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Air Date: 2/5/21

The Root Presents: It’s Lit!


Ep. 20 - Clover Hope Brings Us The Motherlode

Danielle Welcome to It's Lit, where all things literary live at The Root. I'm Danielle Belton,
the editor in chief here with the managing editor of The Glow Up, Maiysha Kai.

Maiysha Hey!

Danielle We have an awesome guest today, Clover Hope, who is an accomplished


journalist, writer and now author. Clover is also practically family as she was a colleague of
ours back when she worked as Jezebel's culture editor. Now she's a contributing editor at
Pitchfork and has just published her first book, The Motherlode, which is a comprehensive
history of over 100 women who helped shape hip hop. But we spoke with her in
September of 2020, not long after the release of Beyoncé's Black is King, which Clover
happened to co-write.

Maiysha That's right. And you know, that's not where her relationship with Beyonce
actually began. I don't you know, I don't know...Who knows how Beyoncé gets put on. But
she got hip to Clover a while back and actually had Clover pen her twenty eighteen
history-making cover story for Vogue in which Tyler Mitchell became the first black
photographer to shoot a cover of Vogue. But you know, what we didn't talk about is that
our friend Clover wrote that story with Beyoncé. Translated Beyonce's voice to the page.
Unfortunately, you know, when you work for Beyoncé you can't really, you know, I guess
the first...

Danielle The NDAs are tight!

Maiysha Yeah, the first rule of working with Beyoncé is, you know...

Danielle You don't talk about working with Beyoncé.

Maiysha Right, exactly.

Danielle Not if you want to keep working for Beyoncé.

Maiysha But Beyoncé knows a good thing when she sees it. And that's the important thing
here. And so we are very proud to have one of our own putting out this incredible book of
100 women who shaped hip hop. And I don't think there's been a better time to really talk
about this. I mean, it's long overdue. But I mean, women in hip hop have been deserving
this for a while. Wouldn't you say?

Danielle Oh, definitely. Behind the scenes, in front, everywhere. Producing,


spinning...Women have been part of hip hop since hip hop began. So they deserve their
due.

Maiysha They deserve their flowers, as we like to say.

Danielle Exactly. All right. So we get to the interview?

Maiysha We absolutely should.

Danielle Welcome Clover.

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Air Date: 2/5/21

Clover Hope Thank you. Good to see you again.

Danielle It's good to see you. Welcome to It's Lit!

Clover Hope Great name.

Danielle Thank you. I know. I love it. I came up with it all by myself.

Maiysha She sure did.

Danielle So thank you so much for joining us today. It's like a little reunion. For those of
our listeners who aren't in the know, until very recently, Clover was the culture editor at our
sister site, Jezebel. So it's great to have you back as a featured guest.

Clover Hope Thank you. Yeah. Thank you for having me.

Danielle Oh, it's no trouble. Now, obviously, we don't really need to break the ice with you,
but since It's Lit is a podcast about Black books and writers, we'll have to kick off each
episode by asking our guests, that means you, to name at least one book that you have
considered life-changing, life-altering, life-affirming...Blew your mind. What was that book
or books for you?

Clover Hope OK, maybe I have two. One is definitely The Bluest Eye. It was I mean, it's a
book that I've read a few times. It's kind of a book that I read early in life before I ever was
a professional writer that kind of made me want to write. My thing with that book is that it's
a book that I wish I would have written or a book that like. If I was going to write a novel
that's the type of book that I would want to write, it was just like the perfect kind of book for
like a 14-year-old me to read who was insecure and my dark skin and, you know, just
really thinking about the same things I was thinking about and just the poetry of it really
just it was amazing to me. And then Joan Morgan's, When Chickenheads Come Home to
Roost, just as a...Like a woman in hip hop, was really big for me because it was so
conversational. And just like, you know, it was conversational and also tackling a lot of,
like, hard questions and big questions that are hard to break down. And she did it in such
a, you know, such like casual but very Joan way and in a way that kind of, you know,
touched on a lot of things that women had been...Feminists in hip hop have been thinking
about for so long. So and that so that was a book I definitely referenced and like read over
when I was working on my book, because it was such a it's just like such a seminal work, I
think.

Danielle Those are two huge, huge, books.

Maiysha Yeah. I agree.

Danielle That were just game-changers on so many different levels. I read both of those
as a young woman as well and yeah. Like amazing, amazing works there. So definitely
approve of those choices.

