The world of hip hop has been historically dominated by male artists, but the powerful voices of female rappers have consistently shattered stereotypes and defied the odds.
Over the decades, female MCs have created iconic, genre-redefining masterpieces, and their legacies are impossible to ignore. In this article, we pay homage to the top 8 best-selling female rap albums of all time.
From the raw, unapologetic debut of Lil’ Kim’s Hard Core to the introspective brilliance of Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill , these albums have carved out a space for women in the rap game, proving that their presence is powerful and essential. We’ll explore the meteoric rise of Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy , the distinctive sound of Missy Elliott’s Miss E… So Addictive , and the unforgettable impact of Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday as well as Foxy Brown’s Ill Na Na .
So let’s get into it. From Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy to Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday and Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill , here are the top 8 best-selling female rap albums of all time.
8. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
Released: April 6, 2018
Units sold worldwide: 3 million
Singles: “Bodak Yellow”, “Bartier Cardi”, “Be Careful”, “I Like It”, “Ring”
After a year of sensational buzz and hyped performances, Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy exploded onto the scene on April 6, 2018, shattering expectations and redefining the female rap game. Storming the US Billboard 200, the album debut snatched the number one spot and has been certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Producing five scorching singles, including the Diamond-certified smashes “Bodak Yellow” and “I Like It,” Cardi B cemented her status as the first female rapper to dominate the Billboard Hot 100 with multiple number one singles. Invasion of Privacy shattered streaming records left and right, becoming the first album by a female artist to debut with 100 million streams on Apple Music, while Cardi made history as the first female artist to chart a thirteen songs simultaneously on the Hot 100. The album’s phenomenal success crowned it as the top female rap album of the 2010s, according to the Billboard 200 decade-end chart .
7. Nicki Minaj – The Pinkprint
Released: December 15, 2014
Units sold worldwide: 3 million
Singles: “Pills n Potions”, “Anaconda”, “Only”, “Bed of Lies”, “Truffle Butter”, “The Night Is Still Young”, “Trini Dem Girls”
Released at the end of 2014, after a months-long campaign of bodying feature verses , Nicki Minaj’s The Pinkprint eschewed the dance-pop vibes of her previous album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded , to focus on her original hip hop foundations. The approach paid off. The Pinkprint sold almost a quarter million copies in the first week alone, peaking at number 2 on the Billboard 200 and has since been certified double platinum. Featuring a lineup of hit singles, including “Pills n Potions,” “Anaconda,” “Only,” “Bed of Lies,” “Truffle Butter,” and “The Night Is Still Young,” the album also included one of Nicki’s biggest smashes to date, the Sir Mix-a-Lot-sampling “Anaconda.”
6. Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday
Released: November 22, 2010
Units sold worldwide: 3.8 million
Singles: “Your Love”, “Check It Out”, “Right Thru Me”, “Moment 4 Life”, “Super Bass”, “Did It On’em”, “Girls Fall Like Dominoes”, “Fly”
After spending most of 2010 bodying feature appearances like Ludacris’ “My Chick Bad,” Trey Songz’s “Bottoms Up” and of course Kanye’s “Monster” ( one of the greatest rap guest verses of all time ), it was official – the whole world was waiting for Nicki Minaj. Featuring a line-up of A-listers like A-list artists such as Eminem, Rihanna, Drake, will.i.am and Kanye, Pink Friday generated eight singles, including the global hit “Super Bass” and Billboard Hot 100 top 40 singles “Your Love,” “Check It Out,” “Right Thru Me,” “Moment 4 Life,” and “Fly.” The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, selling 375,000 copies in its first week – the second-highest sales debut for a female rapper, following Lauryn Hill, and the highest first-week sales for a female debut album of the last decade. Pink Friday was also nominated for Best Rap Album at the 54th Grammy Awards, and Nicki received additional nominations for Best New Artist and Best Rap Performance for “Moment 4 Life.”
