What does it mean to be an empowered woman in 2017? Whether it's a punch line delivered by today's biggest powerhouses and newcomers or the gritty bars of the game-changing female MCs of hip-hop, every artist can agree that it's harder for a woman to make it in the industry while balancing everyday life.
For these hip-hop and R&B entertainers, each act has delivered lyrics that challenge the notions of how women should conduct themselves in society while striving to be her own independent woman. Run the world on International Women's Day with this lyrical list below.
"I'm such a f--kin' lady" -- Rihanna, "Wait Your Turn" (2009)
Since the start of her career, Rihanna has blessed listeners with anthems that endorse females driven by their natural edge. This bold declaration from her fourth studio album, Rated R, gave audiences the first real impression of her explicit, bad-gal persona -- something that the singer has lived up to in all her endeavors since.
"Everything I do, I do it with a passion/ If I gotta be a b---h, I'ma be a bad one" -- Kehlani, "CRZY" (2017)
Mirroring an attitude similar to Rihanna's (a personal icon that she shouted out in a birthday tweet), Kehlani breaks the mold of societal expectations on this single from her debut LP, SweetSexySavage. If she's going to live life, she might as well do it to the best of her abilities regardless of the haters.
"I'll be more than a lover/ More than a woman/ More than enough for you" -- Aaliyah, "More Than A Woman" (2001)
On her posthumous self-titled studio LP, the industry's "Baby Girl" provided a record that inspired multiple women, and was even interpolated on Kehlani's previously mentioned SweetSexySavage album.
"I'm bossy/ I'm the first girl to scream on a track/ I switched up the beat of the drum" -- Kelis "Bossy" (2006)
Kelis had no qualms over gloating about her boss mentality on her fourth studio album, Kelis Was Here. Taking on a term that many still find demeaning for women, Kelis reclaimed the descriptor and listed all her game-changing accomplishments.
"I see it, I want it/ I stunt, yellow bone it/ I dream it, I work hard, I grind 'til I own it ... 'Cause I slay/all day" -- Beyoncé, "Formation" (2016)
Lemonade served as one of the definitive albums depicting the experience of black women in modern-day America. This standout recounts Beyoncé's daily goal and became an anthem for boss ladies.
"Don't touch my pride/ They say the glory's all mine/ Don't test my mouth/ They say the truth is my sound" -- Solange, "Don't Touch My Hair" (2016)
Her sister was not the only artist to break down the struggles of black women in America -- Solange's A Seat At The Table is a near-bible of recounting those experiences. For "Don't Touch My Hair," Solo doesn't compromise her identity or beliefs and ultimately, demands respect.
"Yeah, I'll be the one that they love to mention/ I tell them keep on talking cause I love the attention!/ And if they wanna see me I tell them they can go high, high, in the sky/ Cause this chick's all fly!" -- Kelly Rowland, "I'm Dat Chick" (2011)
On her third studio album, Here I Am, the best friend and confidant to the Knowles sisters understands that a cocky attitude is sometimes needed. Here, Kelly Rowland embraces her supporters, knowing that they recognize her value and swag.
"If it's my life, ain't nobody gonna tell me how to live it/ They can't see the way I see it, through my eyes/ See nobody gonna know just what they're missing/ Cause it's my life" -- Tinashe, "Lucid Dreaming" (2016)
After facing struggles with her record label, the then-22-year-old singer decided to take matters into her own hands and release Nightride, a personal record that explores her darker, more personal side. This lyric in the album's opening track discusses managing your own destiny.
"I'm way too young to die (over you, over you)/ I'm way too young to cry (over you, over you)/ I'm way too dope for lies (over you, over you) / Too fly to stand in line (over you, over you)" -- Justine Skye, "Too Young To Die" (2016)
Tinashe was not the only up-and-coming R&B star to release a record about perseverance last year, as her peer Justine Skye did the same with her The-Dream and Tricky Stewart-produced EP, 8 Ounces. On "Too Young To Die," the singer doesn't allow a breakup to spoil her newfound independence, and as a result she churns out this rebellious chant.
"No, my first name ain't baby/ It's Janet... Ms. Jackson if you're nasty" -- Janet Jackson, "Nasty" (1986)
Justine Skye's 8 Ounces takes a few cues from Janet Jackson's liberation record, Control. "Nasty" probably contains one of the legend's most iconic lines -- one that would motivate pop culture enthusiasts and women offended by Donald Trump referring to Hillary Clinton as "a nasty woman" 20 years later.
"It's not right/ But it's okay/ I'm gonna make it anyway/ Close the door behind you, leave your key/ I'd rather be alone than unhappy" -- Whitney Houston, "It's Not Right, But It's Okay" (1998)
Peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1999, this Whitney Houston gem from her fourth studio album, My Love Is Your Love, provides the ultimate playbook for wisening up after being jilted, and leaving the drama behind.