Maiysha Yeah. And I love that you said that about that The Bluest Eye is the book that you
would have written to your 14 year old self, because that's so true to Toni Morrison. Right.
Like, that's what she always said. You write the book that you wish you could have read.

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Clover Hope Yeah, it's such a reflection. I just feel like it's a mirror. It just felt like a mirror.
So much.

Danielle So Clover, in addition to Jezebel, you've been on the staff at Vibe, XXL and
Billboard and recently returned to music writing as a contributing editor at Pitchfork, which
leaves you with more free time to do things like, oh, I don't know...co-write Beyoncé's
Black is King. And as if that's not enough, you have a book on women in hip hop coming
out next February.

Clover Hope Yes.

Danielle With print and digital media scriptwriting and a manuscript under your belt. I don't
think it'd be an understatement to say you're kind of living the writer's dream right now.
Does it feel that way to you?

Clover Hope It is crazy because I didn't plan this timing at all. I did not know that the book
would be available for preorder around the same time that the film was coming out around
the same time, obviously, that I'd be like leaving a job. So it really was like kind of this
weird, weird timing and opportune timing. I guess, like everything just kind of worked out a
bit. But like one day I was thinking about it, like after talking to a friend was this...Like I
used to have this idea of like what type of writer I wanted to be. And I always pictured, like
Aliya S. King who was like one of my mentors and like a writer who, she wrote for Vibe a
lot, she wrote Faith's memoir. Or co-wrote Faith's memoir with her and she just did a lot of
like freelance work for Vibe and like The Source. And so, you know, as a 20 something
journalist picturing like where I would want to be like 10 years from then that was what I
pictured. I was like, oh, I want to be like writing books and, you know, freelancing. And
then my friend was like, oh, wow, you are doing that. So congrats. So, yeah, it's it's
something that I did like envision, but I didn't kind of...I guess I kind of like mapped it out
subconsciously or whatever how that happens.

Danielle No, same.

Clover Hope Yeah, yeah.

Danielle Yeah. I have no idea how I ended up here. Other than I clearly planned to end up
here.

Clover Hope Right. You plan it...yes, like the whole manifesting thing. Your brain takes
you through the execution that is in your mind already.

Danielle And so like with all your background music, would you say that music is like the
through-line of your work? And how did that begin for you?

Clover Hope Definitely through Vibe. Music writing was not something that I kind of
thought of as a professional option. I used to read Vibe like in my teens, and I was like
hoarding copies of it because I just felt like it was the magazine that spoke to me most. It
was like, you know, like a young Black readership who was like obsessed with music. I
was obsessed with R&B and rap and just kind of beginning to pick it up around like 13, 14,
like listening to DMX and all the 90s music. Total and like I was buying all these cassette
tapes and had the Word Up and Right On magazine pages on my walls in the attic. And so
that was my early kind of kinship with music. It was definitely a lot of like, you know,
Immature and Brandy, you know. And so once I kind of started reading about them and

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kind of noticing that writing was actually a job, I think I kind of began to see it as a
profession. But even then, I didn't go into college knowing what I was going to do. I was
undecided. So I chose writing and like my second year because I think people were just
telling me I was good at it. And like, I wanted to do music engineering, like I wanted to be
like something in music business that I couldn't quite figure out...And then journalism just
kind of it just I don't know. It was really weird. It just seemed like the right thing to do. And it
just always went back to music because that was the first passion.

Danielle Well, obviously, Beyoncé was happy with the article you wrote a few years back
for her that appeared in Vogue because she invited you back to co-write Black as King,
which has become its own pop-cultural milestone when it debuted in July. This was a
pretty epic project, especially because you were also tasked with representing the African
diaspora, which proved to be a really loaded responsibility. How did you approach that?

Clover Hope Yeah, I mean, there were lots of people who luckily who kind of executed
that vision. So it was ideas and concepts and writing coming from different angles,
essentially. But, you know, under the general scope or the general kind of idea that we're
telling a story about bridging generations and telling a story about bridging cultures with a
heavy basis, obviously, and like the Lion King story itself. So, you know, the idea is to want
to, like, reimagine that story for, like, you know, younger for like the young Black
generation in a similar way that, you know...I've been bringing up The Wiz as an example
of just because, you know, that imagining of kind of like a classic white kind of fairy tale
story and the way that, you know, Black kids or Black people remember that story, you
know, I think there's a similar kind of through-line or in the sense that, you know, maybe
some kids who had not seen Lion King or have watched this and this will be their, you
know, like this one will be their idea of like the Lion King.

