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

illus. by Frank Morrison. 48p. glossary. little bee. Jan. 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781499804119.
K-Gr 4—Award-winners Weatherford and Morrison team up to document the history of hip-hop. The four pillars (graffiti, break dancing, rapping/MCing, and DJing) each play a role in the 16 bars that make up the book. Weatherford writes spare rhyming text, which follows hip-hop's roots in folktales and spirituals to its current status as a cornerstone of culture. The verses contain Weatherford's characteristically powerful and flawless wordsmithery: "Dropping, scratching, beat juggling/matching wax on wheels of steel." The author captures a complex art form in just a handful of short stanzas; the extensive back matter fills in any gaps. Morrison, a former dancer for the Sugar Hill Gang, has superbly captured Weatherford's narrative in his mural style and portrait-quality illustrations. New York cityscapes, the fashion styles of the previous decades, and the key figures of the genre fill each page. The artist plays with perspective and scale in such a way that each page stands out uniquely from the last. There are several pages where the text and its illustration fall on separate sides of a page break, which could be tough for read-alouds.
VERDICT A winning addition to music history collections, pair with Eric Morse's and Nelson George's What is Hip-Hop?? and Laban Carrick Hill's When the Beat was Born.—Clara Hendricks, Cambridge Public Library, MA

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