Aliya S. King’s debut novel Platinum is a quick, juicy read offering a peek into the not-quite-so glamorous everyday life of today’s hip hop wives. Platinum is the kind of book that you start reading, look up at the clock, it’s three hours later and you just keep going. The story will pull you in.
King is an award-winning journalist who has penned countless articles in over a dozen national magazines and has co-authored the memoirs of singer Faith Evans and infamous Harlem gangster Frank Lucas. A 2006 VIBE article King wrote about the better halves of Snoop Dog, DMX, Ja-Rule and Wyclef Jean, served as the inspiration for Platinum. The women shared their struggles with groupies, substance abuse and the high cost of fame. The basic premise of the book is a journalist named Alex (Totally Aliya S. King!) is writing a VIBE article about hip hop wives (Sound familiar?) and is also ghost-writing a scandalous tell-all book with video vixen Cleo Wright (Hellooooo Karrine “Superhead” Steffans). Due to the nature of Alex’s assignment, the reader gets to see what happens behind the gates of these superstars’ mega mansions. Play-by-play sex scenes, gasp-inducing secrets and scandalous catty behavior makes this book strictly for grown ups.
As King mentioned in her CLUTCH interview, the characters in the book are mostly composites. None of the characters have exact real-life counterparts with the exception of Alex, Cleo and the rapper Z who is a grimy, platinum-selling artist with a ride-or-die wife, a gang of kids by several women and a crack problem. If that’s not DMX…
The fun part comes in figuring out who the wives are. R & B singer Kipenzi Hill who wears a lot of weave and dons her mother’s handcrafted sequined-to-death costumes seems like a mix of Beyoncé and Lauryn Hill. Plus, her name hints at that mixture. Josephine Bennett, wife of Jamaican singer/producer Ras Bennet, is very close to Wyclef Jean’s wife Claudinette. Beth Saddlebrook, wife of rapper Z, could be a composite of any number of hip hop wives with the stand-by-her-man mentality. Zander and Bunny are an adorable and volatile couple a la Chris Brown and Rihanna.
Platinum is a great choice for a beach read because of the pace of the story, but it has something most beach reads lack: good writing. Lots of fast-paced books have engaging, action-packed storylines that keep readers flipping to the next page, but few of them contain sentences worthy of re-reading or have a well-crafted paragraph that encourages readers to nestle in it for a minute. King has all of that and then some. A close read of Alex’s activities reveals advice for freelance writers who are looking for ways to get and keep steady work. King keeps Platinum very zeitgeist by sprinkling references to popular urban blogs and recent gossip stories like Sammy Sosa’s sudden skin color change.
Aliya S. King is well known as a top-notch journalist and with Platinum she proves she’s also a formidable fiction writer. Be on the look out for a follow-up to this note-worthy debut.
Platinum is on bookshelves right now.