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Growing up in the ‘90s, I was obsessed with Gwen Stefani. I can’t find any photos, so you’ll just have to imagine tween Ashley running around in track pants and crop tops. Stefani fronted a seriously killer band and she looked like she could hold her own if for some reason No Doubt started brawling. She was a chick rocker I could look up to, and she was practically alone.

I almost never saw women making anything but radio-ready pop. I had The Spice Girls, Beyonce, Aaliyah, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and so on. Some of that — particularly the first three on that short list — was great, but for the most part that kind of stuff was not up my alley. At all.

There were talented chicks in rock other than Stefani, but they weren’t as visible. Meg White was the painfully shy half of The White Stripes and Kim Gordon, talented as she is, always tended to blend into Sonic Youth.

Pop and R&B have always been the arenas in which women get to shine. Famous female musicians were solo singers or girl groups, like The Supremes, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, to name just a few. There have been standouts in the rock world — Heart, Joan Jett, Blondie — but they were rocking in a man’s world. That fact often dominated their stories: “Hey look, girls want to be badasses, too! Those crazy rebels.”

Now, here we are in 2012 and my iPod is packed with bands fronted by women. These chicks are making something not necessarily destined for radio play or record breaking sales. They’re making names for themselves in a bunch of different genres by just being good.

I grilled my co-workers on women who rocked in my childhood and before my lifetime, and even those older than me had a hard time coming up with a few. Alone, I can quickly come up with a solid list of modern bands with a woman up front or playing an equal role:

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Best Coast, Sleeper Agent, Sleigh Bells, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Matt & Kim, Cults, Florence and The Machine, Wild Flag.

That doesn’t even include those doing the solo thing, like St. Vincent, EMA, Regina Spektor or Fiona Apple (welcome back!).

And women are still kicking ass in Top 40 type stuff. Adele is the obvious example and I certainly can’t leave out Beyonce, because, damnit, I love me some Bey.

This leads me to women in hip hop. Again, we have a few examples of female rappers in the past, most notably Missy Elliot. But they’re popping up more and more lately and earning real respect.

Underneath all of the distractions physically covering Nicki Minaj, for example, is real talent at both rapping and singing. And when everyone shuts up for half a minute about Iggy Azalea’s white skin, you can hear her very real talent, too.

My love for Azealia Banks is no secret. I’ve praised her skills and prolific output because she’s earned it, but also because her “I don’t give a fuck” attitude seems genuine. I believed her when in a series of tweets she said, “When are you going to figure out that I don’t care about impressing you?” “Who the fuck wants to be famous?” and “Not every girl is interested in being nice, or liked by everyone.”

Admittedly, some of my appreciation for that attitude comes from my own angst, but emotions aside (too many emotions!), that kind of talk is a sign that she’s more focused on quality work than being a star.

So, how do I come to my point without being cheesy and obnoxious? Screw it, I can’t.

Grrls rule.