Friday, September 26, 2008

Hip Hop Speaks to Children

Last Christmas I bought Poetry Speaks to Children for a friend's daughter who is very verbal I knew she would be interested in listening to the poets on the companion CD. This year, Nikki Giovanni has edited a collection of poetry accompanied by a CD titled Hip Hop Speaks to Children. I've been loving the CD in the car and it such a welcome relief from the Disney Princesses' theme music my girls want unrelentingly.

Some of the poets on the CD compilation are better known as musicians (Queen Latifah, A tribe Called Quest, Sugarhill Gang)- which is the excellence of hip-hop. It's..." a celebration of poetry with a beat." Nikki Giovanni explains the roots of hip hop in African American music like Gospel and the Blues and how urban "hip-hop music, like poetry, encompasses everything about the human experience."

Visually it's a beautiful book with no less than five illustrators who contributed to the project. So, not only are the poems diverse but the artists' pictures are carefully edited to add visual interest. It's a real page-turner. One of my most favorite pages is 35, why some people be mad at me sometimes by Lucille Clifton with the illustration by Michele Noiset. You just have to love the rhythmic simplicity of this poem and the way the text is positioned between the ladies heads. they ask me to remember but they want me to remember their memories and I keep on remembering mine.

Poets in this collection include: Maya Angelou, Calef Brown, Gwendolyn Brooks, W.E.B. DuBois, Nikki Grimes, and Gary Soto among many other great writers. This book looks like a children's book but would be a welcome addition to any poetry collection as you see from this verse excerpted from Lauryn Hill's, Everything is Everything. (pages 48, 49)

"But things come slow or not at all And the ones on top, won't make it stop So convinced that they might fall Let's love ourselves then we can't fail To make a better situation Tomorrow, our seeds will grow All we need is dedication"

This is both a poem and a hip hop song. Here's the video of Lauryn Hill singing Everything is Everything showing how hip hop poetry is music.

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