The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop
Edited by Kevin Coval, Quraysh Ali Lansana and Nate Marshall
Hip-Hop is the largest youth culture in the history of the planet rock. It has produced generations of artists who have revolutionized their genre(s) by applying the aesthetic innovations of the culture. The BreakBeat Poets features 78 poets, born somewhere between 1961-1999, All-City and Coast-to-Coast, who are creating the next and now movement(s) in American letters. This is the first poetry anthology by and for the Hip-Hop generation. It is for people who love Hip-Hop, for fans of the culture, for people who’ve never read a poem, for people who thought poems were only something done by dead white dudes who got lost in a forest, and for poetry heads. This anthology is meant to expand the idea of who a poet is and what a poem is for.
The BreakBeat Poets are the scribes recording and remixing a fuller spectrum of experience of what it means to be alive in this moment. The BreakBeat Poets are a break with the past and an honoring of the tradition(s), an undeniable body expanding the canon for the fresher.
“A cool & diversified version of a mix tape. The BreakBeat Poets is a thorough and complete summation of Golden Era writers who continue to build the scene of literary and performance poetry.”
—Chance The Rapper
“The BreakBeat Poets book release party is more than a poetry reading, as the anthology itself is more than a compilation of iambic pentameter. It starts with the editors, two of whom are the city’s most illustrious performance poets, Kevin Coval and Quraysh Ali Lansana, the perfect creative minds to oversee this book created for the hip-hop community.”
“[T]he first definitive anthology of poems by poets who fuse together the aesthetic of hip-hop and the style of slam poetry with the written-word tradition… [a] dynamic, groundbreaking, genre-merging volume.”
“The Breakbeat Poets presents the struggle-born whispers, joyous shouts, and hopeful flows of a beautiful multitude four decades in the making. Here are the voices of a movement that just won’t stop. For the urgent midnight roar of the people’s poetry and the glimpses of freshly conjured dawns awaiting their own breaks—this book is nothing short of essential.”
—Jeff Chang, author of Can’t Stop: Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation and Who We Be: The Colorization of America
“We have a vision and hope for this city, this summer, that we can make Chicago fresher and more just and more equitable. We are building ONE Chicago, countering the vision of the architects and urban planners and mayors who grow the gap between the city of saved and city of the damned. We imagine and work toward ONE city that is de-segregated like the culture we make. THIS is a Chicago tradition too, a mix of House music and The Haymarket Riot, a new public square, for all who are here and ALL who will come.” – Kevin Coval
The project began after Kevin collaborated with Chicago’s Cultural Commissioner Michelle Boone on a poem for the launch event of Choose Chicago. After hearing the poem, Lou Razin, from Broadway in Chicago, encouraged Kevin to write the city a new anthem. Kevin brought a young, new soul band from Chicago, The O’My’s, into the writing process, and worked with their producers, Blended Babies to record the song. Long-time friend and supporter Joe Shanahan at the Metro introduced the team to Josephine Lee from the Chicago Children’s Choir, who lace the chorus. The visuals were created with director Jay Caves from Heart of the City.