Top 10 Underrated
Street Lit Authors

by The Urban Book Source
May 2008

JM Benjamin#1. Erick Gray

Some of the greatest things invented happened so by accident and so was Erick Gray's writing career. An avid reader and closet writer for years, Gray got his start in this genre when he handed his first manuscript to Carl Weber, a book store owner at the time. Carl passed his work on and soon after Erick became a published author. That was a decade ago and Erick Gray continues to hold his place as a writer to be contended with in the urban fiction genre. With the release of his first novel, Booty Call, Erick showed what a well-crafted story, developed characters and good editing was all about. Since then Erick has released six other novels including a sequel to his critically acclaimed Booty Call.

Visit Erick Gray on Myspace:


tracy#2. Tracy Brown

The reclusive Essence Best Seller, Tracy Brown, has been a valued contributor to the urban fiction genre for over half a decade. First published by Triple Crown Publications with the release of Black, Tracy transgressed to St. Martins Press for her second and third novels. Nominated for YALSA's "Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers", Tracy Brown's Criminal Minded has received much deserved praise. Since the release of her first novel Tracy has blessed readers with five subsequent titles. Although a recognized personality within the industry, Tracy remains humble, asserting her main goal both as a writer and a motivational speaker is to let others know that "no matter what setbacks they come across in life, if they stay focused and never give up, sky is the limit!"

Visit Tracy Brown on Myspace:


JM Benjamin#3. Caleb Alexander

Many authors are motivated by the fame that can be gained in the publishing business, however, some authors write just because they love to, no honors necessary. Caleb Alexander falls into the latter category. A ghostwriter to many of the big names in the urban literature genre, for years Caleb has remained in the shadows while others collected on his talent. Caleb's gift was only recognized and cherished by the agents and publishers who signed him to secretly write their best sellers. With the release of Eastside and Two Thin Dimes, the public now knows what a talented craftsman Caleb is. But what else would you expect from a writer who was handpicked by erotica queen, Zane, to launch her Strebor in the Streetz imprint?

Visit Caleb Alexander on Myspace:


JM Benjamin#4. Tu-Shonda Whitaker

Modesty, humility and ability can take you a long way, just ask Tu-Shonda Whitaker, the Ella Baker and W.E.B. DuBois International Award winner for fiction writing. The Essence Best Selling author has seen her share of success but this has not jaded her; through it all Ms. Whitaker has maintained her focus giving her readers and the industry a worthwhile read. Tu-Shonda first blessed the industry with her talent in 2004 with the release of Flipside of the Game which was followed up by the sequel Game Over, both which have been well received by urban book enthusiasts. After her first two novels received much praise Ms. Whitaker's third novel, Ex-Factor, was picked up by a major publisher. At present Tu-Shonda is working on her fourth novel.

Visit Tu-Shonda Whitaker on Myspace:


JM Benjamin#5. Al-Saadiq Banks

Al-Saadiq Banks got his start in the game in 2003 when he self-published his first novel, No Exit, which was a fictionalized retelling of many situations he has experienced. No Exit was followed up by the Block Party trilogy, Sincerely Yours and Caught Em' Slippin', all of which were published under Mr. Banks' True 2 Life Productions. With a fan base like few others, Al-Saadiq has shown that a self-published author can play with the big dogs.

Visit Al-Saadiq Banks on Myspace:


JM Benjamin#6. Solomon Jones

Solomon Jones is a father, teacher, rapper, and spoken word artist, turned author who has dropped nuggets of knowledge in his urban novels over the past several years. A graduate of Temple University, this Philadelphian has kept his fans satisfied since 2001 when he released Pipe Dream with Random House. In between motivational lectures and his weekly weekend column for The Philadelphia Daily News, Jones works hard to craft the kinds of stories that the industry can be proud of and it has shown in each of his novels.

Visit Solomon Jones on Myspace:


JM Benjamin#7. Danielle Santiago

Most 21-year-olds revel in the club scene and experiment with life unsure of what they want to do when they grow up. This was not the case for Danielle Santiago. At the age of 21, she decided to write her first book. Nine months later Little Ghetto Girl was completed, the first in a three book series named A Harlem Story. Based around real experiences, Little Ghetto Girl captured the hearts of many. Since then Danielle has been published in two anthologies and recently released her second book, Grindin'. When not touring or writing Danielle works hard to advocate for battered women, abused children and young girls in the ghetto through her non profit organization Mischievous Girl Ink.

Visit Danielle Santiago on Myspace:


JM Benjamin#8. Moses Miller

A self-described writer/scientist, Moses Miller is an enigma that has hit the urban fiction world hard with his first novel Nan: The Trifling Times of Nathan Jones. Nan was published under his company MindCandy, which prides it self on publishing "intelligent urban fiction." With a background in journalism, Moses built his technique while he worked as a writer for The Voice, Newsday and His stories are refreshing and command that you examine society. This native New Yorker's second novel, Once Upon Time in Harlem, was published in conjunction with FEDS magazine. The follow-up to Nan is expected to drop later this year.

Visit Moses Miller on Myspace:


JM Benjamin#9. T. Styles

A quiet force in the industry for years, T. Styles is a jack of all trades and has remained a name on the tips of readers and vendors tongues for years. The Maryland based beauty got her start in 2005 with her first title, Rainbow Heart. Since then she has nourished the industry with follow-ups such as A Hustler's Son, Black & Ugly and Diamond Playgirls. To the average reader her stories are nothing less than inspiring and fresh and to industry insiders, her work has set a bar to be reached by many others who attempt to enter the genre. At present T. Styles has changed hats and is busy running The Cartel Publications which debuted its first novel in December of 2007.

Visit T. Styles on Myspace:


JM Benjamin#10. JM Benjamin

A hustler by any other name is still a hustler. Just ask J.M. Benjamin, a hustler turned author. Since Mr. Benjamin's homecoming in July of 2006 he has released three novels—Down in the Dirty, My Manz And Em, Ride or Die Chick—and has accumulated a number of awards including, Best Street Novel Of The Year 2006 by the African American Literary Awards for Down in the Dirty which he wrote in just 34 days. Aside from publishing, J.M. is a motivational speaker.

Visit JM Benjamin on Myspace:


Honorable Mention:

  1. Anthony Whyte
  2. Anna J.
  3. Dwayne Murray Sr.
  4. Endy
  5. Zach Tate

The Top 10 Underrated Authors of Street Lit are based on market research by The Urban Book Source and the preferences of its visitors and judged against the following criteria.

1. - Author should have 2 or more published books.
2. - Quality of book; concepts, lasting impressions, characters, longevity, excuetion, pacing, etc.

Related features/articles:
Top 10 Street Lit Authors
Top 10 Books of All-Time

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