There’s no hip-hop culture without the contributions of women. And although women have been historically marginalized, underrepresented, and underestimated in hip-hop, they have still managed to have an outsize impact on all aspects of the culture from styles we rock to the figures of speech we use.
In the past, female rappers such as Roxanne Shante, Queen Latifah, Lil Kim, Suga T, La Chat, Gangsta Boo, and Eve defied the headwinds of sexism to make their mark in music and let it be known that rap would never again be just a boys’ club. And today, as both the music and business of rap have evolved, hitmakers and culture shifters like Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, and Megan Thee Stallion have gone further to usher in a Golden Age of female rappers who are highly-visible, widely respected, and wildly successful.
Recognizing the moment and the bright future of women in rap, Spotify's editors created the Feelin’ Myself playlist to specifically support them. With over 1.7 million followers, Feelin’ Myself, the second-fastest growing hip-hop playlist on Spotify, spotlights the prominent women of hip-hop right now and those who are up next. One such emerging talent is Lakeyah — a rapping, singing, double threat who is one of the newest additions to Quality Control Music, the label home to breakout stars Migos, Lil Yachty, City Girls, and Lil Baby. Lakeyah’s songs “Young and Ratchet” and “Too Much” are featured on the playlist and proof positive that the Milwaukee-bred and Atlanta-based spitter is a force to be reckoned with who can stand toe-to-toe with any of today’s premier lyricists — no matter their gender.
Lakeyah’s ascent from local teen rapper to viral sensation and now QC signee on the verge of superstardom is a story of uncanny talent and relentless persistence. At just 20 years old, the self-proclaimed “Female Goat”— as in greatest of all time — is exemplary of an evolving rap scene with women at its forefront and the very ethos of the Feelin’ Myself playlist that reflects this moment. Spotify for Artists spoke to Lakeyah from the Atlanta recording studio where she’s working on her upcoming project, Perfect Timing, to talk about her career thus far and what it's like being part of rap’s current women-led vanguard.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you want the world to know about Lakeyah?
I just really love music. A lot of people are always asking, What do you like to do? And it’s just, like, I came in to do the music. I been living and breathing music since I was very young, and I started rapping when I was 14. It’s just in me, not on me, This is really it.
Tell me about how you first started writing rhymes and songs.
I’ve always been musically-inclined because I knew I could sing, but I did poetry when I first got into high school, and they [classmates] were like, “You really sound like you could rap on an instrumental.” After that, I went home, and, two days later, I did the “So Gone” challenge, and that was my first big viral moment, my first time putting myself out there on Facebook. I uploaded it to YouTube and it just got a lot of attention, so I just kept going. I made my own rap story, like a rendition of [R. Kelly’s] Trapped in the Closet—it’s called “Messed-up Love Story.” I’ve always been a “YouTube sensation” — or they call me that — or a viral sensation” in my city. That was me. People thought I was so lit and outside, but, no, I was at home, doing my homework, writing people's papers [for them] — but I knew I could rap.
It really was a hobby at first. I decided to take it seriously. I was like, “Girl, I got nothing to do after high school. As much as I’m into school, I knew that if I went to college, it wasn’t something I really, really wanted for myself, so I’m like, I’m gonna go to Atlanta and I’m gonna single out QC [Quality Control] and they’re just gonna have to sign me.
There’s two sides to you in your music: the aggressive boss-chick rapper who’s talking all this stuff, and then there’s this singer who gives these really nuanced, emotional songs about relationships. Tell me about that two-pronged approach to being an artist.
I’m gonna be honest. Like I said, it’s in me, not on me. When I first came out, it was always songs about relationships, and that’s just because I’m a young girl thinking I knew what love was. They just really came from the heart. I cried one time, performing one of my things on [Instagram Live]. A lot of the time, it’s really just me writing my feelings; I’m blessed to be able to put my feelings on paper. I’m a Pisces — I’m super emotional, and all I do is cry. [Laughs]. The rest of me is my alter-ego and I’m a boss-ass bitch, that’s all I know.
Tell me about some of the stuff you write and how you decide what format a song’s gonna take.
