The first rule of working with Beyoncé is: You do not talk about working with Beyoncé. But that didn’t stop us from asking—after all, our sister-in-writing Clover Hope has now worked on not one, but two projects with Queen Bey. Last year, she was one of the writers behind the summer’s gorgeous Black Is King visual album (which she gave at least a little insight on), a follow-up to penning the international megastar’s history-making (and top-secret) 2018 cover story for Vogue.
To be clear, we don’t use the term “sister” lightly; until last year, Clover was the culture editor at our sister site Jezebel, which means it was nothing short of a family reunion to welcome her to this week’s episode of The Root Presents: It’s Lit! Now a contributing editor at Pitchfork, Clover was actually one of our first interviews after we launched last September, enthusiastically lending her support to The Root’s newest platform. In an equally enthusiastic return on that support, we wanted to drop her episode in tandem with her epic new offering The Motherlode: 100+ Women Who Made Hip-Hop.
Released by Abrams on January 2, the book profiles both the celebrated and unsung female forces behind an art form overwhelmingly associated with masculinity (and too often with its most toxic forms). As the publisher notes:
Some of these women were respected but not widely celebrated. Some are impossible not to know. Some of these women have stood on their own; others were forced into templates, compelled to stand beside men in big rap crews. Some have been trapped in a strange critical space between respected MC and object. They are characters, caricatures, lyricists, at times both feminine and explicit.
Speaking with The Root’s Editor-in-Chief Danielle Belton and me, Clover, who started her writing career at XXL, talks being a woman in hip-hop, striking out on her own during a panny, and the curiosity that fuels her ever-expanding career (notably, she counts her own short film among her growing list of credits). Case in point: Clover’s initial proposal for The Motherlode was to interview a few dozen female emcees. “And then as I kind of started doing more research, I was like, OK, well, I need to broaden this,” she shared. “Like, would it be crazy to try to get to 100? Because that would be a statement in itself. It’s just, you know, showing the magnitude of the volume of women who’ve been who contributed something to hip-hop.”
That initial 50 or 60 resulted in approximately 150 interviews with not only rappers but industry stylists, publicists, execs and more...and of course, writers. “[A] lot of my favorite hip-hop writers have been women,” Clover explained, and we agree—which might explain why she’s one of our favorites.
Hear more from the always curious Clover Hope on Episode 20 of The Root Presents: It’s Lit!: Clover Hope Brings Us The Motherlode, now available on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, Amazon, NPR One, TuneIn, and Radio Public. Also available is a transcript of this week’s episode.