monie, female rapper

50 YEARS OF HIP-HOP: Monie Love On Being A Trailblazer In Hip-Hop And Inspiring A New Generation Of Fem-Cees

British multi-hyphenate rapper, DJ, and radio personality Monie Love (born Simone Gooden) became a reckoning force in hip-hop, kicking down the door when she arrived on the music scene in the late 1980s. Her dominance ushered in a new wave of female artists from England.

However, Monie Love holds the coveted title of being the first British female hip-hop artist to be a two-time Grammy Award nominee. Pioneering her way through a traditionally male genre, she created feminist anthems such as “It’s a Shame (My Sister)” and “Ladies First” alongside rap royalty Queen Latifah. Her lyricism, artistry, and recognition for changing the game on and off the mic have been widely recognized and influential for legions of female artists. 

In celebration of 50 years of hip-hop and on the brink of LL Cool J‘s annual Rock The Bells festival, where Monie Love is slated to take the stage, BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke with the female emcee about cultural appreciation versus appropriation, being a trailblazing force, early teachings that affirmed her individuality and identity, and her hope for the new generation of leading ladies in hip-hop. 

As one of the first Brit Hop artists to be signed and distributed worldwide by a major record label and the first British female hip-hop artist to be a two-time Grammy Award nominee, you’re definitely a pioneering force in hip-hop. On your show, Monie In The Middle, you said you’re “claiming who you are within the culture as a cultural icon.” Do you feel you get the respect of a cultural icon and paving the way for other female emcees?

Monie Love: Initially, the first thing that needs to be considered with that statement, which I stand by, is that I’m having a conversation with my daughters, who put the show together based on our living room conversations. The show is a bird’s eye view and an in-the-room view of our conversations as a family. With my children and how I’ve raised them, I have always implemented the rule of thumb from when they were born into adulthood, which is, I am your biggest influence. I don’t care what’s going on outside in the world. Nothing outside will influence my children more than me. So in the company of my daughters, I am a cultural icon. 

I came from a completely different country because I fell in love with a culture, I came to the belly of the beast where that culture was created, and I earned my stripes and respect from my peers and, especially, earned from men the right to take me seriously as your lyrical equal, as your artistic equal. Every man I’m friends with in this business can tell you, “Monie got them chops. She earned every stripe.” All those things empowered me during our conversation to say to my daughters, ‘Yes, I’m a cultural icon.’ A cultural icon doesn’t necessarily mean you sold X amount of records. It means you did something fundamental. If you’re an artist that influenced somebody that then went on to influence any of your biggest stars today, that person, the root of it, to me, is a cultural icon.


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I noticed your recent Instagram post asking people to chime in on what the Native Tongues mean to them. I didn’t see you on the video, so what does Native Tongues mean to you, especially being a part of the collective?

It’s family, and it’s organic. It was and is a perfect place for me to have been, to be now, and to always be because it speaks to everything when I walked into this culture, believing within myself and carrying with myself, which is the keyword, myself. Meeting the Native Tongues was perfect because I could still be myself. If I had to change, I probably would’ve bounced, and I wouldn’t have had a history with the rest of the groups. We’re all like-minded, from [Queen] Latifah to De La Soul, The Jungle Brothers, Black Sheep, and A Tribe Called Quest. It’s effortless, organic, and it just is.

You’re known for challenging the status quo, owning your individuality, being unapologetic, and showcasing your creativity. What are some lessons that helped you come into your own?

My dad is something else! I grew up in England, yet I knew exactly what was happening in the United States with the Black experience, and that’s only because of my father. My father is a heavy origin person with deep roots in Africanism. He’s very hands-on. He’s fully versed in all the struggles and teachings of Black people around the world. He had me reading things I couldn’t fully understand from age 13. 

Now I go back and read George Jackson’s Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson, which was a struggle about the Black experience, racism, and segregation. He also had me read The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver. These are the things my father had me reading at 13 years old. 

It was pretty difficult, if at all, to escape a strong sense of self, a strong sense of the people that are my descendants, and just the whole breakdown of being Black in the world. I was raised with a strong sense of individualism, so I held onto it. My parents warned me about how the world works and how it tries to strip you of your individuality. It’s a jewel, and you hold on to that. I was steadfast, and I held onto my individuality, possibly in some people’s opinion, to a fault. But it is what it is, and it makes me who I am.

Photo of Monie Love, circa 2000 (Photo: Michel Linssen/Redferns)

There’s a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. So what are your thoughts on the limits of copying cultural signs or symbols for the sake of art in today’s society, especially in hip-hop?

When you say the word “appropriation,” people automatically think of white folks doing Black music, and it’s appropriation. In some aspects and cases, that could be it. But I’ve seen all kinds of people appropriate regardless of their color. I’ve seen people eat off hip-hop culture that care nothing about it. If that’s what you’re comfortable doing, stepping into something that you have absolutely no real love for, no real understanding of, and it’s just a means to an end for you for me, it’s a waste of your time. 

If it’s not something you plan on being in for the long haul, if it’s not something you believe in, it’s not something you bleed, then that’s appropriation to me. It’s nonsensical because what you put out as far as music within hip-hop culture could be so much better if you actually bled the culture. No matter how big of a hit and how dope it is, it would still be that much better if you really believed in what you were doing and bled the culture. Those are the types of creations that get celebrated 50 years later.

What would you like to see continue, change, or evolve in the next 50 years of hip-hop?

I’m loving the explosion of women. I love it because I remember the days when it was rough for the girls. I want it to continue coming, and I would like to see more variety. I love to see the girls [with] sexually prowess. They’re very explosive with their sexuality, and they own it. I want the girls who may not take that route to be brave enough to step up. I would love to see the music platforms that are putting out music to take a chance on some of those girls, too.

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