Maiysha See and I almost think of Lion King as a reclaiming like the African as opposed to
I never thought of as a white story.

Clover Hope Yeah no no no. But the Lion King itself...

Danielle Yeah.

Clover Hope Like the original story. Yes. And then, you know, the Disneyfication and then,
you know, like there's all these kind of threads, I think. And the idea was to kind of bring
out some of their Blackness. Yeah.

Danielle No, I mean, definitely Disney agreed, because they put the Lion King like both
versions in the Black section, on their African African-American targeted content. So
clearly they picked up on that. What would you say, though, about people who have
pushed back against how African culture was portrayed in Black is King? Like, do you
have any thoughts about that?

Clover Hope I mean, I think, like, you know, any kind of criticism is for art, is that that's the
intention. Some... You know, like, you know, art is supposed to be kind of like analyzed in
this way. And I think the fact that it was. You know, says a lot about the vastness of it, I
guess that's how I kind of choose to think about it, just in the sense that, you know, it's kind
of an honor to be analyzed in that way, I think.

Danielle Oh, definitely. Definitely a lot of criticism, like, I just interpret it as like, you know,
slightly misdirected flattery. Like, thank you.

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Clover Hope Right.

Maiysha Fair.

Danielle You totally read, watched, absorbed this thing that I created. And it made you
have feelings. That was the intent.

Clover Hope Yeah. I think it's, you know, everyone is sensitive about their art.

Danielle Of course. Of course.

Clover Hope Like anything I create, even like blogs, that I'll...You know, once you put it out
there, it's like, OK, like, I don't want to see it. I don't want to see the feedback. It's that
process, basically.

Maiysha You know, Clover, I'm going to double back to Beyoncé because as the resident
person in The Root crew who does fashion and beauty, obviously, I was the one who
covered two years ago, almost exactly two years ago when you became part of fashion
history. Right. You know, you you wrote Beyoncé's cover story for Vogue's 2018
September fashion issue. And at that time, the main focus was on Tyler Mitchell being the
first Black cover photographer in Vogue history. But I have a feeling there haven't been
many Black women who have penned their cover stories either. And I'm sure you've told
the story a thousand times by now. And I ask, at the risk of violating your NDA, who
knows, maybe it's expired. But what was it like writing in Beyoncé's voice? Like, how do
you write Beyoncé's voice?

Clover Hope Yeah, I can't answer that.

Maiysha I love it. OK, well, that's fair. Can you tell us about the experience of working in
the Beyoncé sphere?

Clover Hope So I will say that like, this was a different experience, the film. Just kind of
being in a creative environment around other writers because I'm used to writing by
myself, basically, you know, so it was...like that experience was great, like being, you
know, like once I went to L.A. and like started working on the project, just being in the room
with her and like being in the room with the other kind of like, you know, the editors. And,
you know, that was definitely an enlightening and kind of like enriching experience. I know
that sounds like a cliche, but it really was just a fun experience and challenging, definitely,
because writing, you know, writing is not just writing, it's rewriting. And it's yeah, like there
were things that weren't used and it's such a process and there are drafts and, you know,
so it's it's both challenging and also kind of like enriches the soul.

Maiysha Yeah. Well, and I dare say, you know, it kind of gives you a taste. It sounds like
you had that writer's room experience. And I totally hear what you're saying from the
standpoint of like journalism for us, even though we work on these big editorial teams it
can be very solitary. Right. You know, we kind of put our heads down and write our little
article. So I suppose it was a little bit like a writers room experience? This kind of
collaborative process?

Clover Hope Right. Yeah, because this idea is kind of coming from different people.
Initially, Yrsa Daley-Ward had written the first outline, and so she was the first come on

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board. And then I kind of came in the middle and started working on it and then me and
Yrsa were working on it together. And so it was kind of like this web of like a web. Yeah.

Maiysha I mean, I think that in a weird way, I think it fits with the whole Lion King narrative.
You were talking about it being a web. And I was like like Anansi the spider? I love it. I
mean, you know, look, I think as a project, you know, it was so visually stunning. And I
think that it is a story, you know, like many stories that you have your first impression of it.
And then as you revisit it, kind of, you know, reveals new things to you. And speaking of, I
guess, stories unraveling, let's fast forward now to February when your upcoming book,
The Motherlode, comes out. And this is highlighting more than 100 women who have, in
your words, shaped the power, scope and reach of rap music. And you reportedly
conducted approximately 150 interviews for this project?

Clover Hope Yeah.

