Book Review: Flip the Script: How Women Came To Rule Hip-Hop, by Arusa Qureshi
Growing up as a first-generation South Asian Muslim, Edinburgh-based arts writer Arusa Qureshi found her cultural tribe, not in the Bollywood romances of her parents’ generation, but in the groundbreaking sound of hip-hop. early American, who she says “made me feel like it was good to be the only brown person in the room.
Qureshi then wrote his undergraduate thesis in English on “challenge in hip-hop” and there is an academic tone to parts of his analysis in Flip the Script, the latest in the series of non-fiction essays by independent publisher 404 Ink’s Inklings.
Qureshi here focuses on the unsung heroes of hip-hop. She cleverly illustrates her point by opening her first chapter with a list of five female pioneers from the birthplace of hip-hop, the Bronx, none of whom have the profile or recognition of their male peers. Only so far can Qureshi go into such a thin volume to restore balance, but she uses her platform to showcase the relatively late British scene via interviews with pioneers, evangelists, innovators and next generation righteous rappers, from its London epicenter. before tracing the rise of regional voices/accents such as Birmingham’s witty Lady Leshurr, Scottish Album of the Year winner Nova, Welsh Music Prize winner Deyah and Northern Ireland-based Filipino Sarah Santos, aka Don Chi.
She captures the eloquence and enthusiasm of Clapham duo Cookie Crew, who refused to be sexualised like many of their peers, hip-hop columnist Vie Marshall, who championed British hip-hop, especially female rappers , and ran Muthaland, a hip-hop club. night, which banned misogynistic lyrics, and Muneera Pilgrim of Muslim rap duo Poetic Pilgrimage, which found greater respect in the United States, where there are stronger ties between hip-hop and Islam.
The whistleblower narrative also examines the objectification of women in hip-hop, salutes efforts to nurture a rap sisterhood, questions the cultural control that limits the number of female rappers who can squeeze through the glass skylight, and addresses the question of what gender has to do with talent anyway.
None of her subjects seek to occupy a genre ghetto but, more than 30 years after the Cookie Crew charts heyday, the commercial profile of British female rappers still does not reflect the fertility of the popular scene. While aware of the barriers to greater visibility, Flip the Script maintains a celebratory tone, seeking positive and practical ways to tackle the deficit – which boil down to access, a platform, and recognition. It remains to be seen what opportunities the pandemic reset might create for non-binary rappers and female rappers — regardless, the call is out to “hold the door open for each other.”
Flip the Script: How Women Came to Dominate Hip-Hop, by Arusa Qureshi, 404 Ink, £7.50
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