High above the carpeted floors of my old high school library lived the imprinted names of history’s honored heroes, gleaming an opulent gold and somehow projecting the presence of those individuals onto us students far below. One such name, Maya Angelou, representative of a precious poet, author and wielder of words unlike any other, rightfully resided beside names like Edison, Thoreau, and Washington. Her distinguished placement was not lost on me; upon further learning, I gradually grew to deeply admire an esteemed woman of many roles, purposes, talents.
Whether reading Angelou’s award-winning works or watching and listening to her deliver them herself, her powerful presence is never less than strikingly captivating; sweet, soulful and always sincere, this landmark artist has assured herself an untainted shrine in our culture’s upper echelon of creators and leaders.
Today saw the benign legend’s saddening and unfortunate passing at 86-years-old. She undoubtedly lived a full, fulfilling life, ushering in considerable change as both an artist and passionate African-American civil rights activist. Multiple generations were awarded the pleasure of living alongside Angelou as she continued to inspire and create for legions of people, and her legacy is all but soundly cemented in a bath of positivity and appreciation.
In years past, Angelou has also affected and crossed paths with many of hip-hop’s iconic influencers. The ever-evolving genre can trace its humble beginnings back to the classics of others (jazz, soul, R&B, gospel), but the very existence of its lyricism stems from the pillar of poetry. It might come as no surprise, then, that quite a few of our favorite artists have acknowledged Angelou’s importance through song; in celebration of her accomplishments and contributions, we have assembled a list of rap tracks that reference a benevolent and beloved figure, Maya Angelou. Please feel free to let us know about any other songs you love with references to Angelou in the comments section.