Maiysha So what was the origin story here? And I mean, I don't even know how you begin
to approach I mean, one interview, I'm like, oh, so much to transcribe. Why was it so
important to include such a large scope of perspectives in this project?

Clover Hope I actually started out with fewer. So the initial like in my proposal, the initial
number of women that I was going to cover, like specifically rappers, was like 60, like 50 to
60 or something. And then as I kind of started doing more research, I was like, OK, well, I
need to broaden this. 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. So then I just made my list longer
and started reaching out to more people. And then I was you know, I'm kind of neurotic
with reporting and, you know, I wanted it to be thorough. So I ended up doing way more
reporting than I had planned. And I think that my editor helped because I was late and then
we had to, like, push the some dates back. So so, yeah, it actually started out at a more
reasonable number. And then I ended up with like. Yeah, interviewing over one hundred
and fifty people from like stylists to like I spoke to Misa Hylton Brim about like Li'l Kim and
spoke about one of the really one of the first blurbs that I wrote was actually about Eve and
like Eve's influence on fashion and how she kind of...People forget, like how she paved the
way for, like, rappers to kind of be wearing these high fashion brands because she came
right after, you know, Kim and Foxy and she was kind of seen as a high fashion muse. And
so the so the blurb about Eve is about that. And so I got a few, like her former stylist to,
you know, just talk about work, like dressing her. And so with things like that, like once I
started writing it, I ended up reaching out to more people and it just to make it more
well-rounded.

Maiysha Yeah, and it kind of snowballed and honestly, you know, it's funny how we were
talking about timing and kismet and all those kind of things that develop, because I think in
a weird way, it comes out at this perfect time. Right, because we're kind of you know, we
had The Remix on Netflix. We had, we've been having these conversations about this
resurgence or I would say this renewed recognition of all these amazing hip hop pioneers.
And you are correct, most of them are women, which is interesting. Right. So I love that.
And fun fact. I was actually a celebrity makeup artist assistant during that era, and I used
to do Li'l Kim as well. So...

Clover Hope Yes, wow, now I have questions for you.

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Maiysha She she's a she was a sweetheart. She was. I have not seen her for about 20
years, but she was an absolute sweetheart. But, you know, speaking of women and how,
you know, one of the things that you know, that I've read that you are kind of looking at in
this book is how women in the industry, the music industry and hip hop kind of get
pigeonholed in this certain way. And, you know, you spent six years at Jez[ebel], right. And
that is a site focused on women's issues. Did you find any parallels or recognize any
parallels between being a woman in hip hop and a female journalist?

Clover Hope Yeah, it's actually interesting, the trajectory also that I went on from working
in rap, which is like obviously predominantly male.

Maiysha Yes.

Clover Hope To then being a Jezebel, which is like, you know, women's issues. And so,
like having seen and kind of both sides of the coin, I guess. And so, yeah, there are
parallels in terms of when I when I worked at XXL, like there was definitely maybe because
I also looked young, like, I don't know, just this kind of—.

Maiysha Still do.

Clover Hope Thank you.—Perspective of like, "you don't know what you're talking about,"
kind of. Like this Lil Wayne cover story that I did in my 20s or something that I flew to
Atlanta for. Like I just remember his attitude just being a bit like, you know, he was saying,
"darling," a lot. And, you know, it's kind of, "oh, who is this little girl coming to interview
me?" Basically kind of vibe. And so I did get that a lot. And I imagine that's similar, you
know, like women in hip hop, you know, like the rappers where it's you kind of have to you
feel like you have to prove yourself more and prove that, you know—prove your
knowledge, whereas men can kind of start out with a base, kind of no one's judging how
much they know about rap, you know. So I think I do think that's similar. And I have an
anecdote like in the introduction of the book actually about this, about like just the
correlation. Yeah. So it's I think there are definitely parallels. And, you know, my favorite
hip-hop, a lot of my favorite hip-hop writers have been women. So.

Danielle So let's talk about life. After full-time journalism, you recently decided to strike out
on your own. What prompted that decision? And what are you hoping to explore now?

Clover Hope What prompted it was actually working from home. I kind of realized I liked it
and I liked just kind of not going into an office. And I like to, kind of like building my
schedule, even though, you know, like Jezebel, we were pretty...We have like more
freedom than some other media companies in terms of, like, working remotely like we
were able to kind of work from home like half the day. So so that was great. But I think
being able to kind of like see that I could set my own team and kind of like set my
expectations or like this is what I want to do for the day. I could like throw in a work out
and, you know, just kind of like mix it up. And so that was kind of like an impetus. But I had
already kind of been thinking about, you know, what should I do next? It was just kind of
like Jezebel was kind of not for me. There were so many notches that I had hit already. So
I was kind of like, I need to challenge myself and go outside of what I planned for myself
because I had already, you know, the book is coming. I had told myself I want to write a
book. And so, you know, the next thing I have in my head is writing for TV.

