cover image Let Me Hear a Rhyme

Let Me Hear a Rhyme

Tiffany D. Jackson with Malik “Malik-16” Sharif. HarperCollins/Tegen, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-284032-5

Jackson (Monday’s Not Coming) deftly chronicles the timely story of bold young talent gone too soon and the survivors who struggle to keep it alive. The year is 1998 and aspiring teen rap artist Stephon Davis Jr. is dead in Brooklyn, the victim of an apparent street shooting perpetrated by persons unknown. Determined not to let his musical genius die with him, Steph’s heartbroken best friends, Quadir and Jarrell, and his grief-stricken sister, Jasmine, hatch a plan to pretend that Steph is still alive in order to turn him into a rap superstar like his recently slain idol, Biggie Smalls. As Quadir and Jarrell hawk Steph’s posthumous demos (with lyrics written by Malik-16) and a record label rep shows interest in meeting the young artist, an increasingly haunted Jasmine delves into the suspicious circumstances surrounding her brother’s murder. From obscure rap and hip-hop references to invocations of scalding hot combs, Jackson scores a bull’s-eye with her passionate homage to black city life in the late ’90s, yet it’s her earnest takes on creativity, love, and loss that are timeless. Ages 13–up. Agent: Natalie Lakosil, Bradford Literary Agency. (May)