"I'm every woman, it's all in me/ Anything you want done, baby, I'll do it naturally" -- Chaka Khan, "I'm Every Woman" (1978)
While Whitney Houston's 1992 cover for The Bodyguard soundtrack may be the more popular of the two, Chaka Khan's original cut has since been used to promote the celebration of women of all walks of life.
"Now tell me, do my ladies run this (Ooh yeah-yeah-yeah)" -- Ciara, "I'm Out" (2013)
Ciara created a buzz in February after she released a video of her dancing to the previously mentioned classic -- as an expecting mother. The singer has been about celebrating the different stages of womanhood, as exemplified with this empowering cut from her eponymous fifth studio album.
"Cause we dope, girls we flawless, we the poster girls for all this" -- Nicki Minaj, "Feeling Myself" (2014)
In addition to memorable bars in Ciara's "I'm Out", the Queens rapper halted the music video game in 2015 when she released the stunning visual for this Pinkprint staple, alongside collaborator Beyoncé. Consistently dominating pop culture, this line (and subsequent shout out to their "Flawless" remix) was just one of many that had listeners sweating out the whole track.
"I don't bend easy, budge or break/ Trust me, you don't want it with the female Scarface" -- Lil' Kim, "I Know You See Me" (2005)
The Queen Bee has given her Mafioso take on hip-hop since her Hard Core debut more than 20 years ago. Her Don Diva imagery is celebrated in this line from her last studio album, The Naked Truth, showing that women of the genre can be just as ruthless as their male counterparts, and the movie icons that inspire them.
"See I'm three times dope, b---h I'm no joke/ I'm one in a million" -- Foxy Brown, "So Hot" (2001)
Despite the women's side of hip-hop being saddled with competitive beefs that often turn personal in a matter of minutes (Foxy and Kim's being no exception to this reality), femcees have released some of the hardest tracks in genre history, period. Case and point: this dancehall-tinged record from the Brooklyn diva's Broken Silence, with boastful and endlessly quotable lines on why she's one of the best in the game.
"Man a di least of mi problem, so mi let eediat fi have dem" -- Lady Saw, "Man A Di Least" (2004)
Translation from Jamaican patois to English: "Men are the least of my problems, so I let idiots have them". No further explanation is needed for the defiant dancehall classic, from the genre's First Lady on her sexually charged LP, Strip Tease.
"I'm representin' for the b----es/ All eyes on your riches" -- Trina, "Da Baddest Bitch" (1999)
At the turn of the new millennium, hip-hop was introduced to this Miami MC, who would become a spokeswoman for individuals who were fearless in conduct. Trina's debut single from her first album (of the same title) would land at No. 64 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts.
"Got 'em like, 'Damn'/ Oh, got the whole club screamin', 'Damn!'" -- K. Michelle, "Got 'Em Like" (2016)
Appropriately titling her album, More Issues Than Vogue, K. Michelle released a studio album that celebrates all her flaws and shortcomings as well as her successes. The T-Pain produced feel-good anthem "Got 'Em Like" sets the tone for how she's able to command attention when at the club.
"But I ain't mad, 'cause you look good on me too" -- Keyshia Cole, "She" (2014)
On her sixth and final LP for Interscope Records, Point of No Return, the singer recovers from a faulty marriage from her estranged husband, retired NBA player Daniel Gibson. "She" embraces Keyshia Cole's self-love after the fallout.
"Ladies don't believe half what you hear, cause it's all a waste of time/ If you know you got that good, good good, everything will be just fine" -- Ashanti, "Good Good" (2008)
Off her fourth studio LP, Declaration, this track finds Ashanti exuding the confidence of an A1 lover.
"Na-na-na, diva is a female version of a hustla, of a hustla, of a, of a hustla..." -- Beyoncé, "Diva" (2008)
Borrowing a few pages from her alter ego Sasha Fierce, Beyoncé explains in this banger that anyone labeled a "diva" is just the equivalent to any man that's about chasing his paper.
"They can say whatever, I'mma do whatever/ No pain is forever, yup! You know this/ Tougher than a lion, ain't gon' need to try it/ I live where the sky ends, yup! You know this" -- Rihanna, "Hard" (2009)
In another cut from Rated R, Rihanna opens with a powerful statement that shows women can be bosses in their own right and do whatever they please, because they're just unstoppable. That's even more exemplified with one of the song's key mottos, "That Rihanna Reign just won't let up!".
"I don't give a f--k about no gossip, they whispering who's better/ Man I'm at these n----s throats, and that s--t goes for whoever" -- Tink, "Around The Clock" (2014)
In a blistering annihilation of gender politics within rap, Timberland's protegee challenges the notion that she's weaker than her male competition, while leveling the playing field for all.
