Despite there being a whole host of UK hip-hop artists to choose from, there are still some British hip-hop fans who laud British-born, American-raised rappers as, to quote the football chant, ‘one of our own’. While there is no questioning the lyrical abilities and successes of these rappers, it is questionable what the likes of MF Doom, Slick Rick and Young MC have really contributed to UK hip-hop in their careers having been in the States since a young age.
Despite often being mentioned in the same category as those rappers, Monie Love is one of the few who actually made a telling contribution to UK hip-hop. Having recorded songs in the UK scene, she was able to use this as the springboard towards her breakthrough into America where she is best known through her association with Queen Latifah and the Native Tongues crew that included De la Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and Jungle Brothers. As a result, she is well respected as a rapper on both sides of the Atlantic and has influenced a number of others coming through. All this was achieved at a time when British rappers were rarely given a look-in in the States and struggled to make an impact abroad.
Hailing from Battersea in South London, she began her musical career as part of the Jus Badd Crew, a four piece group also consisting of DJ Pogo, Sparki and another legend of the UK scene at the time MC Mello’O. The group released a couple of singles in 1987, “Free Style” and “B Proud” on the Tuff Groove record label that would get a decent amount of attention and airplay in the London hip-hop scene. This would lead to Monie Love deciding to go it alone as the group split, signing to Cooltempo records where she released the singles “I Can Do This” in 1988 and “Grandpa’s Party” in 1989. The success of “Grandpa’s Party”, it reached the UK top 20, with its electronic hip-house style would attract the attention of fans on both sides of the Atlantic and would eventually lead to an appearance on Queen Latifah’s Grammy Award-winning and pro-feminist single “Ladies First” at the end of the year. This led to wide commercial and critical acclaim that would result in a series of collaborations as well as Monie Love’s debut album.
1990 would prove to be the most fruitful year of Monie Love’s career as a hip-hop artist. Collaborations with Jungle Brothers (“Doin’ Our Own Dang”), De la Soul (“Buddy”) and Adeva (“Ring My Bell”) put her firmly on the radar of American hip-hop fans and cemented her place as part of the ever-growing Native Tongues posse. A debut album would soon follow, released on Warner Brothers in November 1990, making her one of the few British rappers released by a major label. As well as containing her previous singles, “Down to Earth” spawned two new singles that were both nominated for Grammy Awards, further pushing her into the public consciousness. “Monie in the Middle” covered the topic of a woman’s right to determine what she wants out of a relationship, while the classic “It’s a Shame (My Sister)”, featuring the house vocalist Ultra Nate, would be another single to break into the UK top 20.
After a few collaborations in the next couple of years, including a remix of the Whitney Houston track “My Name is Not Susan”, Monie Love enlisted the services of Marley Marl to help produce her second album. Released in 1993, “In a Word or 2” unfortunately failed to live up to the impact that “Down to Earth” had had, but still produced the Prince-produced single “Born to B.R.E.E.D.” (another to reach the UK top 20) as well as “Full-Term Love” that had appeared on the Class Act soundtrack the year before.
Monie Love would then take a step back as an artist, only releasing one more single “Slice of Da Pie”, in 2000. She is still, however, involved in hip-hop and is best know these days as a radio host, having had shows in Philadelphia, Houston and Atlanta as well as her satellite radio show “Ladies First Radio with Monie Love”.