September 10, 2014
Grandson convinced Maya Angelou to collaborate on a hip hop album
by Rachel Smitley
In a new album titled Caged Bird Songs—you can guess which book inspired this—Shawn Rivera and Roccstar will sample Maya Angelou‘s voice. The producers initiated the project before Angelou knew about it, but she agreed to share recordings of her voice and even opened her home to the producers.The 13-song album is being released by Smooch Records on November 4.
The artists were initially inspired by Angelou’s poetry, and came up with the idea to incorporate her words into songs. The new format has the potential to reach a wider audience that has thus far been disinterested or unaware of poetry in their daily lives. Angelou’s grandson Colin Johnson says that she was enthusiastic about the project from the get-go—”She had a lot of energy around it … She saw (hip hop) as this generation’s way of speaking and conveying a message.”
The tracks on the album are a mix of lyrics written by Angelou herself; pre-recorded vocals she used for other projects; and newly recorded vocals specifically for this album. The new vocals were recorded in her own home in North Carolina, a testament to how involved she was in the endeavor. “She loved it and was excited to hear more about what they wanted to do,” says Johnson.
This posthumus release is not the only project of Angelou’s that her readers have to look forward to. Angelou’s son and grandson, Colin, have co-founded the Caged Bird Legacy, an organization started in order to launch a number of projects that the poet had in the works. “There are other things coming out,” he said. “You’ll see a lot of other things come out with her name”—in other words be prepared. Maya Angelou isn’t done yet.