Before Maya Angelou died in May at the age of 86, she had been working on a rather unique project that blended her beautiful poetry with contemporary hip-hop music. For the project, Dr. Angelou recited her own poems, while producers Shawn Rivera and RoccStarr focused on original beats and instrumentals. The result was "Caged Bird Songs," an album whose title plays off to Dr. Angelou's iconic book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
The album was released in November, and now, one of its 13 songs has a music video. "Harlem Hopscotch" is Dr. Angelou's poem that was published in 1969.
One foot down, then hop! It's hot.
Good things for the ones that's got.
Another jump, now to the left.
Everybody for hisself.
In the air, now both feet down.
Since you black, don't stick around.
Food is gone, rent is due,
Curse and cry and then jump two.
All the peoples out of work,
Hold for three, now twist and jerk.
Cross the line, they count you out.
That's what hopping's all about.
Both feet flat, the game is done.
They think I lost, I think I won.
The video itself features incredible dancers flipping, breakdancing and shimmying through the streets of Harlem and several locations in Los Angeles, including Venice Beach and downtown LA. Choreography comes from Emmy Award-winning duo Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo (NappyTabs), best known for their work on the hit television series "So You Think You Can Dance." The video also features appearances by actress and singer Nia Peeples ("Fame," "Pretty Little Liars"), dancer/choreographer Derek Hough, actor Alfonso Ribeiro, actress/singer Zendaya, dancer/choreographer Ian Eastwood, Quest Crew, and dancers from both "So You Think You Can Dance" and "America's Best Dance Crew."
Dr. Angelou’s grandson, Colin Johnson, reminisces that music was such a huge part of his grandmother's life. "She loved everything, from pop to country and, of course, hip-hop. With her dedication to social activism and how she illuminated the struggles and injustices of the urban experience through prose, there's a direct correlation to hip-hop today," he says. "She was really excited about her street-wise commentary being presented in this way."