back together and performed at the 2008 BET Hip Hop Awards.
4. Lil’ Kim – $18 million
Kimberly Denise Jones, better known as Lil’ Kim, got her start after collaborating with Notorious B.I.G’s group Junior M.A.F.I.A. in 1995. She went solo in 1996, and her debut studio album Hard Core went double platinum and spawned three consecutive #1 rap hits: “No Time,” “Not Tonight (Ladies Night remix),” and “Crush on You.” This was a record for a female rapper.
Lil’ Kim’s next two albums were also certified platinum, making her the only female rapper besides Missy Elliott to have at least 3 platinum albums. The single “Lady Marmalade,” recorded with fellow artists Mya, Pink, and Christina Aguilera, won a Grammy for “Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals” at the 44th Grammy Awards in 2002. She has many endorsements from companies such as Old Navy, Three Olives Vodka, Wilhelmina Models, and more. The endorsements, along with her clothing lines “Hollyhood” and “24/7 Goddess Collection,” her watch line “Royalty by Lil’ Kim,” her beauty salon “Salon Se Swa,” and her own cocktail “Queen Bee,” have helped her amass her fortune.
3. Nicki Minaj – $45 million
Young star Nicki Minaj is undoubtedly the most popular and successful female rapper in recent memory. In fact, she was the only woman to appear in the 2013 Forbes Cash Kings List, which compared the earnings of hip-hop artists that year. Her total earnings in 2013 were $29 million. Because of her MySpace page, Minaj was discovered by Dirty Money Entertainment CEO Fendi. Her debut album “Pink Friday” went platinum and peaked at #1 on the US Billboard 200.
Minaj was a voice actress in the animated film Ice Age: Continental Drift, acted in the movie The Other Woman, and was a judge on the 12th season of American Idol. In April 2013, Minaj became the most-charted female rapper in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 with over 44 appearances, and The New York Times says that “some consider her the most influential female rapper of all time.” With her colorful costumes, wigs, and clothes, she has become an unusual fashion icon, and she has endorsed Pepsi, Mac, OPI, and more.
2. Queen Latifah – $50 million
Before becoming a successful actress in film and television, Queen Latifah was one of the female pioneers of hip-hop. She made her mark in hip-hop by rapping about issues of black women, including domestic violence, harassment, and relationship problems. When she was 19 she released her first album under the Tommy Boy Records label.
Latifah is as well-respected as an actress as she is a hip-hop artist. She has starred in many TV shows, including the FOX sitcom “Living Single,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and movies like “House Party 2,” “Bringing Down the House,” and “Chicago” (the latter for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress). She even had her own talk show, “The Queen Latifah Show,” from 1999 to 2001. Latifah is a spokesperson for CoverGirl cosmetics, Curvation ladies underwear, Pizza Hut, and Jenny Craig.
1. Missy Elliott – $50 million
Tied at the top of the list with Queen Latifah is Missy Elliott. She’s the winner of five Grammy Awards, has sold over 30 million records in the US, and is the only female rapper to have six albums certified platinum (that’s all of her albums). Elliott is easily the most successful female rapper of all time. She has worked with many of the music industry’s top acts, including Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Madonna, Eminem, and many more.
After her last album release in 2005, Elliott found success in writing and production for artists such as Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson, and Keyshia Cole. She also features as guest singer for many artists.