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  • Writer's pictureOmar Holloway

FOR ALL AGES: Books that educate and celebrate Hip-Hop

Hip-Hop celebrated turned 50. Here are 12 Hip-Hop reads for various ages that'll inform and keep the celebration going.


■ The Legends of Hip-Hop Board Book Series (ages 0-5):

This cute board book series has two titles coming that'll be available for the tiniest readers. Through inventive rhyme and lively illustrations, readers are introduced to Hip-Hop legends like Queen Latifah and Tupac Shakur. Music producer Pen Ken and award-winning animator Saxton Moore created a delightful way for children to practice their ABCs and 1-2-3s while learning about dope emcees. Pen Ken (Author), Saxton Moore (Illustrator)


■ The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip Hop:

The opening of this book includes a note to readers from rapper and DJ Swizz Beats. He wants readers of all ages to experience the roots of rap and Hip-Hop culture through literature. Boston Weatherford’s poetic explanations coupled with Morrison’s masterful artwork allows this to be a centerpiece for any celebration. Carol Boston Weatherford (Author), Frank Morrison (Illustrator)


■ A Child’s Introduction to Hip-Hop (ages 4-8):

A comprehensive guide to Hip-Hop, this book delves into its rich history and impact as both a music style and cultural phenomenon. Written by acclaimed journalist and music critic Jordannah Elizabeth, it provides context for young readers in an easy-to-follow format, while celebrating some of hip hop’s most decorated artists. From Tupac Shakur to Tyler, the Creator, children learn about the roots of this music revolution while being inspired to continue uplifting Hip-Hop as a critical storytelling modality. Jordannah Elizabeth (Author), Markia Jenai (Illustrator)


■ Daddy and Me And the Rhyme to Be (ages 4-8):

Based on a true story (and with a Netflix series to match), rapper, actor, and entrepreneur Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and his daughter published an adorable picture book. Just like dad, Karma is a lyricist. They love making music together, but when Karma is tasked with creating a rap for her dad’s birthday, she doesn’t know where to start. This book is a wonderful way to get parents rhyming with their younger children. Chris Bridges, Halcyon Person (Authors), Parker-Nia Gordon (Illustrator)


■ All Good in the Hood (ages 4-8):

Dwayne Reed, a.k.a. America’s Favorite Rapping Teacher, delivers a rhythmic celebration of a Chicago neighborhood during a Juneteenth celebration. Onomatopoeia and phrases that come straight from the hip hop cannon support the narrative of sibling love perfectly. Dwayne Reed (Author), Gladys Jones (Illustrator)


■ Darryl’s Dream (ages 4-8):

Founding member of legendary Hip-Hop group Run-DMC Darryl McDaniels tells the story of third grade Darryl who enjoys writing but is bullied for his big glasses. Through Hip-Hop, Darryl gains confidence and steps into his power at the school talent show. Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Shawnee Warfield, Johnny Warfield, Adam Padilla (Authors), Tristan Tait (Illustrator)


■ Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat (ages 5-11):

Written by the incomparable Nikki Giovanni, this book examines the similarities of poetry and Hip-Hop. Through more than 50 poems and songs, young readers will learn how the two genres are intertwined. Artists like Queen Latifah, Jay-Z and A Tribe Called Quest are spotlighted alongside notable poets like Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks. The joyful illustrations, created by various artists, bring the upbeat tunes and rhythmic words to life. Nikki Giovaani (Author), Alicia Vergel de Dios, Damian Ward, Kristen Balouch, Jeremy Tugeau, and Michael Noiset (Illustrators)


■ When The Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip-Hop (ages 5-12):

This book artfully tells the backstory of how DJ Kool Herc created unique ways of transitioning and playing music between songs in 1970s Bronx. Laban Carrick Hill (Author), Theodore Taylor III (Illustrator)


■ Simon B. Rhymin’ (ages 8-12):

In this lively middle grade novel series from Dwayne Reed, Simon Barnes is a beat-dropping, rising rapper. He wants to be famous one day, but can this 5th grader overcome his shyness and fears? With Hip-Hop as the entry point, Simon (and young readers) learn the art of gaining confidence. The sequels, Simon B. Rhymin’ Takes a Stand and Simon B. Rhymin’ Gets in the Game, combine rap with social justice as Simon examines inequality in his school and neighborhood. Dwayne Reed (Author)


■ The Motherlode: 100+ Women Who Made Hip Hop (ages 14 and up):

Through biographical portraits, the author shares the stories and contributions of over 100 of Hip-Hop’s leading ladies. From MC Lyte and Monie Love to Foxy Brown and Nicki Minaj, she pays homage to the women who helped shape Hip-Hop culture. Clover Hope (Author), Rachelle Baker (Illustrator)


■ The Message: 100 Life Lessons from Hip-Hop’s Greatest Songs (adult):

This book will help parents focus on the messages of Hip-Hop as they prepare to share them with their children. Felicia Pride’s The Message, is a thoughtful exploration of all the lessons learned from Hip-Hop lyrics. This book is a great springboard for getting your children to dig deep and talk about what Hip-Hop lyrics mean to them and what they mean in the greater context of our society. Felicia Pride (Author)


■ The Come Up: An Oral History of the Rise of Hip Hop (adult):

This book is a multi-decade overview of Hip-Hop. It covers all the major ways the genre has evolved and has contributed to a global revolution. The author interviewed more than 300 contributors, including artists, DJs, executives and journalists, to introduce readers to the under told stories of Hip-Hop’s massive climb. Jonathan Abrams (Author)


• SOURCE: 12 Books That Teach the History of Hip-Hop; As celebrations for Hip-Hop's 50th anniversary continue, we're sharing books that'll inform kids about the influential music style. Parents >

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