"And I ain't gotta be boss just as long as I'm in charge/ And whuteva I say goes, so if I say no/ Don't ask why, I assume its because I say so" -- Remy Ma, "Whuteva" (2006)
A decade before the release of her scathing Nicki Minaj diss track "ShETHER", Remy Ma was feeding the game with her bars. In this video for this party anthem from her debut LP, There's Something About Remy: Based on a True Story, the Bronx rapper sports a crown, while explaining how to call the shots.
"Fleek the definition of me/ I keep it in check papi/ I am a whole different breed/ I'm Cardi, capiche" -- Cardi B, "On Fleek" (2016)
Another Bronx MC who's been creating a huge buzz after the release of her first mixtape, Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 1 -- and most recently,Vol. 2. This track from the mixtape series' first installation takes a popular term and flips it, to boast about how on point the former reality TV star really is.
"Don't be fooled by the rocks that I got/ I'm still Jenny from the block/ Used to have a little now I have a lot/ No matter where I go I know I came from (the Bronx!)" -- Jennifer Lopez, "Jenny From The Block" (2002)
There's no shame in repping where you're originally from after finding success, and Jennifer Lopez does that well in this personalized epithet from This Is Me Then.
"Question; tell me what you think about me/ I buy my own diamonds and I buy my own rings" -- Destiny's Child, "Independent Women, Pt I" (2000)
This self-made anthem spent a staggering 11 consecutive weeks atop the Hot 100. This particular lyric is just one of a plentiful collection that told the narrative of one of the most invincible girl groups of all time.
"Bad by myself/ I can do bad, bad by my damn self/I can do bad by myself/Yo I done it before and I can do it again" -- TLC, "Bad By Myself" (1992)
TLC exploded on the music scene with their debut Oooooooh... On the TLC Tip with their mix of attitude flavored into New Jack Swing and Hip-Hop. This chorus reminds men that T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chili have always stood on their own -- while being single -- and can continue to do that forever!
"Where my girls at/ From the front to back" -- 702, "Where My Girls At?" (1999)
Hands down one of the most classic girl group anthems of the '90s, R&B trio 702 would excite any woman needing female support in a dispute with someone else. The song from the group's self-titled sophomore LP takes on the importance of rallying cries within the community.
"Get your swagger right (If you wanna push up on a girl like me)" -- RichGirl, "Swagger Right" (2010)
Before Sevyn Streeter would become a solo artist, she was a part of a quartet that tried to follow in the steps of Destiny's Child. On this club banger, RichGirl warns dudes about approaching them with whack hollering skills.
"You see, the thing of it is, we deserve respect/ But we can't demand respect without change" -- Toni Braxton, "Let It Flow" (1996)
Released on Secrets, the sophomore release from iconic R&B singer Toni Braxton, as well as on the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack, "Let It Flow" embodied one of the movie's core principles: of women letting go of lovers that have disrespected during a relationship. It's a theme that Toni Braxton sings about all too well, driving listeners to tears while looking deeper at their self-worth.
"Who gave you permission to rearrange me/ Certainly not me" -- Erykah Badu, "Certainly" (1997)
20 years ago, Erykah Badu set the template for neo soul with the release of her debut, Baduizm. "Certainly," one of the album's many pro-woman jaunts takes a stand against anyone thinking they can fix or "rearrange" a woman.
"She has no regrets/ She accepts the past/ All these things they/ Helped to make she" -- Mary J. Blige, "Take Me As I Am" (2005)
Through all the heartbreak contained on her seventh studio album, The Breakthrough, the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul manages to build a stronger character, understanding that all her flaws contributed to the making of her today.
"Givin' up on those things that hurt me/ Made me who I am today" -- Brandy, "Finally" (2004)
In a similar fashion to Blige, Brandy also had a similar realization a year prior on this cut from her 2004 LP, Afrodisiac. Rebounding from a fake marriage scandal after the release of 2002's Full Moon, the singer returned in triumphant fashion to tell her tale.
"But don't you be calling out my name/ I bring wrath to those who disrespect me, like a dame" -- Queen Latifah, "U.N.I.T.Y." (1993)
Queen Latifah would warn misogynists about the dangers of name-calling and abuse, while also celebrating sisterhood on this Grammy winning single from her third studio album, Black Reign.
"It's a she thing, and it's all in me/ I could be anything that I want to be/ Don't consider me a minority/ Open up your eyes and maybe you'll see" -- Salt-N-Pepa, "Ain't Nuthin' But A She Thang" (1995)
As crusaders of women's rights in hip-hop, Salt-N-Pepa make it clear that women should define their own rules, and that there's a mutual understanding of that with in the community. As a result, the trio bands together to rebuke the notion of being the lesser gender and set out to motivate others to soar to the top.
