Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou at her 82nd birthday party with friends and family at Angelou's home on May 20, 2010, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Photo by Steve Exum/Getty Images)

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Poetry and hip-hop fans are in for a pleasant surprise. Maya Angelou’s iconic words from her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings are given a hip-hop twist, which will be heard in a new album entitled Caged Bird Songs.

The hip-hop songs are produced by Shawn Rivera and RoccStar. Rivera is the lead singer of R&B group Az Yet, while Roccstar is known for co-writing “Fine China” by Chris Brown.

The new album has 13 songs and will be released through Smooch Music on November 4 of this year.

Angelou had the chance to work on this album, and it was one of the several projects she had worked on before passing away last May.

An interview with her grandson Colin A. Johnson reveals that Angelou loved the concept from the beginning and that the producers were “inspired by grandma’s work.”

Rivera and Roccstar felt that delivering her words in a different medium would help broaden its reach to a wider range of people.

Johnson said that the pair of musicians had started working on the project without Angelou’s knowledge. She eventually backed the project once she found out about it, even going as far as lending previously recorded vocals and using her home in North Carolina as a place to record the tracks.

“She just laughed,” Johnson said about Angelou’s initial reaction to the songs. This response was the same one she had when she first learned that she had her own Facebook page.

He also said that his grandmother was a fan of hip-hop, seeing the music as a way for people of this generation to communicate and convey messages. He added that she had “great stories about her interactions with Tupac (Shakur).”

Johnson hopes that the album will help youngsters connect with Angelou’s work just as they did with his own teen children. He also said his children no longer pick up books of poetry without them being assigned by school, or unless he assigns them. So hearing a poet’s message in music allows the words to reach younger generations.

He manages his grandmother’s estate along with his father Guy B. Johnson and also runs the Caged Bird Legacy, which will launch future Maya Angelou projects.

The Caged Bird Songs is just one of a few other things that they have lined up, most of which were projects Angelou had worked on before and are now at various levels of completion.

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