Hip-hop is usually told through the perspective of men and usually emphasizes a celebration of male legends. Music journalist Clover Hope wrote The Motherlode to tell hip-hop’s story through the perspective of women—something rather revolutionary.
With over 100 quick profiles and vibrant illustrations, The Motherlode tells a new story of hip-hop through the women who made it and continue to shape it.
“People have done TikTok videos to ‘Push It’ or, you know, to J.J. Fad’s ‘Supersonic’ but don’t know the history of that group or what they went through,” Hope said. “They kind of hear all these songs, and they hear these artists out of context.”
So, she created “a text where you could see hip-hop from the perspective of women.” Profiles include artists from MC Sha-Rock and Da Brat to Nicki Minaj and Cardi B.
Hope wanted to provide a historical context for trending artists and lesser known artists alike. She wanted to highlight their journeys and acknowledgement their contributions that may not otherwise get the spotlight they deserve.
“History is what a dominant group decides is fact,” Hope wrote in the book.
“There are always conflicting versions when no one is keeping score, and the passage of time so easily erodes relevance. As hip hop made platinum and gold out of an art form born from racism and poverty—and gave power to black men to run a culture they could finally call their own—the women within it battled twice as hard to even be recognized,” she wrote.
Though the book is packed with history, rather than feeling like an encyclopedia, it feels fun. Each profile is an abridged biography that revolves around highlights and songs in each woman’s or group’s career. The book’s infographics and beautifully illustrated portraits by Rachelle Baker are made to reel readers into every next page.
Some fun factoids, lewd lyrics, and quirky quotes get their own pages, woven throughout the book.
The title was inspired by Yo-Yo’s 1991 debut album, Make Way for the Motherlode.
Hope’s book isn’t the only feminist hip-hop book or the only book that uplifts woman artists in the industry. But as it contextualizes deeply and profiles a wide array of influences, The Motherlode is the first of its kind.
While this book plays an important role in an industry rampant with gender inequality, lots of progress is still needed.
“The response to Megan [Thee Stallion’s] shooting in general was hard to see,” Hope said. “There were just a lot of people in general who were not understanding the seriousness of what happened or the implications of joking about it.”
Hope said she was disheartened by this and reminded of how much more progress is needed.
The Motherlode writer is also an adjunct professor at New York University and contributing editor at Pitchfork. Since starting her music journalism career in 2005, she’s penned pieces at publications like VIBE, Jezebel, Billboard and more.
The Motherlode drops February 2 and is available for preorder through various sellers.