October 24, 2019
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Kathy Iandoli's God Save the Queens is a timely and important book that explores how hip hop's female performers influenced the genre.
Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:
"Music lovers will celebrate this much-needed exploration of the overlooked experiences of women in hip-hop."
When I was putting this book together, I frequently found myself falling face first into YouTube rabbit holes, listening to songs by women in hip-hop that either impacted my life or were attached to some memory I had. That and the whole “research” thing, though I leaned on that reasoning for hanging out on YouTube for hours at a time during this process.
And then people started reading the book and found themselves returning to songs too. That made me feel good. The whole point of this project was to not only shed light on some of the most amazing women who pioneered so many significant moments in hip-hop, but to also remind everyone of some the more important hits to come from women throughout hip-hop’s four-plus decades. It was goal I’d like to believe I achieved, especially since while even trying to make this playlist, I returned to that rabbit hole. That being said, stopping at a reasonable number of songs was incredibly hard, and instead of just listing a bunch of hits, I wanted to bring some deeper cuts into the fold because so many are my favorites. Also, I live in a world where chronology doesn’t exist, so these are all out of order. I hope you enjoy.
Funky 4+1 – “That’s The Joint”
It wouldn’t be right to start this playlist without a female hip-hop pioneer, Sha-Rock, and this song is such a classic. As an aside, I’m sad Spotify didn’t have “Us Girls Can Boogie Too” with Debbie D, Sha-Rock, and Lisa Lee. That would have definitely been on this list.
Blondie – “Rapture”
Fun fact: Debbie Harry is from Hawthorne, New Jersey and so am I.
Roxanne Shanté – “Roxanne’s Revenge”
I mean, not including “Roxanne’s Revenge” is like spitting at God. I love how she refers to UTFO’s Kangol Kid as a “dude with the name of a hat.” LOL. Her wit, her lyrics, her fire. I remember what I was like at 15, and I sure as hell wasn’t as cool as Shanté that’s for sure.
MC Lyte – “Poor Georgie”
Find me a better storyteller than Lyte. I’ll wait. I really wanted to also include “10% Dis” or “I Cram To Understand U,” even “Ruffneck.” But there was something about this tragic story Lyte tells. Gives me goosebumps.
Monie Love – “It’s A Shame (My Sister)”
There was something about the way Monie Love rhymed that was just so skilled and intricate. Like, you can tell she wrote with the mindset of making sure her delivery was razor sharp. I believe that’s what true lyricism is; at least what it should be.
Salt-N-Pepa – “Heaven Or Hell”
“Grandma carries a can of mace / And she'll stick a .45 in your face.” Grandma didn’t come to play.
Nonchalant – “5 o’clock”
Let it go down in history that one of my biggest regrets was not getting to add Nonchalant to my book. For real. I listen to this song weekly. Still.
Neneh Cherry – “Buffalo Stance”
Neneh Cherry, too. So many artists contributed to the narrative over 40 years, and it was so hard to include EVERYONE. Let it be known: they were all on my mind.
Queen Latifah – “Just Another Day”
As a proud New Jersey native, when I hear Queen Latifah shout out street names at the start of this song (along with the beat drop), my heart skips a beat. “So it’s back to the block, time to play / it’s just another day around the way, heyyyyy.”
TLC – “Sumthin’ Wicked This Way Comes” f. Andre 3000
Left Eye (RIP) was prolific. I feel like once TLC inched further into the mainstream, her rhymes were placed second and that is SO unfortunate. This song closes out Crazysexycool, and Left Eye does this introspective spoken word verse about her life. Think about 1994, when Left Eye was pegged as a loose cannon for setting her man’s house on fire and all that. On this song, she’s kind of vulnerable in that moment: “My mishap is the fact that I’m destined to snap.” Deep.
The Conscious Daughters – “Somethin’ To Ride To (Fonky Expedition)”
Rest In Peace to Special One. The Conscious Daughters epitomized West Coast hip-hop at the time with their minimoog synthesized sounds, coming from the Bay Area. This is another group I wish I could have discussed in my book. I need a part two for all of the artists I didn’t have enough room to include!
Big Kap – “Da Ladies In Da House” f. Bahamadia, Precise, Treep, Uneek, and Lauryn Hill
This is one of my favorite posse cuts of all time. Rest In Peace to Big Kap and big ups for putting this track together. I especially love Lauryn’s line: “I do a hustle plus have time to make your babies.”
Brandy – “I Wanna Be Down (Remix)” f. MC Lyte, Yo-Yo, and Queen Latifah
When I saw this was on Spotify, I screamed and woke up my dog. I usually go to YouTube to watch the video, but OMG now I can add this to my playlists. The world makes sense.
Lil’ Kim – “Queen B@#$H”
I know, I know. This order is a little questionable, but really when is the perfect time to play Lil’ Kim? The answer is all of the time.
Lil’ Kim – “Ladies Night” f. Angie Martinez, Left Eye, Da Brat, and Missy Elliott
More Kim. Another one of my favorite posse cuts ever. Also, I know Angie Martinez kind of wants to forget her time as a rapper, but I will forever cherish those days. I loved her albums.
Foxy Brown – “Hood Scriptures”
This is my favorite Foxy Brown song, and now hopefully it will become yours.
Gangsta Boo – “Where Dem Dollas At” f. DJ Paul and Juicy J
Gangsta Boo for President. She’s got my vote.
Trina – “B R Right” f. Ludacris
The way Trina rides this beat. Smh. Such a boss.
The Fugees – “Don’t Cry Dry Your Eyes”
I have an entire playlist of my favorite Lauryn Hill verses that I enjoy presenting at dinner parties, panels, music industry listening events, anywhere that I can find anyone willing to listen and not be completely terrified by my enthusiasm. The list is quite long (she has a lot of deep cuts, believe it or not), but in the interest of giving everyone a fair shot on this playlist, here’s one of my favorite Lauryn verses. She opens the song, so then you can shut it off. No shots, but kind of...
Rah Digga – “Tight Remix” f. Pharaohe Monch and Lord Have Mercy
“Tighter than pumps on fat ladies / flows like the liquid in the IV stuck in crack babies.” That’s a “slap your forehead” line.
Rapsody – “Ibtihaj” f. D’Angelo and GZA
Rapsody is such a poet. She’s just so gifted. I love everything she’s created, but I have to admit, Eve is my favorite.
Eve – “Eve Of Destruction”
Oh hey, speaking of Eve. Here’s one of her first songs, and I love it.
Beyoncé – “Flawless Remix” f. Nicki Minaj
I could have picked so many Nicki Minaj songs as my favorite, but this verse, I don’t know, she just SNAPS. Like when the beat shifts to Outkast’s “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” horns and then Nicki comes in. Ugh. Perfect. “The Queen of Rap, slayin’ with the Queen Bey.”
Megan Thee Stallion – “WTF I Want”
This was the first song I ever heard from Megan Thee Stallion, and I haven’t been the same since.
Lauryn Hill – “Final Hour”
I had to close with Lauryn Hill. HAD TO.
Kathy Iandoli and God Save the Queens links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays
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Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
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weekly music release lists