It took simply over 25 years after hip-hop’s inception for a girl creator to interact the tradition with feminist thought. In 1999, journalist and creator Joan Morgan revealed When Chickenheads Come House to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down, as soon as deemed curio inside music literature. Except they had been music journalists or orators, ladies had been hardly ever given authority to critique and element their connection to hip-hop in longform; males largely postured themselves as specialists on the style and its roots. As hip-hop reaches its fiftieth anniversary, the attain of ladies hip-hop authors stands agency in opposition to the patriarchal ideologies which have tried to silence their tales, from fictional to autobiographical.
“I believe that in case you’re a hip-hop fan, particularly a ‘rap nerd,’ you’re used to doing a ton of analysis and discovering CDs of artists you don’t know, or actually digging within the crates,” says Clover Hope, creator of The Motherlode, which spotlights over 100 ladies who formed rap music. “A part of that course of as a hip-hop fan, I’ve found artists of no matter gender exterior of what I used to be used to, and I’m unsure that males have that very same follow. That’s what I’ve seen, it was sort of a blind spot for them.”
“There aren’t very many books by ladies about hip-hop other than the more moderen works, and naturally, there’s some seminal works up to now, as effectively,” says Kiana Fitzgerald, creator of Ode to Hip-Hop. “However I believe there have been many books about hip-hop which have a male perspective, particularly white males. I really feel like white males sort of have a monopoly on hip-hop [writing] proper now as they’ve because the very starting, sadly.”
Regardless of the sexist and misogynistic requirements which have positioned males because the face of hip-hop lore, ladies proceed to rise inside the house. Kathy Iandoli, creator of God Save the Queens, co-penned Lil’ Kim memoir, The Queen Bee, anticipated to launch in 2025. This October, music journalist Sowmya Krishnamurthy will ship Style Killa: How Hip-Hop Revolutionized Excessive Style. In her forthcoming e book debut, Girls First, author Nadirah Simmons credit ladies pioneers for his or her contributions to hip-hop. These are only a few works from a legacy of impactful hip-hop reads by ladies, like Kim Osorio’s tell-all Straight from the Supply, Sophia Chang’s memoir The Baddest Bitch within the Room, and Angie Martinez’s autobiography My Voice.
To honor ladies scribes in hip-hop tradition, ELLE.com spoke to eight authors, together with the aforementioned Hope, Fitzgerald, Iandoli, and Krishnamurthy, together with Angie Thomas, Cristalle “Psalm One” Bowen, Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, and Sesali Bowen.
Meet the Authors
Angie Thomas’ On the Come Up follows fictional 16-year-old femcee, Bri, whose dad, an underground rapper, died earlier than he made his profession breakthrough. Carrying her father’s torch, Bri faces battle when her tune goes viral amid her household’s monetary pressure. The excessive schooler is confronted with the chance to strike large, though success isn’t promised resulting from her upbringing. In 2022, On the Come Up was tailored into a movie, the directorial debut of actress Sanaa Lathan.
Clover Hope’s The Motherlode: 100+ Ladies Who Made Hip-Hop, is exactly what the title suggests: an homage to 100-plus feminine rappers throughout interviews and personalised explorations. Accompanying the ladies’s tales of triumph and underestimation are eye-catching illustrations by multi-disciplinary artist Rachelle Baker. Hope additionally narrates the audiobook on Audible alongside MC Lyte, Nia Lengthy, Lauren London, and extra, along with archival footage and music snippets to make The Motherlode an immersive expertise.
Cristalle “Psalm One” Bowen’s Her Phrase Is Bond: Navigating Hip Hop and Relationships in a Tradition of Misogyny, will get frank concerning the rapper’s lived experiences. The Chicago wordsmith opens up about being a queer artist, additionally retelling her plight with former label Rhymesayers Leisure. Additionally a guidebook for aspiring unbiased artists, Bowen offers readers the true on the hardships and mistreatment that girls endure in hip-hop.
Kathy Iandoli’s God Save the Queens: The Important Historical past of Ladies in Hip-Hop breaks down the misconceptions about ladies in hip-hop. A veteran music journalist, Iandoli challenges the notion that girls ought to be disregarded within the style, reintroducing the innumerable feminine emcees that made hip-hop a world phenomenon.
