Don’t Knock ‘Em ‘Til You Read Them: Urban Lit Novelists And 14 Books That Rival Reality Drama

January 21, 2013  |  
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We all know that reality TV has transformed into one of the most influential forms of pop culture today. Whether we’re writing about them, talking about them, composing funny pictures of our favorite reality stars on Instagram, or telling our friends to have several seats because they ain’t about this life while making the Stevie J rat face, they seem to affect almost every facet of our lives. As popular as they are, reality television can never replace the great amount of action and drama that we get from reading a captivating novel. And with the skills that these 13 writers possess, many of you would agree that reality TV doesn’t even come close when it comes to being as gripping as the work of these urban novelists.

Teri Woods

She went from selling books out the back of her trunk to becoming one of the highest-selling black authors ever. Her first novel, True to the Game, has been deemed a hood classic and transformed her into a self-made millionaire. For over a decade, the Essence and New York Times best-selling author has kept us entertained with sizzling titles such as Deadly Reigns, Alibi and Angel. Without a doubt, she’s one of the best in the game.

Wahida Clark

Deemed the Queen of Thug Love Fiction and Street Lit, Wahida Clark penned her first series while serving a nine and a half year prison sentence in West Virginia. Over a dozen novels later, she’s not only still serving the streets with drama-filled goods, but operates her own publishing house where she gives other urban novelists a chance to showcase their talent. Ask anyone who’s ever read a WC novel, and I’m sure they’ll tell you that her pen skills are mean.

Al-Saadiq Banks

After being pushed by family and friends, he published his first novel in 2003. Now Al-Saadiq Banks is one of the most respected urban novelists to ever lay pen to paper. His “True 2 Life” stories delve deep into the street life, keeping readers entertained with back to back action and grit. From No Exit to Block Party to Back 2 Bizness, he writes tales that’ll put even gripping programs like The Wire to shame.

Nikki Turner

From hardcore rappers to ordinary people on the streets, it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t respect the talent that this woman possesses. Labeled “The Queen of Hip Hop Fiction,” Nikki Turner has saturated book shelves with intriguing tales of fierce women, drug kingpins and grimy street hustlers. And let me just say that A Project Chick is one of the best urban novels that I’ve ever read, definitely in my top five. Plus, who gives a hoot about Mob Wives when you can read about the life of a hustler’s wife?

Vickie Stringer

Respected as one of urban literature’s most successful pioneers, Vickie Stringer went from a drug queenpin to a multi-millionaire, best-selling author. Stringer wrote her first novel, Let That Be The Reason, while doing a five year bid for a drug charge, and its potency earned her a long-lasting spot on Essence’s list of bestsellers. She took advantage of her popularity and geared up her very own publishing company, Triple Crown Publications, which is responsible for some of the most revered titles in the industry, including work by a few other authors on this list. It’s safe to say that not only is she a boss, but honey child has a serious knack for telling a good story, and she has the track sheet to prove it.

K’wan Foye

For over 10 years, K’wan has been delivering gritty street tales that attract everyone from project residents to foreigners overseas. His 2002 debut jump-started Triple Crown Publications, and he’s been rolling ever since. The veteran novelist is revered for his talent and boasts titles that have both made him a best-selling author and climbed their way to the list of classics. Gangsta, Hoodlum… need I say more?

Tracy Brown

A native of Staten Island, this woman has an imagination that’ll keep you flipping pages day in and day out. She first entered the writing world with Black and has since morphed into one of the best in the industry. Brown’s stories focus on triumphant women who overcome abuse, violence and defeat with a little dose of everything street, but she never fails to leave you with a positive message. White Lines is one of my all-time favorites. I don’t think anyone who’s ever read one of her stories will disagree when I say that she’ll definitely make you turn off the TV and jump into some reading.


Treasure E. Blue

Ever heard of Harlem Girl Lost? If you’ve ever read that series, then you know why Treasure E. Blue belongs on this list. Blue writes the kind of stories that makes you feel like you’re going through the same pain, triumph and drama as the characters involved—and you can’t help but to get drawn in. Drama, drama, and more drama. Basketball Wives who?

J.M. Benjamin

If you’ve ever read any of his novels, you’ll understand why J.M. Benjamin is one of the top contenders in Street Literature. His Essence bestselling novel, Ride or Die Chick, is highly regarded amongst Urban Lit lovers, and his handful of other titles are hot sellers too. If you follow him on Instagram and Twitter or befriend him on Facebook, then you’ll know why. Not only is he a skilled storyteller, but he’s definitely a true hustler and man of the people. As the CEO of A New Quality Publishing, J.M. keeps the streets fed with talented authors who tell stories that are just as intriguing as his own.


Shannon Holmes

He penned his first novel from a prison cell and it turned into street-heralded classic, racking in over half a million buyers and becoming an Essence bestseller. After B-More Careful, Holmes went on to craft several other acclaimed books, such as Bad Girlz and Never Go Home Again. With his strong fan base and fast-selling novels, the Bronx native may have started off behind bars, but it’s clear that they could never hold him back.

Kwame Teague

As the author of the classic Dutch series, there’s really no explanation needed for Kwame’s inclusion on this list. Although incarcerated, the talented Newark, New Jersey native’s skills have reached people all over the globe and keep his work stacked among the best of the best.

