PERFORMING ARTS

The Motherlode: 100+ Women Who Made Hip-Hop

Abrams Image. Feb. 2021. 272p. ISBN 9781419742965. pap. $24.99. MUSIC
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Rap hadn’t existed for long before women were sidelined, struggling for a place in an art form–turned–cultural juggernaut–turned massive media industry. Drawing on years of interviews with hundreds of rappers, journalist Hope (New York Univ.) emphasizes how much these women are already a part of hip-hop history, acknowledged or otherwise, through their individual and collective achievements. The book includes the expected success stories of the artists who are recognizable even to casual fans across the decades—Queen Latifah, Salt-N-Pepa, Lil’ Kim, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, and more—but a thread of histories of missed chances and lost potential also winds through the book. Most intriguing are the profiles of rap’s early innovators, before the internet, especially social media, made the genre’s development accessible to mass audiences in real time. Hope also argues that the rise of social media has not necessarily leveled the playing field, but has made it more accessible to women artists. Baker’s dynamic portraits of the artists enhance the volume.
VERDICT An appealing survey that highlights many unsung heroines along with the superstars. For hip-hop fans and music historians alike.
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