For decades now, Rap and the early rappers who introduced the genre have been shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding. Although some have taken to the genre, the music world has needed an ambassador that could both explain the "movement", and manage to soften the austere faces associated with the music in the process.

Thankfully, that ambassador has arrived. It is a poignantly-written, beautifully-illustrated picture book called, The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop, and it is penned by the versatile author, Carole Boston Weatherford.

Rap, Explained

In the book, the reader opens the cover, and... voila, the image of a shiny vinyl LP (Long play) conjures memories of yester-year, including hot summers in the front yard under the trees, boxes booming the music of the day. Next, readers get a "spiritual nod" to early poets Langston Hughes and Paul Laurence Dunbar, whose poignant spoken words may well have been the inspiration for the genre. From there, readers relive the glory and splendor of James Brown, the risky aspirations of graffiti artists, and the whirling, twirling excitement of break dancers celebrating the sounds of rap. Ms. Weatherford writes of dances like the spider and the robot, entertainers like Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, and a parade of other stars and music icons that are the very faces of the genre.

Prose and Illustrations

Ms. Weatherford's prose is as poetic as the artists and wordsmiths she celebrates. The result is a wonderfully-diverse and cohesive story line that manages to make sense out of the rhythmic chaos that is rap music. As for the illustrations, Coretta Scott King Award Winner Frank Morrison delivers rich, expressive, achingly-human images of rap royalty like James Brown, Queen Latifah and Tupac. Good stuff, y'all!

Back Matter and Conclusions

The Roots of Rap is a multi-functional masterpiece. There is a dictionary of rap lingo, a Hip-Hop Who's Who, and a detailed Author's Note that resurrects the Black Renaissance, the black pride revolution, and modern-day poets and songstresses. There is also a lengthy Illustrator's Note, and a useful glossary that demystifies rap and modern-day lingo.

In conclusion, this book should do well in Music classes, and also in American History, Social Studies and citizenship. It can be used to spark discussions about writing genres, music genres, personal expression, culture and misconceptions, and even entrepreneurism. Enjoy!


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