*Although Maya Angelou is no longer with us, her presence remains as relevant as ever, thanks to a new lyric video from Smooch Music.
The video, which was released on Angelou’s birthday on Saturday (April 4), is for the song “Human Family off the late poet-author’s posthumous album “Caged Bird Songs,” which was released in November. The recording, created by AZ Yet lead singer Shawn Rivera, puts a new spin on Angelou’s poems by having her recite her work over hip-hop and R&B music.
According to Smooch Music’s president Van Jewell, “Human Family,” is an example of Angelou’s love for people. The poem is noted for harboring a message that everyone is more alike than unalike, displays Angelou’s love for people.
“We are delighted that we could be blessed enough to help her deliver this message to all people,” Jewell told Billy Johnson of Yahoo Music, adding that he and his label “felt compelled” to join Rivera and his passion in bringing the Caged Bird Songs album to fruition.
The arrival of the “Human Family” video comes as Angelou’s grandson, Colin A. Johnson, remembers his famous grandmother, her love of music as well as her favorite rapper. The following are highlights from Johnson’s interview:
YAHOO MUSIC: Did you and your grandmother talk about music a lot?
COLIN A. JOHNSON: We definitely talked about the various different generations and iterations and forms of music and how it’s evolved. She loved the arts and loved music. She had eclectic tastes herself. A lot of people don’t know that she was a huge country and western fan. So much so that she has been to the country music awards and video awards. They’ve asked her to come to present an award within the country music [community]. Grandma never separated herself to say, ‘That’s different from me.’ She appreciated the artistic form and how it manifested itself from whatever generation it came from. Now, obviously she took issue with maybe some of the language, but not as an art form as a whole.
Was there a hip-hop artist or song she especially liked?
For me, I would definitely say it would be Common. Towards the later years of her life there were other people that were definitely involved with grandma that my grandmother definitely appreciated. Common’s spirit, his music, his general attitude towards music, and his spirit of his role as a citizen of the world really resonated with my grandmother. They did joint speaking engagements and other projects. She invited him to her home many times because of the kind of spirit he is.
I know how much he respected your grandmother. There was some controversy, though, when she appeared on his song “The Dreamer” in which he used some profanity in his lyrics. Were they able to resolve this?
Right after that thing happened, I saw Common at a BET event in D.C. and I talked to him. Obviously, he’s an artist that needs to say what he needs to say on his album and his music. But people have referred to my grandma as America’s grandma. When grandma doesn’t like something that you do it’s not like she loses love for you. It’s not that she throws you out and never wants to talk to you again. She really wants to bring you in and talk to you about why she’s disappointed in that. And they did get a chance to speak, but they did have to agree to disagree. But that didn’t change the respect or love that they had for each other.
How did your grandmother feel about her poems being layered over hip-hop beats?
She was really tickled by the project because she knew it was something different for her. But she liked it. I think that’s one of the things she enjoyed about it. The conversation we had was about how to make it happen, never about anything but how to make it happen. But not just to make it happen, but how to make it great.
For more of Johnson’s interview, click here: To see the “Human Family” lyric video, check out the video below: