"I think that Hip-Hop has done what it was supposed to have done, which is it defied all the laws of what is statistically a music genre and what statistically is not a music genre. Because it wasn’t supposed to be here." - Monie Love
Monie Love is a two-time Grammy nominated MC and radio personality. Born in England, she emigrated to the United States where audiences would gravitate toward her wit, rapid delivery, and her love and respect for Hip-Hop. Songs like "Monie in the Middle" and "It's a Shame (My Sister)" cement her status as a Hip-Hop icon.
Photo courtesy of Cindy Ord / Getty Images.
| Excerpts from Q&A
As one of the pioneers of Hip-Hop who helped define a new genre of music, who were the musicians you drew your inspiration from?
Monie Love: [Roxanne] Shanté definitely. Sha Rock. Of course Bambaataa - Afrika Bambaataa. KRS-One. Big Daddy Kane. Salt-n-Pepa ‘cause these were all people who were out before me. I was a fan and appreciating them before I was actually able to be full-fledged and release music. I would say definitely say Salt-n-Pepa, especially amongst the girls, Sha Rock, Lisa Lee and Debbie D. These are the girls I saw laughing it up in the Beat Street movie, so definitely I would say them.
Can you see your influence in the careers of artists that followed you?
Monie Love: I’ve been told. Nicki Minaj thanked me on the first mixtape that she put out. She shouted me out said thank you for allowing her to borrow my English accent sometimes [laughs]. And honestly a lot of people have told me that I’ve influenced them. Da Brat told me I influenced her…my flow and quick delivery inspired her to be sharp and she’s very sharp on the microphone, and she puts her words together crazy. She told me she was influenced by me to do that. Left Eye from TLC also told me I was one of her inspirations. These are people that have actually said this to my face.
Can you pinpoint a moment or experience when you knew you were a part of a historic moment as a new genre of music was being formed?
Monie Love: When I had to perform a rap in the middle of the song Killer Joe produced by Quincy Jones. And we had to perform it at the Quincy Jones benefit during the Grammys, I forget what year it was, in New York. I had to perform Killer Joe on stage with Quincy Jones’ band and Chaka Khan. And when I was on stage standing next to Chaka Khan there was a 16 bar verse that I had to write specially to put in the middle of that song—it’s a classic song, Killer Joe, and there is no rap on that song. But I had to write one specifically to perform it that night for the Quincy Jones benefit. And it was at that moment, when I was on stage with Chaka Khan and Quincy Jones’ band that I was like, “This is nuts. And this was called a fad. And I’m standing here and clearly this is not a fad. And this is going to get even more bananas.”
How has Hip-Hop evolved since you began as an artist, and how do you feel about its current direction?
Monie Love: I think that Hip-Hop has done what it was supposed to have done, which is it defied all the laws of what is statistically a music genre and what statistically is not a music genre. Because it wasn’t supposed to be here. It was a music genre that wasn’t supposed to be here that everyone was like: “Oh, it’s going to come and go, this is a quick fad—" No it’s not. It’s a multi-billion dollar part of the music industry. So it exceeded our immediate thoughts. I actually am flattered that people call me call me a pioneer. I think that’s one of the biggest badges of honor…I know pioneers…I hear them. They are so revered by me and my entire set because we know who they are. And then for us to be considered pioneers it’s like, “Oh, wow, we made it into that Renaissance class!” But it’s definitely evolved and done what it’s supposed to do; with the good there’s always the garbage and a lot of it is garbage. What can you do? Garbage runs its course in everything and in anything...
Where do you see Hip-Hop evolving in the next 40 years?
Monie Love: One of the immediate things I see happening, I see the Grammys opening up more categories in the Hip-Hop genre of music again. I got nominated two years in a row, and when I was nominated there was a male and female category. What happened over the years - it [Hip-Hop] has been so good and then it got into this sort of dive and became stagnant and they condensed everything and it became one Hip-Hop category. So I see the fruitfulness going back in the direction where they’re actually going to have to open it up—and this is just one minute example of how much change I think is about to happen. The Grammys will have to open up the Hip-Hop genre again and split it up because there is going to be so much more colorful art happening and not that stagnant sense of standstill that it’s been for a few years.
In your opinion what are some of the most influential contributions to Hip Hop in its 40-year history?
Monie Love: That is such a bad question [laughs]. It’s so unfair. Where do I begin? Run-DMC for kicking down initial doors and introducing the idea of endorsements through Hip Hop. That was a very important step and Run D.M.C. kicked down that door…that introduced all the things that you see happening now: Jay-Z and Samsung, 50 Cent with his headphones and smartwater…Run-D.M.C. kicked down that door of “yes we are marketable, yes we are Hip-Hop we can market your whatever.” They did that for us. That was very important. Public Enemy allowed for the world to know and understand that there can be political tones and stands and live through Hip-Hop in a manner that is organized and in the best of times they can command the youth. I would love to see that happen again today…can you imagine when the Trayvon Martin verdict came in—we went through that as teenagers. I moved here in 1988 from England. I was here when Yusef Hawkins died in ’89. I was here when we were teenagers and were confused and livid and didn’t know how to release it and it was Public Enemy that brought all the teenagers together in Brooklyn for the Fight the Power video that Spike Lee filmed… we let all our frustrations out on that day on that video set. Watch that video, watch the emotions of the faces. That’s what we were doing at the time because we were angry and we had no outlet…and I just think to myself, God I wish kids had something like that right now. So I would say those two [groups] were two of the biggest influences…which makes sense as to why they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame.
What do you consider your greatest contribution to Hip-Hop?
Monie Love: Oh, wow, that’s easy for me. My greatest contribution to Hip-Hop was allowing the United States of America to know and understand exactly how far they reach, and how influential they are to children in completely different countries because I am the import. I’m one of the first successful imports on the Hip-Hop tree of life.