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


The roots of rap and the history of hip-hop have origins that precede DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash. Kids will learn about how it evolved from folktales, spirituals, and poetry, to the showmanship of James Brown, to the culture of graffiti art and breakdancing that developed around the art form and gave birth to the musical artists we know today. Written in lyrical rhythm by award-winning author and poet Carole Boston Weatherford, and completed with flowing, vibrant illustrations by Frank Morrison, this book beautifully illustrates how hip-hop is a language spoken the whole world ’round, and features a foreword by Swizz Beatz, a Grammy Award-winning American hip-hop rapper, DJ, and record producer.

Playlist for The Roots of Rap

Hip Hop Lesson Plans

Hip Hop & Poetry Lessons by Paul Carl

From PBS Learning

From Brain Pop (K-5)

From Education World (6-8 & 9-12)

From Teach Rock (6-12)

Hip Hop Pedagogy

Documentaries & Videos

The Evolution of Hip Hop

9 Elements by KRS-One

Kenny Muhammad The Human Chamber Orchestra

Style Wars (grafitti)

The Art of 16 Bars

Whatever Happened to Hip Hip?

The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

Honors for The Roots of Rap

  • Original Art Show, Silver Award
  • Kirkus Review, Best Picture Books
  • Kirkus Review, Best Informational Books
  • Book Links Lasting Connections 2019
  • North Carolina Young People’s Literature Award finalist
  • New York Public Library Best Books of 2019
  • Chicago Public Library Best Informational Books
  • Teaching for Change 100 Best Multicultural and Social Justice Books
  • 101 Great Books for Kids, Evanston Public Library
  • Best American History Books, 31 Days, 31 Lists by Betsy Bird/Fuse 8 Productions
  • Best Nonfiction, 31 Days, 31 Lists by Betsy Bird/Fuse 8 Productions
  • The Nerdies for Nonfiction
  • Nonfiction Detectives Best Nonfiction Books

Reviews for The Roots of Rap

“No way around it, this book is supa-dupa fly, with lush illustrations anchored in signature hop-hop iconography for the future of the global hip-hop nation.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Starting with its attention-getting cover, this picture book does an excellent job of capturing the essence of rap . . . This tribute to hip hop culture will appeal to a wide audience, and practically demands multiple readings.”—Booklist, starred review

A winning addition to music history collections…”–School Library Journal, starred review

“[T]his artful introduction to one of the most influential cultural movements of the 20th century pulses with the energy and rhythm of its subject.”–Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Bro! This is actually kinda cool–all about the artists who shaped hip hop. Oh, it rhymes! Is this supposed to be a song? a rap? Bro, that’s hecka cool!”– Aya, 9th grader from Great Kids Books blog

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