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The women behind the beats. The pioneers who broke barriers in Britain and the US from Sha-Rock to Speech Debelle. Neneh Cherry honours the trailblazers and game-changers.

Women in hip-hop have always had to fight for their voices to be heard, but they are integral to the billion-dollar industry hip-hop is today, and they have always been critical to the genre’s story - right back to its Bronx origins in the 70s. 



This episode takes a look at the first female pioneers of the genre - from entrepreneurial Bronx teenagers like Cindy Campbell and MCs like Sha Rock, Debbie D and The Mercedes Ladies to super-producer Sylvia Robinson. Also, the first woman to record a solo rap record, Millie Jackson, the first British b-girl, Bubbles, rap duo The Cookie Crew, and Roxanne Shanté, who burst onto the scene in the 80s as the fiercest rapper in the game. (00:59:00)



The golden era of hip-hop was dominated by male stars, and its talented women faced a new struggle to make their voices heard as the genre exploded in popularity. With first-hand accounts from leading artists, producers and industry figures, including Roxanne Shante, Salt-N-Pepa and Monie Love, this is the story of how women found their voice and place in hip-hop. (00:59:01)



Hip-hop’s great women pioneers have always had to struggle for recognition alongside male stars, both in Britain and in the US. But starting in the mid 90s, women have climbed to the very top. Icons Eve and Rah Digga reveal their struggles to reach both artistic and commercial success, alongside all-time greats Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott. 

After this formidable group of women, it took time for a new generation of female stars to emerge, but in Britain in the 2000s, hip-hop women took off again. Lisa Maffia, Estelle and Speech Debelle all reveal their own stories, and there's a look at the younger generation of female megastars: Nicki Minaj, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. 

Fifty years after the first pioneers, hip-hop women have well and truly made this music their own. (00:59:05)