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

Cameron Dempsey

Kathy Iandoli opens God Save the Queens: The Essential History of Women in Hip-Hop with a fiery story of when she was called a vulgar, misogynistic word on public radio. While this anecdote is seemingly unrelated to the history lesson to follow, this moment makes clear Iandoli’s intentions with writing this book: to highlight the difficulty of obtaining respect in the music industry as a woman, and to create a platform for the female emcees who have been disrespected and unacknowledged for too long. To this end, Iandoli has succeeded in crafting a thorough and personable breakdown of women in hip-hop. Big names from all eras are covered, from Cindy Campbell to Megan Thee Stallion – and Iandoli shines the spotlight on everybody in between.

Needless to say, this book is a must-read for fans of hip-hop music. But even a reader with only a passing interest in hip-hop is bound to be enthralled with Iandoli’s recanting of classic beefs, albums, and artists, all of which are written with a blend of objectivity and conversational coolness. However, Iandoli is not an author who is passive in the face of her subject matter. The book is meticulously critical of the way women in hip-hop are treated not only by the music industry, but also by their male counterparts, and even by society at large. She is quick to note, as she puts it, the “First Lady” mentality many rap collectives and labels had; the belief that there could only be one woman on a given roster. This mentality, as Iandoli frames it, has had ramifications that still exist within today’s music world, most notably infighting between female emcees. Iandoli also interviews Rah Digga, who coined the terms “Sexy Kitten”

and “Nubian Goddess” to describe the two marketable categories of female hip-hop artists as either hypersexualized or prude; a dichotomy that has also proved to be immensely harmful and has allowed labels to groom female emcees into things they never wanted to be when pursuing music.

Inserted amidst these thought-provoking lessons lie the heart of Iandoli’s book: a series of self-described “interludes” that detail personal stories, or Iandoli’s analysis of some of these situations. Perhaps the most heartfelt of all of these is when Iandoli details her idol Lauryn Hill’s disappearance from the music industry altogether. Setting her sights on an old promotional video for The Fugees’ The Score showing Lauryn Hill playing the guitar, Iandoli writes that she wonders if the current Lauryn, “would play those chords and think of a happier time, possibly the last time she had been so happy.” (Iandoli 185). Much like the ones found on many rap albums, Iandoli’s interludes add an immense amount of personality to the book.

Consisting of only 20 short chapters, Iandoli has crafted a book that is perfect fit for readers who appreciate brevity and detail, which she provides whilst not sacrificing the scope of her vision. God Save the Queens: The Essential History of Women in Hip-Hop is exactly what it claims to be in its title: essential. With imagery that is bound to transport the reader to hip-hop’s origins, and an impeccable soundtrack to accompany the journey, Kathy Iandoli has done right by the female emcees who have come before her, finally giving them some semblance of justice as well as their long-overdue respect.

God Save the Queens: The Essential History of Women in Hip-Hop by Kathy Iandoli. Published by Dey Street Books, New York City, NY. October 22, 2019. 352 pages.