When I wrote “Easy,” I was really in my bag. I had to take a week or two away from the studio. It’s really just me in whatever mindset I’m in at the time. If I’m heartbroken, if I’m writing a love song. If I hear a hard-ass beat, it’s just easy.
It’s impressive. How old are you?
I turned 20 in February.
I’m privy to some of your stats, and what I saw, looking at your audience composition, is that two-thirds of your audience is women, and that means the music you’re producing is really, really connecting with other women. How does that make you feel?
I’m glad that people are able to listen to me and be like, “Yes, bitch! I buy my own bags, too. Fuck that nigga! My daddy ain’t got no money, either.” [Laughs]
I think your success is testament to the fact that women are seeing their emotions, their range of ways of being, represented in music like never before. Tell me what it feels like to have your art and your expression validated and to know that, as a woman, you have a place to talk about stuff in your unique experience, and that it’s well-received.
I really love that. If you listen to my love songs, I try to put a lot of imagery and a lot of storytelling into them. It’s stuff I’m really going through and to know other girls are going through it … sometimes, people being like, “I’m starting to think me and Lakeyah fucked with the same nigga!” [on social media and in comments]. Just to see that people can connect with that is amazing.
A lot of the time, I’m talking to my fans, and it’s about relationship stuff, and they’ll be like, “‘Too Much’ got me through this,” and “‘Worst Thing’ got me through a breakup.” I just love that. I didn’t have people like that [growing up], besides Tink or Nicki [Minaj]; I didn’t have that type of music. I’m glad I can be that type of person for everybody now. I’m gonna keep going with it because they love the R&B-rap vibes.
Tell me about the running theme of time you chose for your release titles?
Me and [Pierre] "Pee" [Thomas] always say, everything happens with perfect timing. It’s all about perfect timing. I don’t like basing what [I do] off what’s happening for other people because everybody has their time. No matter what’s going on with the industry right now, the sound that people are loving… everybody has their time, and I’m just grinding. Everything is based on perfect timing, and mine is coming soon. That’s why we said In Due Time. The songs are good, but, you know, one is gonna pop, or a few, and, after that, it’s [game] over.
I want to talk about a city whose name rarely comes up when we talk about hip-hop: Milwaukee. Tell me about the Milwaukee scene. It feels very Midwest and Detroit, Flint-adjacent.
I’m glad that you said Detroit and Flint-adjacent because that’s really what Milwaukee is. We’re their cousins. Chicago’s more, like, drill and stuff. Detroit is our people. We love Detroit. Our culture is the same. For as long as I’ve known me growing up there, that’s just what my culture has been. I love [Detroit rapper] Tee Grizzley and all the new artists that are coming out.
If we’re talking about Milwaukee in general, it’s crazy as hell there. I remember when they put out a list of the top ten cities by homicide [rate], it was like we were number two. It’s crazy. It’s rough. I knew I had to move to really prosper.
Let’s talk about how you started calling yourself the “Female Goat” in 2019. Tell me about putting that forth as a title and owning that.
It’s just self-proclamation. You gotta say it now if you feel like that’s what it’s gonna be [in the future], and I just feel like I’m the G.O.A.T. Really, my fanbase gave me that name. I’d dropped a little freestyle on Facebook, called “G.O.A.T.,” and I just took off with that. Now, I got a chain that says it, and I got a song with the City Girls that says it. That’s just me, and I claimed it, and I really think I will be one of the greatest. I study the greats. My momma made me listen to Jay-Z. I was a big fan of Young Money, Lil Wayne. [I like] bars, metaphors, similes. I believe I am gonna be one of the greatest.
How do you feel about navigating the industry as a woman right now?
We came from this point when it was just Lil Kim and Eve and Nicki, and to be [here now] with 20 other girls doing it and people comparing me to Cardi [B], Nicki [Minaj] and Megan [Thee Stallion]?!
It has been kinda hard though, being a girl in the industry, because it’s a lot of stuff that they put on you. They talk about your body. You get a lotta stuff, being a female. You can’t talk about your pussy, even though the men talk about selling drugs all day. And we’re just artists and we’re here to create. Me, that’s why I say what I say and do what I do. I’m not a female artist — I’m an artist, and I’m here to create and pop my shit.