March is Women’s History Month! An entire month was established by Congress in 1981 as a time to celebrate the contributions of women to American society.
Women have always been an important part of Hip-Hop music and culture. As executives, artists, attorneys, and producers, women have contributed to the culture, while often bearing the brunt of misogyny and derogatory lyrics, yet still loving and holding down the culture. In celebration of the many women who contribute to our music and culture through books, AllHipHop.com salutes some of Hip-Hop’s greatest women writers:
The author of The Coldest Winter Ever, one of the most successful Hip-Hop inspired novels to date, Sister Souljah is a rapper, writer, and activist. Her memoir, No Disrespect, is an oft-read look into the developmental life of a woman growing up in the Hip-Hop generation. Souljah was blasted by President Bill Clinton in 1992 for statements she made in reaction to the riots which followed the Rodney King trial. A wife and mother, Sister Souljah still writes occasionally contributing to Essence and The New Yorker.
Aliya S. King
An award-winning journalist, Aliya S. King, is the author of the novels, Platinum and Diamond Life which give insight into the behind-the-scenes lives of the spouses of fictional Hip-Hop stars. King has also been a ghostwriter, acting as co-author of Faith Evans memoir, Keep The Faith, and Frank Lucas’ memoir, American Gangster. A friend of AllHipHop.com, King has contributed to Vibe, The Source, US Weekly, Black Enterprise, and many more. Her latest novel, Diamond Life, was released in February.
Considered the pioneer of Hip-Hop literature, Vickie Stringer began her career as a writer and publisher while serving a seven-year prison sentence for drug trafficking. She self-published her first novel, Let That Be the Reason, almost 10 years ago, and since then, through her Triple Crown Publications imprint, has released hundreds of books by urban authors who had limited access to the major publishing houses. Stringer’s most recent novel, Low Down and Dirty, will be released on March 27.
Her first novel, A Hustler’s Wife (2003) sold over 100,000 copies, a tremendous success in the world of self-publication. She then published 10 other bestselling novels, including Death Before Dishonor, which was published under the G-Unit book line.
An author who has topped Essence's best sellers list for years, Kiki Swinson turned her life around through urban literature after serving a five-year prison sentence due to her relationship with a Virginia drug dealer. Her debut novel, Wifey, based on her life, was released in 2004. The popularity of the novel prompted four more books in the series. Swinson has since published 10 other titles, all of which have earned her numerous accolades. A Showtime series based on the “Wifey” books is rumored to be in the works.
On the nonfiction side, numerous urban female authors have penned their tales, sometimes to mixed reviews:
Let’s Talk About Pep by Sandy “Pepa” Denton
Released in February 2010, Pepa wrote about her troubled childhood, her domestic violence survival, and most significantly, her experiences as one half of the legendary rap group Salt-N-Pepa. The outspoken Pepa is also a businesswoman and transitioned her career into a reality show and an acting career.
The “Vixen” Series by Karrine Steffans
Her debut book, Confessions of a Video Vixen, made her nickname a household name. She has since rejected the "Superhead" moniker that made her famous, and has authored an additional four books. Steffans has appeared in over 20 rap music videos, and was romantically linked to numerous artists. She also appeared in the film, A Man Apart. Steffans is currently the owner of her own publishing imprint, Steffans Publishing.
Straight From The Source by Kim Osorio
The subtitle of Kim Osorio's memoir references her stint as a former employee of the so-called "Hip-Hop Bible," The Source. An award-winning journalist and executive who was blasted for suing her former employers, Dave Mays and Benzino, for sexual harassment, Osorio's $7.5 million settlement was blamed for the bankruptcy of the magazine, which has yet to return to its former glory. Years later, in 2012, Osorio was named as the new Editor-in-Chief of The Source, which is under new ownership.
It’s No Secret: From Nas to Jay-Z, From Seduction to Scandal—a Hip-Hop Helen of Troy Tells All by Carmen Bryan
Released in 2007 with the assistance of G-Unit Books, Carmen Bryan tried to shake her reputation as “Nas’ Baby Mama,” by writing a book about the events that led up to the infamous Hip-Hop feud between her daughter’s father and Jay-Z. In her memoir, Bryan asserts that she was dating Jigga for five years, while still in a relationship with Nas. Bryan’s name recently resurfaced on gossip blogs for her references to Jay’s daughter with Beyonce being named after another of his ex’s, Blu Cantrell.
Keep The Faith: A Memoir by Faith Evans
Co-written by Aliya S. King, the memoir by the former first lady of Bad Boy Records, Faith Evans, is a sensational story that gives insight into life behind-the-scenes at the hottest label of the '90s. In Keep The Faith, Evans details her courtship and marriage to Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace. Evans also talks about the controversy between her and Tupac Shakur, as well as her rivalry with Mary J. Blige and Lil’ Kim.
Decoded by Jay-Z, co-authored by dream hampton
A cultural critic, filmmaker, and Hip-Hop journalist, dream hampton was the first female editor of The Source. In that vein, she was called a pioneer who has been active in Hip-Hop music and culture for over 20 years. Her friendship with Jay-Z is well-documented, and hampton worked on the never released The Black Book, co-authored the best-selling Decoded, and is reportedly working with Sean “Diddy” Combs on his autobiography.
Women in rap may not always get to tell their stories through song and video, but as long as people are interested in hearing their tales, there will continue to be more books written by and about the “softer side of Hip-Hop" - the women in the industry. SALUTE!
Biba Adams is a Senior Staff Writer for AllHipHop.com and acts as the site’s Book Editor. An avid reader, Adams is also a college-level business writing instructor. Follow her on Twitter (@BibatheDiva).