Kiana Fitzgerald’s Ode to Hip-Hop: 50 Albums That Outline 50 Years of Trailblazing Music is a vividly illustrated espresso desk e book that chronicles fifty albums which have modified the course of hip-hop. Amongst albums from Lil Wayne, Megan Thee Stallion, Drake, Lauryn Hill, and extra, the e book reads like an album, with “interludes” and anecdotes on spotlighted artists and cultural actions.
Mecca Jamilah Sullivan’s Huge Woman: A Novel brings ’90s hip-hop to life in a coming-of-age story. Younger Malaya Clondon attends a predominately white faculty and experiences physique shaming resulting from her weight. As Malaya strikes by means of adolescence, she finds refuge in music from The Infamous B.I.G., Lil’ Kim, and Aaliyah, and grows to defy expectations.
Sesali Bowen’s Dangerous Fats Black Woman: Notes from a Lure Feminist is a humorous and truthful learn that challenges our comfortability with the appropriation of marginalized identities. Each diaristic and providing cultural commentary, Dangerous Fats Black Woman tackles intercourse work, misogyny, fatphobia, and extra inside the context of hip-hop, which she expands as a co-host on the podcast Purse First.
Sowmya Krishnamurthy’s Style Killa: How Hip-Hop Revolutionized Excessive Style offers a “cinematic narrative” on the hip-hop icons that reinvented high-end style. In dialog with hip-hop artists, designers, stylists, and extra, the e book intersects the style with up to date style, and is a chronology of hip-hop’s B-boy origins to multi-hyphenate visionary Pharrell Williams’ being named Males’s Inventive Director at Louis Vuitton.
On the Foundations of Their Respective Books:
Angie Thomas: “I used to be particularly enthusiastic about younger grownup music books. Loads of them had been about different genres similar to pop, rock and even nation, and I couldn’t discover many, if any, at the moment that had been about hip-hop or younger rappers. Loads of occasions, when hip-hop was current in a younger grownup novel it might simply be like, ‘Oh that is what the cool youngsters are listening to.’ It’s that stereotype of, ‘There goes that cool Black youngsters in class listening to hip-hop.’ However that’s the music I grew up on. For a very long time, hip-hop was my literature, so I wished to lastly pay homage to that in a e book.”
Clover Hope: “I believe I simply seen that loads of—no less than historical past of hip-hop—would sort of inform the story or narrative of hip-hop from a person’s perspective, as a result of these had been the folks both proper writing these histories or sort of mapping them out. For me, I watch loads of documentaries and hip-hop chronologies and I’d at all times discover that there weren’t sufficient ladies highlighted, or I’d simply at all times depart wanting extra. What these tales have a tendency to go away out is simply the affect, as a result of I don’t know if male hip-hop followers essentially suppose that deeply concerning the ladies apart from those that they already know.”
Cristalle “Psalm One” Bowen: “Once I started writing my memoir, it wasn’t even actually a memoir, it was extra of an editorial kind of piece. When you discover the primary couple chapters, I’m kind of laying out the soundscape of the time and what these albums and songs meant to me as a younger woman rising up in Chicago. It’s simply the texture, actually, of rising up in Chicago and having folks like Widespread, Twista, Essential Battle, and Notorious Syndicate. I wished to talk about them, however as I began going by means of the timeline, I noticed, ‘Once I acquired to varsity, my life began to get sort of spicy.’ Hip-hop got here to me after I was a scholar and a fan at first, however then I began rapping and taking myself a bit bit severely. The music and my life had been so intertwined.”
Kathy Iandoli: “I conceptualized [God Save the Queens] in 2008, and at that time, there was very minimal presence of ladies in hip-hop and hip-hop books. If something, they had been like a footnote, and so they at all times begin at a really particular level which was often round 1989, just like the “Girls First” period. It might hover over till the Lil Kim period after which it was similar to, cease. I had spoken with brokers and publishers, and so they fairly frankly didn’t see a story, which I believed was wild. I really feel like opposite to well-liked perception, we weren’t at a useless standstill till Nicki [Minaj] got here. There have been artists, the labels simply weren’t funding them. It was round 2018 that I began to speak to publishers once more, had my agent, and actually introduced it to the desk—there had by no means been a e book about ladies in hip-hop, like a full historical past. I believe it was a matter of the publishing business recognizing the development, though the development was in everybody’s faces from day one. However I believe I needed to await the business to be able to create that first e book.”
