A Review of "God Save the Queens: The Essential History of Women in Hip-Hop" & Open Letter To Lord Jamar
It’s OUR Culture Too: Women in Hip-Hop Deserve Better.
I remember being a kid, riding in my mom’s car and listening to the radio. I remember all of the classic hits of the 80s. I still remember how I felt the first time I heard, “My A.D.I.D.A.S.” But most clearly of all, I remember the first time I saw the video for “Push It.”
I remember it feeling so good and so special to not just hear, but see girls… rapping. They were good too, so pretty, with their unique haircuts and clothes. Literally, every girl I knew got an asymmetric haircut after that. Salt-n-Pepa gave girls who were falling in love with hip-hop hope. They gave us reassurance that our voices mattered in this thing that was supposed to be the voice of the streets.
Dear Lord Jamar, How could Hip-Hop be the voice of the streets without women? Do you not think that we walk those very same streets? We struggled too. We hustled too. Hell, the biggest dope dealer I ever knew was a girl named Pig. Her name didn’t fit her, she was actually really pretty and you should have seen her tearing up Detroit streets in that Mustang 5.0.
It is more than sexist to erase women from Hip-Hop culture. To say that our words don’t matter because you can’t relate to them. That is more than sexist, it is, in fact, a form of violence. It is a deliberate erasure.
It is violent to talk about how this culture emerged in the South Bronx in the late 70s and 80s among a recession and a drug epidemic as if there were no women there. No women affected. As if our stomachs didn’t rumble, and our daddies didn’t leave. It is violent to act like our schools weren’t also f**ked up, that our momma’s didn’t smoke rocks, our friends didn’t get shot.
To be erased from our own history is a violent crime, and it is not one that we are going to allow to happen. We will not allow ourselves to be erased from a culture that WE helped to build. I mean, for God’s sake...it was Kool Herc’s SISTER who threw that party on August 11, 1973!
We are here. We have always been here. This is OUR culture too.
The biggest slight against female rappers in 2019 is to say that they are, “all rapping about the same thing.” It is to say that their celebration of their sexuality, their hustle...it is boring. As if we haven’t heard 50,000 songs about women and weed.
For men to say that they can’t relate to a rapper who is female is oxymoronic, because then, why do WE listen to you? Why do we love the culture? Why is it that we can enjoy listening to you, but you can’t enjoy listening to us?
How ironic to be shut out of a culture that, in fact, refers to itself as HER.
Hip-Hop ignores the voices, input, and contributions of women so consistently. Embracing sexism as the worst of its American qualities, (the other being hardcore capitalism). Most African tribes were matrilineal. The words, thoughts, teachings of women were exceedingly important. So, no… Lord Jamar, you are not standing in righteousness when you ignore us. You are instead, whitemanning hard than a mf.
In my friend Kathy Iandoli’s new book, God Save the Queens: The Essential History of Women in Hip-Hop, she combines both a chronological and topical approach to writing about the history of women in hip-hop. Kathy herself both a woman and white, has had her own struggles loving this culture. In the prologue, she talks about the first time she was called a “c**t” on live radio. To be a woman in this industry is to be consistently assaulted verbally, trust me. Latifah didn’t ask, “Who You Callin’ a Bitch?,” for no reason.
Kathy Iandoli is a noted Hip-Hop journalist with over 15 years of experience in the industry. Her contributions to a variety of media outlets lend themselves to the importance of the book. Kathy has written for VIBE, The Source, XXL, Rolling Stone, Billboard, Cosmopolitan, Vice, and more. Her writing has contributed immeasurably to Hip-Hop’s lexicon.
In writing God Save the Queens, Kathy finally does what dozens of histories of Hip-Hop have never even attempted, telling the stories of women in the genre. Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop has been considered one of the definitive histories of Hip-Hop culture, and it decisively excludes the histories of women except in their role to complement male rappers. The same is even more true for newer books like The Rap Yearbook by Shea Serrano.
Without God Save the Queens, it is possible that the contributions of dozens of important female hip-hop artists who have sold tens of millions of albums, starred in monumental films, and influenced the direction of the culture would continue to go unrecognized.
In her book, Kathy talks about history, her own experiences, and some opinions about how and why women in this industry win and lose. About how they struggle and suffer, about being underpaid, and oversexualized. Through exclusive interviews with female rap legends, Kathy is able to provide insight into the inner workings of the early days of the industry. In the book, Monie Love talks about beef among female rappers, “I want to be fair by saying there was beef amongst us back then,” but, she explains, “to shut down somebody else behind closed doors was not ever a thought that crossed any female’s mind.”
The book is well-written and explores women in Hip-Hop from every part of the country.
God Save the Queens takes the reader on a journey from Hip-Hop's earliest days to it’s most recent. Near the end of the book, Kathy talks about an upstart rapper who is the daughter of a female rapper, Megan Thee Stallion is the daughter of the late Holly Thomas, who rapped under the name Holly-Wood.
It is a full circle story. Meg’s and the book’s.
God Save the Queens: The Essential History of Women in Hip-Hop is an urgently needed history of the women who are an inextricable part of this amazing culture. In a year where Joe Budden came in #3 on every list of top rappers and Missy dropped a project for the first time in 14 years. There has never been a more important time to remind the world that it was and still is like James Brown, the most sampled artist ever in hip-hop once sang, “This is a man’s world… but it wouldn’t be nothin...NOTHIN without a woman or a girl.”
Biba Adams is a Senior Contributing Writer for AllHipHop.com. Her work has appeared in VIBE, Revolt, Ebony, and more. She is currently back in her hometown of Detroit writing about food, culture, and her city while procrastinating on a novel, about… Hip-Hop.