Book Review: 'Platinum' Gives a Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Lives of Hip Hop Wives

The buzz has been building around award-winning journalist Aliya S. King’s new novel Platinum ($16, amazon.com), about the "glamorous" lives of hip-hop WAGs (wives and girlfriends) for some time now. Having just turned the last page, I can confirm that it’s addictive. At restaurants, coffee shops, in my bedroom, on the balcony, I couldn’t put the thing down! It made me cry, it made me laugh, it made me nostalgic, it made me want more (thankfully, the way it’s set up makes you think there will be a sequel).

The story revolves around Alex Sampson Maxwell, a fearless hip-hop journalist who stays busy writing for outlets like the New York Times and Vibe. Engaged to an up-and-coming rapper herself, Alex is tasked by Vibe to write an in-depth piece about these women, who seem to have it all. But as she starts peeling back the layers, she discovers that these women’s lives are actually marred by infidelity, drug addiction, tragedy, physical and emotional abuse, and betrayal. To make matters worse, video vixen Cleo Wright has decided to air everyone’s dirty secrets in a scandalous tell-all, enlisting Alex as her ghostwriter. "If you’ve been with me, you’ve achieved something," Cleo’s book begins,” I’m a benchmark. Like going platinum.” While writing Cleo's book, Alex realizes she has more in common with the WAGs than she thought.

Of course, a big part of the fun of Platinum is guessing which real-life hip-hop celeb inspired these fictional characters. I’m going to dare to say there’s a little bit of Rihanna, Chris Brown, DMX, Jay-Z, Karinne “Superhead” Steffans (who published the New York Times bestseller Confessions of a Video Vixen back in 2005), in here…and much, much more.

Latina readers will find Josephine Bennett, the fashion designer and wife of Jamaican superstar producer Ras Bennett, particularly fascinating. She’s part Dominican, part French, and she’d give up anything just to have a child with her husband. I won’t give away much, but I’ll say one of King’s most beautifully written and heartbreaking scenes involves Josephine and Ras in their search to conceive.

Platinum is proof that King, who wrote this book inspired by an article she herself wrote for Vibe in 2006, is one of the most exciting voices around. I’m honored to say she’s written for me in the pages of Latina, when she profiled La La Vazquez for our April 2010 cover story (“Miss Understood”).

The recently married La La Vazquez actually said it best: "Platinum makes it clear that true love can be tested by the industry, but not destroyed: It's forever, firm, indestructible and solid—just like platinum. You don’t want to miss this book."

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