Kiana Fitzgerald: “The key elements that I wished to contemplate had been how an album shifted the tradition—whether or not that’s style or philosophy or the way in which that we work together with one another—and the way an album influences different musicians, different hip-hop artists. Then additionally, how did it affect hip-hop the following 12 months, the following decade, the following 25 years? A few of these albums are very recent, so the factors is a bit bit extra malleable for the more moderen works, however for every part else I actually wished to take a look at like, ‘What did this album say to this era? What did it say to the following era?’ Loads of people can sort of get by [without] figuring out their historical past, however I believe in an effort to actually be a real scholar of hip-hop, a real one who desires to contribute to the furtherment of the style, it’s vital to know your historical past.”
Mecca Jamilah Sullivan: “Malaya is coming of age in Nineteen Nineties Harlem, New York. The identification of the neighborhood is altering and as an adolescent, her identification is coming into its personal. She’s making house for herself for who she is and particularly for her physique; she’s a giant Black queer woman. So within the midst of all of that change, hip-hop, particularly ‘90s hip-hop, is available in to information her in some ways by means of determining who she is, who she desires to be, particularly when it comes to gender and sexuality. Hip-hop, particularly in that second, has this irreverence, a raunchiness, this refusal to acquiesce to norms and requirements round sexuality. It’s kind of hotly contested in some ways in which her physique and her identification are contested. She finds a way of belonging in ’90s hip-hop. Figures like Biggie, Lil’ Kim, Aaliyah, she finds this actually affirming and a approach of kind of seeing future visions of herself.”
Sesali Bowen: “Joan Morgan coined the time period ‘hip-hop feminism,’ and I actually noticed [Bad Fat Black Girl] as a direct replace to [When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost]. It’s 30 years later, and lure feminism, I grew up on this subgenre of hip-hop and [have] a e book of essays and it combines that memoir format with cultural commentary. Black Ratchet Creativeness by LaMonda Horton-Stallings broke one thing open for me after I was in grad faculty, when it comes to enthusiastic about how a number of the imagery that’s painted in lure music. It’s so subversive to heteronormativity and gender roles, and that turned a framework for me to begin pondering in another way about this.”
Sowmya Krishnamurthy: “Hip-hop and style have been such an integral a part of one another because the starting. There actually wasn’t a complete anthology that spanned hip-hop’s historical past, and actually delved into all the vital milestones and people and nuances of the subject. Oftentimes when folks talk about hip-hop and style, it’s actually sort of from a floor stage or a cursory stage. So it’s specializing in a handful of artists and a handful of designers, however I actually wished to delve into the historical past, delve into this socioeconomic context, in addition to spotlight sure voices who is likely to be unsung heroes on this narrative.”
On the Parts of an Exemplary Hip-Hop E-book:
Thomas: “When you’re going to have a e book about hip-hop, it’s essential to determine what area of hip-hop you’re writing about. Southern hip-hop versus New York hip-hop are two very various things. However I believe it must symbolize the tradition and all of its magnificence and blemishes. I believe that it wants to talk to the center of it and I believe that it must be unfiltered. I believe it must be as actual because it will get as a result of that is what hip-hop is. Rappers taught me to say what’s on my thoughts, to jot down what I really feel, to search out my voice.”
Cristalle Bowen: “One factor that I discover in a number of the hip-hop memoirs that I’ve learn, these folks write about themselves like they by no means actually did something too incorrect. It’s kind of this glossing over occasions and classes that I believe are extra sensible whenever you talk about them from a weak place. I had already been professionally embarrassed when it got here to hip-hop, so I used to be like, ‘I ought to write my very own narrative since different folks like to inform my story.’”
Sullivan: “Hip-hop—along with being this cultural phenomenon—it’s a vital style. It’s a style that has at all times had one thing to say about inequities, about energy, about oppression, about race, gender, class, sexuality, skill and incapacity, fatness… A quintessential e book on hip-hop would heart the way it makes use of these storytelling traditions to critique and make feedback on the world round us.”
On What Ladies Provide to Hip-Hop Tradition:
Thomas: “The reality of the matter is, ladies are one of the vital dominant forces in hip-hop. We’re all by means of the tradition, we’ve been there from the start, and so usually we’re essentially the most disrespected in it. So I wished to point out that you’ve got this younger woman who has this love for hip-hop and lyricism. She research the greats, she desires to be one of many greats. I wished to pay homage to that love, however I additionally wish to pay homage to the ladies of hip-hop who’ve constructed the muse, as a result of so usually they’re so neglected and it’s so disrespectful. It was vital to sort of take that again but additionally to point out, like, ‘Hey, we’re right here. We’ve at all times been right here and we’re pressured to be reckoned with so that you higher acknowledge.’”
Hope: “I didn’t notice what number of of them simply felt a bit bit forgotten, or had been simply pleased to go away the business. Some simply wished extra recognition or simply wished a shot, like The Girl of Rage. She wished a greater likelihood than she acquired and that she deserved. A few of them, like Solé, had been pleased to go away behind one thing that was poisonous. I acquired a greater sense of the way it’s very onerous to remain sizzling in hip-hop. On this atmosphere that’s poisonous to ladies, it actually drives ladies away from staying in it. Not that I didn’t know, however there’s virtually a boiling level that they attain the place it’s like, ‘That is too harmful.’ That claims one thing about how one can defend them now, like Megan Thee Stallion—she’s been by means of the ringer. We’re fortunate to have the ability to hear and see her evolve. It’s virtually like a love factor the place you’re selecting it on a regular basis; ladies are selecting to like this and that must be acknowledged.”
Sesali Bowen: “I believe [sex positive female rappers] have such an enormous alternative to destigmatize intercourse work; they’re making a tradition through which ladies’s our bodies and ladies’s sexuality aren’t websites of disgrace.. It’s extraordinarily harmful for intercourse staff to simply do their jobs, and a giant a part of that’s due to the stigma. I believe the way in which Sukihana talks about being a intercourse employee whereas additionally selecting how she talks about it and nonetheless presenting herself as a really multifaceted individual… She refuses to permit folks to solely view her as a intercourse employee, as if that’s the one a part of her identification that issues.”
On Rappers Who Information Their Storytelling:
Hope: “MC Sha-Rock, she actually pushed herself to the forefront as claiming to be the primary feminine emcee. Clearly there’s a debate round that, however she was a part of the Funky 4 Plus One, who I’ve heard of. However within the technique of researching and chatting with her and chatting with different emcees who had been well-liked or lively within the ’70s, I’d positively acquired a deeper understanding of her life story, and simply how vital she was to this simply formation of hip-hop. … Her story flew underneath the radar, and I felt like, ‘Wow, if I’m neglecting this, then there’s positively a swath of hip-hop followers who have no idea this historical past.’”
Iandoli: “Listening to [Lil’] Kim inform her tales, and listening to what Kim needed to undergo, and what Kim continues to do on this house, it simply blew my thoughts. I’ve at all times been a Lil’ Kim fan. I’ve recognized Kim for a very long time, however the factor that I really like about this story is that I really feel like nobody goes to count on a number of the issues that Lil’ Kim was really an enormous a part of. You take a look at Lil’ Kim—style icon, unapologetic lyricist, protege of The Infamous B.I.G.—however there’s simply so many various layers to the story that Kim goes into and what she needed to do to get and keep on prime. That’s why she’s out right here and promoting out exhibits and nonetheless is the blueprint. That’s the most effective half about it—you’re not speaking a couple of story up to now tense; it’s nonetheless actively taking place.”
Sullivan: “We’re seeing more room for girls artists, for Black queer artists and likewise artists of various genders and completely different sexual identities to actually discover numerous facets of mental life and their bodily life. I look to Missy Elliott as a real hip-hop icon; she has made house for girls rappers doing gender and embodiment in a number of alternative ways. These items are deeply significant from Malaya as a fats Black woman rising up in a time the place you don’t actually have language like ‘physique positivity,’ and even queerness, like gender variance. She doesn’t have that language within the ’90s, however hip-hop provides her a approach in to dwelling into these facets of herself even with out the exterior language to assist her.”
Krishnamurthy: “When it got here to organizing the e book [Fashion Killa], I wished to guarantee that every chapter might be standalone, however additionally they bled into one another, and you’d see sure recurring characters; whether or not or not it’s somebody like a Lil’ Kim or Sean “Puffy” Combs, who sort of are vital in numerous eras and in numerous sides of the story. It was positively a giant endeavor however, I believe that may be actually thrilling when there isn’t actually a blueprint to work with; you get to create it.”
Interviews had been condensed and edited for readability.
Jaelani Turner-Williams is an Ohio-raised tradition author and editor. She focuses on digital and print media, and has written for Complicated, Dwell, Rolling Stone, Teen Vogue, and different shops. She is government editor of biannual style, way of life and tradition publication Tidal Journal.