Women & Hip-Hop

Photo credit: alyssaBLACK. on VisualHunt / CC BY-SA

Playlist inspired by the article:


Hip-Hop was born in 1973 on 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, NYC. On January 4th 2018, it became the most consumed music genre in the United States, surpassing rock for the first time in history. In between those years, Hip-Hop and especially rap music evolved a lot and, little by little, the role of women in rap culture gained greater importance.

The expansion of streaming services is responsible for much of Hip-Hop’s success story in the last couple of years. With the help of Deezer’s stream database, we were able to paint a picture of the ever-growing role that females have in Hip-Hop culture. This post details the outcomes of our study, through the lens of three data visualisation tools.

Definitions of ‘gender balance’ and ‘gender score’

Throughout this article we will talk a lot about the gender balance and gender score. These notions help us understand the number of female listeners within an audience. We will be using this criteria to compare artists and their songs with each other.

Gender balance

Gender score

Contextualization: Hip-Hop music has plenty of room for progress

To begin, we looked at the 200 most streamed Hip-Hop (1) artists of 2018.
Of course, Deezer is a French platform, so you will see a lot of both American and French artists. We ended up with only 13 female acts, 2 Hip-Hop groups with both male and female rappers and 185 solo male artists. When it comes to the audience, Hip-Hop has an average female gender balance of 32%, which makes it the genre (2) with the second-biggest male audience on Deezer. Although it should be noted that the global gender balance on Deezer’s active base, is around 37%.

As mentioned earlier in the introduction, this study revolves around three dashboards. The first one is a visualisation of our 200 artists on a map, that measures both their gender (3) balance and popularity (4). With this dashboard we can start to see what the gender balance could depend on. The second dashboard gives a visualization of the evolution of the gender balance for each artist. The third one goes one step further, giving a map of the popularity and gender balance of the top 50 songs from the 200 artists.

Who are the most appreciated artists by the female audience?

The first dashboard is a map that allows us to visualize the gender balance and the popularity of the 200 artists that we are focusing this study on.

How should you read this dashboard?

→ The higher up an artist is on the map, the more streamed they are.

→ The further to the right, the higher the female gender score is.

What do we see?

First conclusions

From this dashboard alone, we can observe that female listeners prefer to listen to female artists. In fact, all of the 13 females from our 200 artists are in the top quarter of the highest gender score artists. In 2018, Becky G was the female artist with the lowest gender balance (+6), and she is still the 44th most streamed out of the 200 artists.

We can also observe that two factors seem to be especially important when trying to figure out what makes a rap artist successful with a female audience: melodies and popularity.

Now let’s be very clear about what we define as melodies in this article. For a very long time, the great majority of rappers would stick to just rapping and singing on a track wouldn’t cross their mind. This new wave of making Hip-Hop songs started in the 2010’s and got very popular in this generation of new rappers.

Before rappers used jerky flows, and fewer artists would move between singing and rapping. Nowadays, the great majority of rappers have incorporated melodies in their songs, especially with the rise of Autotune, a pitch correction software that is popular in rap music. Here are two Hip-Hop records as examples: one from Hamza with melodies, and one from Kalash Criminel, which has more of an old rap music kind of feel.



At this point, we will talk about the gender score and also about the gender balance, which is the percentage of women within the audience. Mainstream rappers get access to a larger female audience.

As we can see in the first dashboard, very successful artists such as Maitre Gims, J Balvin, Drake or even JUL, have a gender score above both the genre and the general Deezer average. Being on the charts, having millions of views on music videos, give these artists access to a much larger public.

What about melodies?

There is one pretty noticeable difference between artists from the two sides of the map when it comes to the music itself. For each era (Old School and New School Rap), we have noticed that specific groups end up falling into specific parts of the dashboard.

Old school American rappers such as Nas, DMX, 2Pac or 50 Cent can be seen on the bottom left of the map. This shows that these rappers have a larger male following. But let’s not forget that, because the dashboard is only based on the streaming habits of our users in 2018, listeners seem to enjoy new content.

The left side is also where you can find the emerging rappers. Let’s take a look at four specific artists: Zola, Josman, YL, Remy. The common thing between these artists is that they all broke out in 2018, and that their gender score is between (-17) and (-12). They represent a list of emerging artists who will most likely reach a better gender balance as their exposure keeps growing.

We also realized that rap artists who go from rapping to singing are more likely to end up on the right hand side of the dashboard, where the gender score is higher. For that reason, artists like Still Fresh, Hamza or the french group Columbine have a much higher gender score than artists like Kalash Criminel or 21 Savage.

Ash Kidd: the exception that proves that popularity doesn’t lock you in a cage

Remember I said it wasn’t easy for emerging rap artists to reach a high gender score when they are still up-and-coming? Well, fortunately there are exceptions that suggest this is not always true.

Ash Kidd is still an emerging artist, with a niche audience. However, he’s in the top 10 artists with the highest gender score in 2018. We can guess that the melodic themes and productions that define his music have given him access to a larger female audience, without charting singles or massive media coverage.

Are there trends in terms of gender balance for Hip-Hop artists?

The second dashboard allows us to scroll through the progression of the 200 artists from our study, from 2016 to 2018. We will now look at the trends and patterns we discovered.