"Guys watch, even some of the girls clock" -- MC Lyte, "Lyte As A Rock" (1988)
As the Golden Age of Hip-Hop was starting to settle in, MC Lyte came on the scene as one of the tougher femcees, with debut album Lyte As a Rock. Its title track told the men who were running the game to watch out for female lyricists, who were just as tough on wax and in the streets.
"Ain't changed, game don't run me, I run the game/ If I gotta keep it gritty, so be it" -- Eve, "Who's That Girl?" (2001)
At a certain point, Eve was running the hip-hop game, as her sophomore LP Scorpion spun off a No. 2-peaking Hot 100 Gwen Stefani collab with "Let Me Blow Ya Mind," earning the duo a Grammy win in the process. That breakthrough album also featured this declarative anthem, which empowered women to not fall in line with the guidelines of their respective businesses, or fall for the accompanying BS.
"My style can't be duplicated or recycled/ This chick is a sick individual" -- Missy Elliott, "We Run This" (2005)
On her 2005 album The Cookbook, the gatekeeper of quirky hip-hop celebrates her unique style. This line in particular is one of the most memorable of the many quotable lyrics to do so.
"You better check yourself, respect yourself/ You better go for self because I flow for self/ You gets no love from me" -- Faith Evans, "You Gets No Love" (2001)
In this single from Faith Evans' cleverly titled Faithfully, the singer flips the script by being the player who's only in it for herself. Of course, these lines come after the song's antagonist has played with her emotions for way too long.
"See I buy my own bags, my boots, my jeans/ Wear La Rok with my Rebel Yell underneath/ You wanna step to me?/ Said you gotta long way 2 go" -- Cassie, "Long Way 2 Go" (2006)
Exhibiting a self-sufficient attitude on her eponymous debut album, Cassie does not fall at the feet of any man in these boastful lyrics, as she can get anything on her own.
"Finally found a girl that you couldn't impress/ Last man on the earth still couldn't get this/ You're delusional, you're delusional/ Boy, you're losing' your mind" -- Mariah Carey, "Obsessed" (2009)
Usually artists don't challenge Eminem, but that didn't prevent Mariah Carey for calling out the rapper in a scathing diss on Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel. Although this beef was largely just rumored -- and played up well for the paparazzi -- "Obsessed" (which borrows a quote from Mean Girls) provides women the ultimate rejection lines.
"They gon' talk about you/ Of course they gon' complain/ They're not used to flexing" -- Fantasia, "No Time For It" (2016)
From her last studio effort The Definition Of..., Fantasia delivers lines about ignoring the haters, who aren't as accustomed to her lifestyle and will gossip regardless.
"Make me wanna ride past your house and sit/ Kick down your doors and smack your chick/ Just to show you Monica not havin' that" -- Monica, "So Gone" (2003)
These lyrics went viral (even prompting the "So Gone" challenge) after Monica performed this Missy Elliott-penned After The Storm single at Vh1's Hip Hop Honors: Ladies First last summer. They clearly indicate that the singer doesn't handle mistreatment very well.
"Girlfriend, let me break it down for you again/ You know I only say it cause I'm truly genuine/ Don't be a hard rock when you really are a gem/ Baby girl, respect is just a minimum" -- Lauryn Hill, "Doo Wop (That Thing)" (1998)
In her No. 1 Hot 100 hit from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the femcee/singer provides advice to women on how to respect themselves and not have to depend on their bodies (or sex) to get what they want.
"Don't believe that life is over/ Just because your man is gone/ Girl, love yourself enough to know/ Without him, your life goes on" -- Aretha Franklin, "A Rose Is Still A Rose" (1998)
Written and produced by Lauryn Hill (who also provides background vocals), "A Rose Is Still A Rose" from Aretha Franklin's similarly titled album also pushes for self worth amongst younger girls and women in an uplifting manner.
"Who says I must conceal what I'm made of?/ Maybe all this Maybelline is covering my self-esteem/ Whose job is it to straighten out my curves?/ I'm so tired of that image, that's my word" -- Alicia Keys, "Girl Can't Be Herself" (2016)
As an advocate for the natural look, it makes sense that Alicia Keys would serve these lines on her last studio album Here, which was all about promoting positive images for women.
"I'm in control, my worries are few/ 'Cause I've got love, like I never knew/ Ooh, I got a new attitude" -- Patti LaBelle, "New Attitude" (1984)
Patti LaBelle's always been known for her fun-loving, sassy spirit, and this famous cut from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack adds to it. These lyrics show what it means to enjoy life, while being a powerful woman who understands the meaning of newfound confidence.
"Who run the world? Girls!" -- Beyoncé -- "Run The World (Girls)" (2011)
Truly, a stated fact from the singer's fourth studio album!
Listen to the anthems from all 50 artists below: