Picture Books

Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat

Picture book. Edited by Nikki Giovanni. 2008, with CD. 80 pages.
A celebration of poetry with a beat. Includes CD with selected recordings of poems and historical background.

Time Periods: 20th Century, 1975
Themes: Art & Music

picture-24This “read-and-play-it-to-me-again” collection of poetry with a beat entertains and educates all ages. The introduction by Nikki Giovanni recounts the history of rhythm, rap, and hip hop, emphasizing stories of resistance and creativity during enslavement, including the funding cutbacks in the 1970s that led young people to invent their own sound in the absence of school bands and arts programs.

The collection starts with Eloise Greenfield and includes Gwendolyn Brooks, Gil Scott-Heron, Gary Soto, Langston Hughes, the Sugarhill Gang, Queen Latifah, Mos Def, Tupac Shakur, W.E.B. Du Bois, and many more.

An accompanying CD with 30 performances, many read by the author, makes this book an invaluable resource for music, poetry, and social studies classes. [Description from Rethinking Schools.]

From the intro by Nikki Giovanni:

Hip hop, like poetry, encompasses everything about the human experience. It’s easy to forget that hip hop was born using creativity to improve circumstances. When slaves were prevented from learning to read and write, they used coded drumbeats to communicate. Gospel preachers refined the call and response as a means to educate and embed God’s word into people’s minds. Blues musicians turned the repeated cadence into the 20th century’s most influential music form. The first hip hop artists, inner-city kids, put all of these together and didn’t let a lack of resources stop their creativity.

Publisher’s Description

Hip Hop Speaks to Children is a celebration of poetry with a beat, created by National Book Award nominee, Spoken Word Grammy nominee and New York Times best-selling author Nikki Giovanni, who led an advisory board comprised of leading hip hop poet Willie Perdomo, Howard University professor Tony Medina and music specialist Michele Scott. Like Poetry Speaks to Children, the classic book and CD that started it all, this anthology is meant to be the beginning of a journey of discovery. Readers can immerse themselves in 51 selections from 42 poets and performers, and 30 performances on the audio CD, many recorded specially for this collection.

Hip Hop Speaks to Children presents powerful messages from all of these creative expressions, from James Weldon Johnson to Langston Hughes to Gwendolyn Brooks to Queen Latifah, and shows how rhythm and rhyme form a common thread among them.

Some tracks on the CD are performed by the artists who created them, others are unique interpretations by admiring poets and artists. Hear a musical interpretation of Sterling Brown’s poem “Long Track Blues” and a youth performance of Elizabeth Swados’s poem “Me”. The audio CD also includes contributions from Nikki Grimes, Eloise Greenfield, James Berry and A Tribe Called Quest, among others.

ISBN: 9781402210488 | Sourcebooks

2 comments on “Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat

  1. mary r walker on

    Beautiful to have found this information on facebook this morning! Wonderful and joyous interviews to start the new year for my grandchildren

  2. Renee moore on

    Wonderful work — Nikki still keeping it real after all these years. Thank you Nikki for all the stories you have shared with us over the years. I too am old — we real cool — I remember these books as they came to us. Love, Renee Moore http://www.solomonnorthupday.com.

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