Overall, we can say that the gender balance is evolving for much of our artist population. Only a few artists stay stable over time, such as super-established artists Beyonce, Rihanna, Akon, Nelly, etc.

Globally, the gender balance is improving for Hip-Hop artists. As it shifted to being the number one music genre, rap music became more diverse and accessible. Today, the range of artists within Hip-Hop culture is a lot wider than what it used to be. This transformation explains why the number of successful female rappers is growing and why the female audience is gravitating more and more towards rap music. We had the opportunity to present these conclusions to our Hip-Hop and Rap Music Editor, Mehdi Maizi, over here at Deezer, and we were happy to find he shared our point of view.

Strange phenomenon: the gender balance collapses at every new track release

We came across an interesting pattern during our gender balance evolution study: for every new track release, the gender balance collapses locally for a day or two before returning to its initial figure. In other words, we have a lot more men than women listening to an artist shortly after a new track is released.

Once again, popularity makes a difference

Popularity plays an important role in understanding an artist’s gender balance. Essentially, the more popular the artist, the closer to a 50% gender balance. Remember Hip-Hop music has an average gender balance of 34%, so when an artist gains popularity, the gender balance tends to improve. But the same phenomenon can be observed for artists that start their career with a high gender balance. Therefore, we can observe Aya Nakamura’s gender balance going down from 80% to 60% (of women), as a consequence of releasing “Comportement” and “Djadja”, the two biggest-selling records of her discography.

With the third dashboard, we can go into further detail about the artists’ catalogs, which will help us understand how popularity affects the gender balance.

Do different Hip-Hop songs have different audiences?

Here, we have focused on the top 50 tracks of the 200 artists that we studied. On this new map, the x-axis measure the popularity and the y-axis measures the gender.

Once again, different patterns can be identified.

Things get interesting when you analyze artists with an eclectic mix of sounds in their discography, Booba for example. Booba’s top 50 songs vary between 17% and 40%. Looking at the graphics, again we realize that content and popularity have a significant influence on the gender balance, even for specific songs.

Let’s compare two different songs from an artist. If we look at Booba’s ‘Nougat’ and ‘Petite Fille’, all of which are respectively certified platinum and diamond records, we can understand how rap music can shift the gender balance, sonically.

‘Petite Fille’ paints a very interesting picture of what a rap song could sound like in 2019: the record is almost entirely dedicated to Booba’s daughter, with a very emotional video clip starring the little girl. A melodic flow with lyrics that are a mix of love and raw rap: the song appeals to a wider range of listeners and it’s still deeply rooted in Hip-Hop culture.

Once again, popularity matters

To highlight the effect of popularity on gender balance, we looked at two American rappers: Juice Wrld and Desiigner. These two artists have one thing in common: a cohesive discography and one clearly detached and identified hit record. Desiigner smash hit ‘Panda’ peaked at #1 on the Billboard charts and Juice Wrld ‘Lucid Dreams’ record peaked at #2. The dashboard speaks for itself on this situation:

The exposure an artist receives from a hit record has a marked effect on the gender balance, as you can see with these two examples.

Compared to the previous dashboard, Aya Nakamura brings the contrasting example of an artist with a high gender balance:

Looking at Nakamura’s discography, we see that Djadja and its remixes are by far the most gender balanced records. Again, we can see that popularity tends to push the gender balance closer to 50%.

Is there a correlation between the BPM and the gender balance?

During our study we searched for other potentially significant variables that could have an effect on the gender balance. We assumed that BPM could be one of them, with certain songs and certain tempos resonating more with a specific gender.

However, we found this was not the case at all!

We can’t see any trends emerging from the BPM on the map: the top five songs with the highest gender balance have five different BPMs. Generally speaking, we observe a dispersed scatter plot for almost every artist: the fact that the scatter plot is very dispersed proves that there is no correlation between the tempo and the gender balance.

Stereotypes are never good!


We can conclude from this study that women are becoming increasingly interested in Hip-Hop music. Even if we can still observe some disparities within the artists’ catalogs (just like in the Booba example), rap music is slowly getting away from being confined to a strictly masculine audience and instead is becoming a very popular and balanced genre. Thanks to the first dashboard, we see that women are still preferring rap music from female artists. Thanks to the second dashboard, we saw that the gender balance generally shows a positive progression. And with the third dashboard we found insights on what it takes to conquer women’s hearts today, while making rap music. For all three dashboards, new sounds and popularity are the two strong variables that are significant to understand the evolution of the gender balance. Sonically, rap music is evolving into something more accessible and popularity is putting Hip-Hop in the spotlight.

Beyond the data, Cardi B is the perfect example of what the future looks like for female rappers. In fact, ever since her breakout hit “Bodak Yellow” in 2017, she’s been making great moves in the industry. Her debut album “Invasion of Privacy” was the 2019 Grammy winner for Best Rap Album, making her the first-ever woman to ever win this award. This is an open door for more and more women to get inspired to follow her path and become relevant in the Hip-Hop music landscape.

(1) We considered as “Hip-Hop” any artist with at least one album labeled as Hip-Hop in their discography.

(2) The first genre with the biggest male audience on Deezer is rock music.

(3) Gender information was provided by our users when they first signed in.

(4) Popularity was measured based on the streams made throughout the year on these artists.