There’s no doubt that women in hip-hop are having a huge moment now compared to previous decades. From mainstream pop stylings of Doja Cat, Sexyy Red’s hypersexual charm, and turn-up vibes of Glo-Rilla to the pro-Black radicalism Noname and Doechii's carefree experimentation, females are at the forefront. As hip-hop reached its semi-centennial birthday, there have been opportunities to explore exactly how we got to this moment. One individual who has spent the past several years extensively documenting the culture and the importance of women’s involvement is journalist Clover Hope.
According to the New York native (by way of Guyana) with bylines in outlets including Pitchfork, Jezebel, and The New York Times, this moment also allows women who were pioneers going as far back as the late 70s or early 80s to get their flowers.
“Women like the Sha-Rock and Roxanne Chante’s of the world are now being in conversations with the younger generation,” Hope told BET.com. “It’s almost like we’re seeing this mix of generations right now where so many of the women over decades are visible in a new way or just being appreciated in a new way.”
There isn’t a better example of this multi-generational bridge building this year than the dream hampton directed Netflix limited series Ladies First: A Story of Women in Hip-Hop or even Hope’s Audible adaptation of her 2001 book, The Motherlode: 100+ Women Who Made Hip-Hop.
Narrated by Hope alongside other notable figures within the culture, such as Remy Ma, Angie Martinez and MC Lyte, the extensive journalistic work shines a spotlight on over 100 women who have played pivotal roles in shaping hip-hop. When recording the nearly eight-hour Audible adaptation, she mentioned getting emotional while narrating parts due to seeing all of the stories she could compile in one place.
“The thing is that even now, there’s not another place where all of these stories live in just one book,” said Hope. “It was also just the amount of interviews and just that legwork that went into it. It was all for the purpose of telling these stories that just weren’t easily accessible.”
That ability to produce such an extensive body of work stems from her last year in college interning for Vibe Magazine. There, she witnessed the impactful work of pioneering woman journalists like Lola Ogunnaike, Danyel Smith, dream hampton and Mimi Valdez, the outlet’s then Editor-in-Chief. Hope described how those individuals have diversified their storytelling methods over the years.
“I’ve seen women journalists just evolve into other spaces like dream hampton and Mimi Valdez getting into filmmaking and television or Danyel Smith doing podcasts and audio,” explained Hope. “It’s like we have to find new spaces to tell the stories that need to be told. Right now, I think a lot of those spaces are audio and visual.”
Like the various women she’s been able to watch and absorb experience from, Hope has also been able to pivot into visual mediums. Before the Audible adaptation, she was a co-writer for Beyoncé Black Is King film and Consulting Producer for Hulu’s RapCaviar Presents docu-series. Hope suggested that those opportunities came through connections and people she knew in journalism were an organic experience.
“Because I was open to it, I just kind of stepped into that door basically,” Hope said. “It’s also realizing that you can translate many of your journalistic skills and expertise into those fields. Like working on RapCaviar Presents, it was still activating the same research skills, storytelling abilities, and outlining I have already done for years.”
Hope’s journalistic abilities and understanding of hip-hop made her an adjunct professor at New York University. This past summer, she taught a class on culture writing and gave insight into why higher education has embraced hip-hop.
“I think academia has realized in whatever decade or so, how much crossover there is and how much hip-hop can be dissected in a way that says something about society,” Hope explained. “It's already a genre that 's already socio-political, it's touching on so many just kinds of American ideals, beauty standards, just what's going on in the hood, what's going on in Black America, different Black American experiences, different just cultural experiences. And I think having it studied in school is just basically a realization that there are so many layers to it.”
Hope’s time as a journalist covering hip-hop has fostered a unique appreciation. It’s allowed her to uncover new aspects and reveal truths. Most importantly, it’s given her an outlet to discover all the dark corners of hip-hop, especially for women.
“I’ve appreciated that women in this space take their time and energy to not just document the culture, but also kind of challenge it, ” Hope explained. “Point out the places where it could be better, point out where men are not doing their part and point out where just hip-hop in general is not doing its part to protect women.”