Get ready for Maya Angelou’s hip-hop album

Continuing in the grand tradition of posthumous work by 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G., Big Pun, Big L and Pimp C, the late author and poet Maya Angelou – who died in May of this year aged 86 – is set to release a hip-hop album in November. Caged Bird Songs – named for Angelou’s first volume of memoir, 1969’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – sees thirteen recordings of Angelou reading her work laid over beats produced by Shawn Rivera and RoccStarr, and was undertaken with Angelou’s blessing, mixing previously existing audio with vocals recorded shortly before her death.

Angelou’s grandson, Colin A. Johnson, tells the Associated Press that the poet greeted the project with great enthusiasm: ‘She loved it and was excited to hear more about what they wanted to do. She had a lot of energy around it.’ Of the album’s producers, Johnson says: ‘These guys were inspired by grandma’s work, which many people are, and felt like giving it a different medium of delivery to make it more obtainable to a larger group of people.’

The pairing of artist and project isn’t quite as incongruous as it may first seem. Angelou was a long-time advocate of hip-hop as a means of delivering poetry to younger generations who might otherwise dismiss it – famously bringing Tupac Shakur to tears on the set of Poetic Justice – and the hip-hop community returned the favour through numerous tributes and references. The title of Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise” was lifted for 2Pac’s third posthumous album and its title track, and more recently for a Nicki Minaj track of the same name. Kanye West, extolling his mother’s virtues on Late Registration‘s “Hey Mama”, compares her to ‘a book of poetry / Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, turn one page and there’s my mommy’.

Angelou even collaborated directly with a few artists, reading a poem on Common’s “The Dreamer” in 2011 (though she later disapproved of some of the language Common used elsewhere on the track) and, most fittingly, delivering sage advice to the protagonist of Kendrick Lamar’s overwhelming 2012 album good kid, m.A.A.d city towards the end of “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”, almost twenty years after her similar aforementioned real-world encounter with Tupac.

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