Review of Let Me Hear a Rhyme

Let Me Hear a Rhyme
by Tiffany D. Jackson; with lyrics by Malik “Malik-16” Sharif
High School    Tegen/HarperCollins    380 pp.
5/19    978-0-06-284032-5    $17.99   
e-book ed.  978-0-06-284034-9    $9.99

It’s 1998, and hip-hop reigns supreme on the music charts and in the streets of Brooklyn. Unfortunately, the violence plaguing the community claims the life of Steph Davis, brother to Jazmine and best friend to Quadir and Jarrell. After discovering a treasure-trove of Steph’s recordings and notebooks full of his rhymes, the trio sets out to make Steph famous, posthumously. They catch the attention of a high-powered music executive who is all business and plays no games. Jackson (this year’s Steptoe winner for Monday’s Not Coming, rev. 7/18) presents a fast-moving, heart-pounding homage to nineties hip-hop, Brooklyn, and the power of music, love, and friendship. Readers are transported to a time when DJs and MCs rocked the parties and when word-of-mouth could make you a star — juxtaposed with the ever-present threats of violence and hardship. The mysterious circumstances surrounding Steph’s death have a lingering impact on the lives of the three young people, the choices they face, and their struggles to cope with loss. Jazmine, Quadir, and Jarrell courageously confront the seeming apathy of the community, systems of inequity, and the invisible boundaries of the inner-city — and discover the healing power of art as they fight to seek justice for Steph.

From the July/August 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Monique Harris

Monique Harris is a public educator, reading specialist and independent educational consultant. She holds a Master of Science degree in Education from Simmons University, and is enrolled in a PhD program at Florida State University.

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