cover image God Save the Queens: The Essential History of Women in Hip-Hop

God Save the Queens: The Essential History of Women in Hip-Hop

Kathy Iandoli. Dey Street, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-287850-2

Iandoli (Commissary Kitchen) explores the role of women in hip-hop from its inception in the early 1970s up to the present in this insightful music history. Women have always struggled to get mic time, Iandoli writes: when early groups formed, “only one woman per male crew could exist,” and, in the 2000s, “record labels started placing a cap on the number of female rappers they signed.” Even today, Iandoli notes, feuds between stars such as Nicki Minaj and Cardi B send the message there’s only room for one woman at the top. Throughout the history of hip-hop, women climbing the ranks have often been forced to choose between two archetypes: the “Sex Kitten” and the “Nubian Goddess,” who “embraced pro-Black beauty.” And over time, artists who found success adopting personas “who loved sex, violence, and designer fashion” forged an even narrower standard: “women now had to be sexy—the dirtier the better.” Iandoli gives attention to talented women who were lost in that shuffle, to the big names who opened avenues for others (such as Roxanne Shanté, Lauryn Hill, Monie Love, and Queen Latifah), and to contemporary artists including Megan Thee Stallion who continue to evolve the genre. Music lovers will celebrate this much-needed exploration of the overlooked experiences of women in hip-hop. Photos. [em](Oct.) [/em]