Danielle All right.

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Maiysha Hey, now.

Clover Hope Who knows if that will happen? But things that I want to happen have usually
happened, not to be whatever. But like usually I'll just be like, I want to do this thing. And
then, like we talked about, five years later...

Danielle Manifest.

Clover Hope Yeah, it's like, oh, you have a book.

Maiysha You have already written the short film. So there's that.

Clover Hope That happened. Yea h. That was on the list.

Danielle That totally happened.

Clover Hope Yeah.

Danielle So having worked in so many genres, you're in a unique position to discuss the
full scope of possibilities as a writer. What advice do you have to give to up and coming
writers who want to be the next Clover Hope?

Clover Hope Curiosity is important to me and I think like being curious and I guess going
where the curiosity takes you will kind of always open up opportunities. Because curiosity
has gotten me assignments like freelance assignments, because I'll just be like, "Like I'm
interested in this thing. Let me just, like, see if this editor wants to do it." And it's gotten me
kind of, just if I'm writing for a piece and I'm just working through an idea and a piece,
curiosity helps that piece takes shape. I think it's just like starting there, like helps me get
to where I want to be because, like, I'm always curious. I'm always like pitching ideas or
coming up with weird things I'm curious about, like how life works and how people work.
I'm curious about how TV works. I'm like, OK, how can I be a part of that? And so that is I
think having curiosity is just, you know, a good, I guess, compass for any writer. And I
would say just kind of try to tap into that basically like your imagination, you know.

Danielle No, I am definitely nosy as hell. So this was the only profession for me.

Clover Hope Me too. Yeah. Nosiness, and...

Danielle I want to, I want to know what's up.

Clover Hope Yeah. I just I'm, I always like or I need to know everything about this subject
or like what the grown folks are talking about, like, "what does that mean?"

Danielle Exactly. Well Clover, thank you so much for chatting with us today.

Clover Hope Thank you.

Danielle Oh, it's always awesome to talk to you, to see you. Your career and watching it
unfold has been absolutely amazing. And I'm ninety-nine point nine nine nine nine nine
nine nine percent sure that you will be writing for television. So I don't think you have to
doubt that at all.

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Maiysha Yeah.

Clover Hope Okay, you said it.

Maiysha The Root Presents: It's Lit is produced by myself, Maiysha Kai, and Micaela
Heck. Our sound engineer is Ryan Allen.

Danielle If you like the show and want to help us out, please give us a rating on Apple
Podcasts. It really helps other people find the show. If you have any thoughts or feedback,
you can find me on Twitter at Black Snob or on Instagram and Belton Danielle.

Maiysha And you could find me at Maiysha Twitter. That's M A I Y S H A and at Maiysha
Kai on Instagram.

Danielle And before we go, we always talk a little bit about what we're currently reading.
Maiysha, what are you reading these days?

Maiysha Well, you know, Clover, you know, has 100 plus women who influence hip hop.
And I'm reading something a little bit different, a little bit the same, which is Black Bottom
Saints, which is kind of this like incredible novel slash encyclopedia, slash Bible of all
these incredible figures in Detroit in the last century, like in the I guess like the earlier part
of the century. You know, we're talking like everybody from like Dinah Washington to Ethel
Waters and Joe Louis show up in this book. And we are going to be speaking to the author
of this book, Alice Randall, the acclaimed author. She's kind of a big deal on a future
episode of It's Lit, so, you know, I've been digging into that. And it is a...The word that
keeps coming up for me is magical. It's just a magical, really fun book. What are you
reading?

Danielle You know what? I'm reading The Root.

Maiysha Aye. It's Black History Month. And, you know, I got to say, we got plenty of
content coming down the pike for Black History Month, so I can't blame you. I have not
been reading as much of The Root as I should, you know, because I got to read these
books with you. So.

Danielle Something's gotta give! All this reading!

Maiysha But that's what we're here for, right?

Danielle Exactly. That's the whole concept. That's the point, that is the end game. And that
is it for us this week. Thank you so much for listening. And we'll see you next week.

Maiysha In the meantime, keep it lit.