Margaret Eby
December 29, 2014 10:24 am

The wonderful, inspiring poet Maya Angelou was one of the people we lost in 2014. But she left behind a body of beautiful work, and not just made of the written word.

One of Angelou’s final projects was collaborating on a hip-hop album with Shawn Rivera and RoccStarr. The album, Caged Bird Songs, is named in tribute to one of Angelou’s most well-known poems I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It features Angelou’s vocals recorded for the project, as well as other snippets of her reciting her poetry.

The album was released last month, but now it has a striking visual component to go along with it. One of the tracks, “Harlem Hopscotch,” has a music video featuring an array of dancers, including folks from shows like Dancing with the StarsSo You Think You Can Dance, and America’s Best Dance Crew. It’s Angelou’s poetry like you’ve never heard it before.

Colin A. Johnson, Angelou’s grandson, spoke to Billboard about the project, noting that his grandmother was a big hip-hop fan.

“Grandma loved it from the beginning,” he said. “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.”

“She saw [hip-hop] as this generation’s way of speaking and conveying a message,” he added. “To hear somebody that is so famous for her poetry and her message, and then set to some music that you can enjoy, definitely feels like this is something that can continue her reach through generations.”

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