Spotlight on the women of early hip hop

Synovia Knox, who joined the library in March as a Programming Specialist in Middle & High School Services, could talk about hip hop all day. This spring, she created a “Hip Hop Through the Ages” wall display on the Main Library’s second floor to hype up the library’s participation in the 50 Years of Hip Hop grant program.

The display, in a space where high schoolers regularly hang out, shows influential artists from the 1980s to today. And it’s inspired some good discussions with patrons and library staff—as shown above, where Synovia (right) breaks down the decades with Latine Language & Culture Librarian Nora Sanchez (left).

Below, see what Synovia has to say about just a few of the women in early hip hop. And come check out the display in person!

Collage of album covers: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lyte as a Rock, Roxanne's Revenge, and Hot, Cool, and Viscious


Salt-N-Pepa & MC Lyte

“They were the blueprint for women in rap. They were honestly some of the first MCs in the scene, so pivotal.”

Roxanne Shante

“She was 14 when she broke through … in a genre that was just starting and heavily dominated by older men.”


Lauryn Hill

“I feel like she represents Black women in hip hop, who were not heavily represented at this point. Her place in rap as one of the most influential female rappers, even to this day, is something I will never be able to overlook.” 

2000s & on…

Missy Elliott

In 2019, Missy Elliot became the first female rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

“She broke down many barriers for Black women in rap,” Synovia says.

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