Mark Anthony

Not only is he the founder of Q-boro Books , but Mark Anthony is the author of hit titles like Dogism, Lady’s Night and Paper Chasers, just to name a few. His bestselling novels keep readers hooked and move through the streets faster than cops and robbers. Picking up one of his books will definitely force you to keep your nose stuck in the middle of his work, as his titles are hard to put down.

Sister Souljah

If The Coldest Winter Ever isn’t a classic novel, I don’t know what is. Ask anyone who’s ever read it and they’ll tell you that it’s the truth. The potency of that tale alone is enough to carry Sister Soulja’s name for decades to come. But don’t get it twisted, although it’s hot, that’s not the only novel that she’s inked that’s worth a read. Midnight and Midnight and the Meaning of Love, give any reality show a run for its money. And it’s been confirmed that A Deeper Love Inside: The Porsche Santiaga Story, which is the sequel to The Coldest Winter Ever, is scheduled for release in late January (can’t wait!). With her complex characters, captivating storylines and socially conscience themes, it’s safe to say that her stories are more entertaining than any reality show I’ve ever seen. Yeah, this sister is a true talent, definitely wicked with the pen.


You can’t have a list like this without Zane of all people. Having written over a dozen sensual fiction novels and kept everybody who has read any of them engrossed. How many people do you know who couldn’t put down Addicted? And if that wasn’t enough, she’s put out other great works of fiction like Shame On It All, The Heat Seekers and more. Shooooot, her books were so entertaining on paper, that Cinemax had no choice but to bring her writing to the small screen with the show, Zane’s Sex Chronicles, which lasted for two seasons. And the good news is that Addicted will be coming to theaters soon with folks like fine arse Boris Kodjoe as one of the leads!

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  • Renea

    Kalico Jones invented the term “street lit”. “Street tales” over 12 years ago. Her book “when Gucci came first”(true takes of a tramp) and its two additional parts are being made into a movie. She was before all these authors. Check the stats.

  • IllyPhilly

    I like Shontaine’s stuff.

  • MsHarris

    How do you leave out Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim!! They are the original hood writers!! and then to further discredit this list the fact that you don’t have Ashley and JaQauvis is an insult to avid urban literature readers!!

  • LOVE K’wan!! I’m in his readers group on FB, he actually interacts with the readers, always gives us sneak peaks to what he’s working on, and the conversations be LIVE!! LOL… been an avid reader since I could remember, but fell in LOVE with street lit after reading TCWE… absolutely can NOT wait until Porsche’s story drops!! 🙂

  • Of course you’ve got Zane and Sistah Soldier #greats but that White LInes by Tracy Brown is like in my top 5!

  • Ms_Sunshine9898

    I’m surprised Noire’s Thong on Fire didn’t make it. Her books get repetitive but that one is worth reading again for me. . .

  • Age

    I can’t believe the late AMAZING Leslie “L.A” Banks didn’t make this list.. Every genre she’s dabbled her hand in she mastered. Not to mention her specialty in the sci-fi paranormal. My favorite seris from her and possible all-tme is her “vampire huntress legends”

  • phat504

    This was a pretty good list but what about mary b morrison, omar tyree, and eric jerome dickey… they’re styles may not be as gritty as some of the authors mentioned but they know how to keep u coming back and making u feel personally connected to each character they’ve introduced… books like soulmates dissipate, somebody’s gotta be in top, sweeter than honey, and fly girl were main staples in my personal library

    • Na Na

      Yes Mary B. Morison is the truth! And her God Don’t Like series is truly off the chain. Less drugs and guns but equally urban and entertaining.

      • Chanda

        ugh, that’s Mary Monroe writing the God Don’t books..

    • UGGGGGGGGHHHHHhh how could they forget EJD but he’s kinda past these authors * I squint my eyes while saying*

  • Lola

    can someone list all the authors in the comment section so I don’t have to click ?

    • Lola

      I’m not about that click life .. the laziness is real out here !

  • Complaint

    MadameNoire – your website needs help. Going from page to page is a chore and boring. I rarely finish the article because you have 15 pages to go to. Too much!

  • To add to the list Meesha Mink, Diamond, Brenda Hampton just to name a few lol

  • bullheadedtaurus

    I will say Wahida’s books are better than some tv shows, especially the Thug series. I can’t believe Ashley&JaQuavis are not on this list though!!

    • RIGHT!!! Both the Murderville & Prada Plan series are CLASSICS!! I would’ve included The Cartel series, but we not even getting ready to discuss how they took that series ALL the way left!!

  • J.Denise

    I loved White Lines. Tracy Brown is amazing.

  • Miyako

    I’ve read several of these books. Some better than others. I do wish authors of Urban fiction would do a better job when it comes to the writing and grammar in their books.

    • IllyPhilly

      Agreed with last part “urban” lit is the same damn thing over and over in pretty much the same way. TCWE was entertaining because Winter was an complete idiot and the perfect example of what goes down. The rest -meh. Donald Goines should be on this list.

      • Kahekili

        I’ve never read any of his books.

  • rzakia

    I’m so happy that I read this article and clicked to the end. I’m so excited about the new Sister Souljah book. Didn’t know it was coming out this month though. It will certainly be on my list of must reads.

    • SheBe

      I’m too excited about Sister Souljahs new book too. Reserved my copy last month.

    • I KNOW! I didn’t know either! Thanks gawd I logged in today… off to google I go to find and get this book!

    • IllyPhilly

      Was it any good?