5. Lil’ Kim – Hard Core
Released: November 12, 1996
Units sold worldwide: 5 million
Singles: “No Time”, “Crush on You (Remix)”, “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix)”
Following her success with Junior M.A.F.I.A. and their debut Conspiracy , Lil’ Kim began working on her solo follow-up under the guidance of Biggie, who served as the album’s executive producer. With superstar producers Puffy, Stevie J. and Jermaine Dupri behind the boards and features from the likes of Jay-Z and Lil’ Cease, Hard Core debuted at number 11 on the US Billboard 200 and number three on Billboard’s Top R&B Albums, selling 78,000 copies in its first week. Lil’ Kim’s promotional campaign for “Hard Core” included a series of provocative ads, with the album cover featuring the rapper in a bikini surrounded by furs. The album generated several successful singles, such as the gold-certified “No Time” and the remix version of “Crush on You,” both of which reached the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Rap Songs chart. “Not Tonight” (Remix) became a top 10 hit in 1997, earning platinum certification from the RIAA and a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
4. Foxy Brown – Ill Na Na
Released: November 19, 1996
Units sold worldwide: 6 million
Singles: “Get Me Home”, “I’ll Be”, “Big Bad Mamma”
Released on November 19, 1996, via Def Jam Recordings, Ill Na Na marked the official debut of one of the hottest rappers in the game. Foxy had spent the past year building up an incredible buzz thanks to standout performances on tracks like LL’s “I Shot Ya (Remix),” Nas’ “Affirmative Action” and Jay-Z’s “Ain’t No Ni**a,” so when it was time for her debut, the rap world was ready for it. With the majority of the album produced by Trackmasters, Ill Na Na featured collaborations with Blackstreet, Havoc, Method Man, Kid Capri, and Jay Z and debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200, selling 128,000 copies in its first week. The album produced three singles, including “Get Me Home,” “I’ll Be,” and “Big Bad Mamma,” which featured on the soundtrack for the film How to Be a Player . Ill Na Na broke several records for female rappers , becoming the first female rap album to debut in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 and the first to earn certified plaques outside the US. The album also became the highest-selling and fastest female rap album of 1996 to achieve platinum status within just 2.7 months.
3. Missy Elliott – Under Construction
Released: November 12, 2002
Units sold worldwide: 9 million
Singles: “Work It”, “Gossip Folks”, “Back in the Day”
By the time 2002 rolled around, Missy Elliott was on fire. The Virginia-born rapper-singer-producer debuted with Supa Dupa Fly and immediately made a huge impact on the music world. Then she was dropping new albums damn near every year. Under Construction , Missy’s fourth album released via The Goldmind Inc. and Elektra Records, made a strong debut at number three on the US Billboard 200 chart with sales of 359,000 copies in its first week. Produced primarily by Timbaland, a longtime collaborator of Elliott, the album also features production from Craig Brockman, Nisan Stewart, Errol “Poppi” McCalla, and Missy herself. Under Construction was not only a commercial success but also a critical one, earning Grammy Award nominations for Best Rap Album and Album of the Year. On July 14, 2003, just over 6 months since the album dropped, Under Construction was certified double platinum for sales of over two million copies in the US alone.
2. Missy Elliott – Miss E… So Addictive
Released: May 15, 2001
Units sold worldwide: 11 million
Singles: “Get Ur Freak On”, “Lick Shots”, “One Minute Man”, “Take Away”, “4 My People”
With a potent concoction of infectious beats and genre-defying sounds, Miss E… So Addictive cemented Missy was one of the most creative and innovative artists in hip hop history. With long-time collaborator Timbaland behind the boards once again, Missy’s fourth album featured an irresistible blend of club anthems, R&B joints, and experimental tracks that pushed against hip hop’s perceived boundaries. Miss E… So Addictive boasted chart-topping singles like the sizzling “One Minute Man,” featuring Ludacris and Trina, and the iconic “Get Ur Freak On.” The album also spawned the international club hit “4 My People” and the emotional ballad “Take Away.” Upon its release, the project landed at number two on the Billboard 200, selling 250,000 copies in its first week.
1. Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Released: August 25, 1998
Units sold worldwide: 18 million
Singles: “Doo Wop (That Thing)”, “Ex-Factor”, “Everything Is Everything”
A groundbreaking blend of neo soul, R&B, rap, soul, and reggae, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill has become one of the most important albums in hip hop history . Released on August 25, 1998, by Ruffhouse Records and Columbia Records, the album explores themes of love, life, and spirituality, as well as Hill’s experiences with pregnancy and the tumultuous relationships within her former group, the Fugees. Upon its release, the album made an immediate impact on the charts, debuting at the top of the Billboard 200, breaking records for first-week sales by a female artist with over 422,000 copies sold. The album’s lead single “Doo Wop (That Thing)” was also the first solo hip hop to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. With almost 20 million copies sold worldwide, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is one of the best-selling albums of all time, and the best-selling album by a female rapper. In 2021, the RIAA certified the album Diamond, making Hill the first female rapper to achieve this milestone.