Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson
In this standalone novel, 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.
You have probably seen this scene before:
Ladies in black church dresses, old men in gray suits, and hood kids in white tees with some blurry picture printed on the front under the spray-painted letters RIP.
I only had to read the first few chapters of Let Me Hear a Rhyme to know that Tiffany D. Jackson would land firmly on my auto-buy author list. This book is everything that I love about YA contemporary, and it is now up there has one of my favourites alongside Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman, With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, and Far From the Tree by Robin Benway. There is something special about all of these books that has impacted me and I continue to think about years after having read them. The same is certainly true for Let Me Hear a Rhyme- I won’t soon forget Jasmine, Quadir, and Jarrell.
In many ways, this novel felt like a love letter to Brooklyn, and the city itself felt like a character. It was also a love letter to hip hop and the power of music. I have said time and time again how much I enjoy books that focus on the different ways that humans overcome grief, especially if one of those ways is through music. In this way, Let Me Hear a Rhyme reminded me of The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk, another one of my favourite YA novels. Malik-16 wrote the lyrics for story, and they can be found throughout the book. That added another emotional layer to the story.
Jasmine, Quadir, and Jarrell each have their own perspective, and it was great to see them form bonds with one another. I understand each of their motivations and became invested in all of them. Honestly, I would read a book that follows each of them individually! The fact that the book was set in the 90s also brought along some nostalgia, but it was also important for the development of the story.
It should come as no surprise that I highly recommend Let Me Hear a Rhyme, just be emotionally prepared. I had tears in the eyes the entire time I was reading it- the grief experienced by all the characters felt so authentic. I cannot wait to read Tiffany D. Jackson’s entire backlist and for the release of her newest novel, Grown.