Let Me Hear A Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson
In the next striking and vibrant standalone novel by the critically acclaimed author of Allegedly and Monday’s Not Coming, Tiffany D. Jackson tells the story of three Brooklyn teens who plot to turn their murdered friend into a major rap star by pretending he is still alive.
Biggie Smalls was right. Things done changed. But that doesn’t mean that Quadir and Jarrell are okay letting their best friend Steph’s tracks lie forgotten in his bedroom after he’s killed—not when his beats could turn any Bed-Stuy corner into a celebration, not after years of having each other’s backs.
Enlisting the help of Steph’s younger sister, Jasmine, Quadir and Jarrell come up with a plan to promote Steph’s music under a new rap name: The Architect. Soon, everyone in Brooklyn is dancing to Steph’s voice. But then his mixtape catches the attention of a hotheaded music rep and—with just hours on the clock—the trio must race to prove Steph’s talent from beyond the grave.
Now, as the pressure—and danger—of keeping their secret grows, Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine are forced to confront the truth about what happened to Steph. Only each has something to hide. And with everything riding on Steph’s fame, together they need to decide what they stand for before they lose everything they’ve worked so hard to hold on to—including each other.
Tiffany D. Jackson is becoming an autobuy author for me. I loved Monday’s Not Coming, but I loved Let Me Hear A Rhyme even more.
This book takes place in 1998 with some flashbacks to 1997. I has 21 at that time, so not too much older than these kids. I remember the east coast, west coast rivalries. The shootings of Biggie and 2Pac and how they’re still unsolved. I loved all the hip hop/rap music references throughout the book.
Steph was a 16 kid who loved music. He also took after his father, trying to get kids to see that they could become so much more. That their neighborhood or economic issues didn’t have to dictate their lives. He encouraged his friends to go to college and become something. Steph was serious about music and was writing songs all the time. But then he was shot and no one was talking about who did it or why. The police weren’t really taking it too seriously. To them, he was just another black kid shot in the city.
Steph’s sister, Jazz, along with best friends, Quady and Rell were all devastated. They went into Steph’s room and found cds and notebooks with lyrics. Boxes of them. They also found a box that confused them, because Steph was a good kid. Jazz goes to pick up Steph’s last check and finds out that he never worked where he said. So where did he get his money? The trio is really bummed that no one would ever hear Steph’s music. They thought he could be bigger than Biggie. So they came up with a plan to record an album and sell it locally. They would hand it out to DJ’s and see what happened. The music was popular right away. So much so that there was a small piece in Vibe and a big producer contacted “The Architect”.
The kids try to play things off the best they could. They went into a small local studio and made the songs better. They took meetings and made excuses on why Arch wasn’t there. Jazz even pretends to be him at a club one day. But they can only keep things a secret for so long. During this time, Jazz is trying to figure out why Steph was killed. Each friend had secrets and so did Steph.
The book was filled with lyrics and points of view from each character with flashbacks to Steph. I loved the ending and I teared up a bit. Music is so important to me and I can’t sing or write (or play for that matter), so I can only imagine how much it means to the people surrounded in that scene. I feel like music is a language that everyone can understand and it can bring people together.
All the pieces of Steph’s murder do come together at the end. His secrets come out and the kids do come clean about his death to the producer.
Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for my copy for review. I gave this 5 stars.
Have you read anything by Tiffany D. Jackson? Is this book on your TBR? Did you listen to 90’s hip hop?