Shanita Hubbard’s “Ride or Die” Exposes the Hip-Hop Trope’s Flaws in This Exclusive Excerpt

Shanita Hubbard’s “Ride or Die” Exposes the Hip-Hop Trope’s Flaws in This Exclusive Excerpt

Protect Black women” is more than just a catchy refrain or hashtag to repeat on social media. It’s a real-life responsibility that demands our utmost attention — an argument author Shanita Hubbard so unapologetically makes in her debut book, “Ride or Die: A Feminist Manifesto For the Well-Being of Black Women” ($24).

Published by Legacy Lit, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc., Hubbard’s powerful read unpacks and dismantles the hip-hop ride-or-die trope that, for decades, has left Black women exhausted, depleted, and stretched far too thin when it comes to proving our worth by how much labor we provide others. To emphasize why this way of thinking is dangerous to our health and happiness, the book — which has already received high praise from Gabrielle Union and Tamron Hall — urges readers to completely eliminate the ride-or-die complex, using hip-hop as the backdrop to explore all the social norms that have proven harmful to Black women.

Combining her years of expertise on hip-hop and feminism, Hubbard bares the most personal details about her life to guide Black women toward a path of healing. In turn, her vulnerable analysis builds a case for why the culture many of us have grown to love doesn’t always seem to love us the way we deserve.

“Ride or Die: A Feminist Manifesto For the Well-Being of Black Women” was released on Nov. 8 and is now available for purchase. Read ahead to check out an exclusive excerpt of Hubbard breaking down the divide within Black womanhood as highlighted by the 1998 classic album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.”

I was too young to appreciate the Black girl magic of female pioneers like Queen Latifah and Monie Love, which made me love Lauryn even more. Rappers like Queen Latifah and Monie Love were intersectional feminists, although the phrase was not part of the mainstream lexicon in the late ’80s. Both Monie and Latifah understood and rapped about the overlapping forms of oppression that made Black women’s struggles distinct from our brothers. But though I knew their music, I didn’t connect with them, at least not in the same way I did with Lauryn. Lauryn’s lyrics mirrored my own thoughts and echoed many that Kia shared with me. Especially when it came to those “other” Black women who slept with men “too quickly.” This sentiment was my gold standard—even more so since it was echoed by a conscious rap “god” like Nas in his song “Black Girl Lost.” “N*ggas thirst you, you just let em hurt you and leave / What up ma, fronting like you naive.”

There was always some version of this line passed on to me as a cautionary tale. Lauryn sounded exactly like Nas, which made the first verse in “Doo Wop” my favorite.

It’s been three weeks since you were looking for your friend
The one you let hit it and never called you again

. . .

Plus, when you give it up so easy you ain’t even foolin’ him
If you did it then, then you’d probably f*ck again

Was Tamera hearing this? There were so many lyrics that confirmed who the “birds” were! “Showing off your ass ’cause you’re thinking it’s a trend.”

“Girl, yes,” I said looking over at Tamera, waving my hand to the beat in praise. Couldn’t Tamera see that “queens” like us were not birds? We were a different type of Black woman, the kind who was worthy of respect. Lauryn was making that clear. We stayed in our room listening to the full CD and I continued to fall in love with the details of Lauryn’s music. I had always loved the question that she posed at the end of “Doo Wop”: “How you gonna win when you ain’t right within?”

My friends and I were part of Lauryn’s tribe and win-ning. We were conscious Black women—we could quote Carter G. Woodson in our sleep, were committed to “fix- ing” the racist criminal justice system, preferred open mics over clubs, didn’t sleep with men “too quickly,” and had natural hair.

Plus the brothers called me queen. They constantly said I was nothing like those “other girls,” and I considered it a supreme compliment. Being called a queen was their recognition of my Black girl magic. In 1998 we weren’t using the phrase “Black girl magic” yet, but the essence of it was always clear and queen meant that Black men saw that in me, and it was invaluable. My self-worth was connected to being viewed by men as separate from those other girls, which was only a softer way of saying I’m better than those girls. Or at least that’s how it registered to me.

I swam in Lauryn’s words because she validated the piece of me that needed to be considered separate and unequal to other women. Being considered different from the other girls who had sex too quickly, wore straight hair and weaves, were loud, rocked tight clothes, and hung out in the clubs felt like I had the “right” version of Black womanhood that would equal success, love, male adoration, and respect. It felt like I was winning like Lauryn stated. It took me a long time to understand that if winning meant “conscious queens” were granted permission to use a skewed standard of Black womanhood defined by men to marginalize other sisters, then perhaps we needed to lose.

Excerpted from “Ride or Die: A Feminist Manifesto For the Well-Being of Black Women” by Shanita Hubbard. Copyright © 2022 by Shanita Hubbard. Available from Legacy Lit, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Image Source: Courtesy of Legacy Lit Hachette Book Group