Crown Heights novelist Tiffany D. Jackson is paying homage to music legends gone too soon with a hip-hop infused tale titled “Let Me Hear a Rhyme.”
Set in 1998 in Bed-Stuy’s Brevoort Houses, “Let Me Hear a Rhyme” follows three Brooklyn teens who plot to turn their murdered friend into a major rap star by pretending he is still alive. A love letter to the golden era of hip-hop, Jackson was inspired by the deaths of Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G., and Tupac Shakur, and the effect of their losses on the music scene at that time.
“Biggie Smalls was right: Things done changed,” said Jackson. “Let Me a Hear a Rhyme is about the loss of our music icons, both in the past and in the present, and how that affects us and the way we honor local legends.”
The novel’s protagonists Quadir and Jarrell decide to not keep their best friend Steph’s music lie forgotten under his bed after he’s murdered. With the help of Steph’s younger sister Jasmine, they begin promoting Steph’s music under a new rap name: the Architect. When his demo catches the attention of a hotheaded music label rep, the trio must prove Steph’s talent from beyond the grave.
As the pressure of keeping their secret grows, Quadir, Jarrell and Jasmine are forced to confront the truth about what happened to their friend. They need to decide what they stand for or lose all that they’ve worked so hard to hold on to—including each other.
“Let Me Hear a Rhyme” is also a trip down memory lane to the urban city life in the ‘90s, a time and place Jackson herself grew up in. A Brooklynite by birth, she lived in Fort Greene, Brooklyn Heights and East New York, and currently resides in Crown Heights.
“I always knew I wanted to be a writer,” said Jackson. “The best part about being an author from Brooklyn is writing about places that I can reach out and touch.”
But before becoming a critically acclaimed author for young adult novels — her debut “Allegedly” earned an NAACP Image Award nomination and her sophomore “Monday’s Not Coming,” was a Coretta Scott King New Talent Award winner — she took a slightly different route. After graduating high school, Jackson attended Howard University to study film and ended up working in television. Coincidentally, “Let Me Hear a Rhyme” was originally a script for a film she wrote.
Still, literature remained her passion, and while working in TV, she dedicated any time she could spare to her craft. “I would wake up hours before work just to write,” she said.
Jackson is now preparing for the release of “Let Me Hear a Rhyme” on May 21, a date she picked to also honor one of her musical heroes, Biggie Smalls, whose legacy inspired the book. She will be celebrating both her wildly-anticipated third book and the hip-hop icon’s born day with a big release party at Dumbo’s Powerhouse Arena, before embarking on a national reading tour.
Let Me Hear a Rhyme publishes on Tuesday, May 21, and is available for pre-order now.