The BreakBeat Poets

New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop

Hip-Hop is the largest youth culture in the history of the planet rock. It has produced generations of artists who have revolutionized their genre(s) by applying the aesthetic innovations of the culture.

The BreakBeat Poets features 78 poets, born somewhere between 1961-1999, All-City and Coast-to-Coast, who are creating the next and now movement(s) in American letters. This is the first poetry anthology by and for the Hip-Hop generation. It is for people who love Hip-Hop, for fans of the culture, for people who've never read a poem, for people who thought poems were only something done by dead white dudes who got lost in a forest, and for poetry heads. This anthology is meant to expand the idea of who a poet is and what a poem is for.

The BreakBeat Poets are the scribes recording and remixing a fuller spectrum of experience of what it means to be alive in this moment. The BreakBeat Poets are a break with the past and an honoring of the tradition(s), an undeniable body expanding the canon for the fresher.

About the author

Kevin Coval is the author of Schtick, L-vis Lives, Everyday People, the American Library Association “Book of the Year” Finalist Slingshots: A Hip-Hop Poetica, and an editor of The BreakBeat Poets. He is the founder of Louder Than a Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival, Artistic Director at Young Chicago Authors, and teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Quraysh Ali Lansana is the author of eight poetry books, three textbooks, a children's book, editor of eight anthologies, and coauthor of a book of pedagogy. He is a faculty member of the Creative Writing Program of the School of the Art Institute and the Red Earth MFA Creative Writing Program at Oklahoma City University. He is also a former faculty member of the Drama Division of The Juilliard School. Lansana served as Director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University from 2002-2011, where he was also Associate Professor of English/Creative Writing. Our Difficult Sunlight: A Guide to Poetry, Literacy & Social Justice in Classroom & Community (with Georgia A. Popoff) was published in March 2011 by Teachers & Writers Collaborative and was a 2012 NAACP Image Award nominee. His most recent books include The Walmart Republic w/ Christopher Stewart (Mongrel Empire Press, September 2014) and reluctant minivan (Living Arts Press, May 2014).

Nate Marshall is the author of Wild Hundreds (University of Pittsburgh Press 2015). He won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize and served as a Zell Postgraduate Fellow at the University of Michigan. A Cave Canem Fellow, Nate won the 2014 Hurston/Wright Founding Members Award and the 2013 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award. He is a founding member of the poetry collective Dark Noise. He is also a rapper.


"[T]he first definitive anthology of poems by poets who fuse together the aesthetic of hip-hop and the style of slam poetry with the written-word tradition... [a] dynamic, groundbreaking, genre-merging volume."

"A cool & diversified version of a mix tape. The BreakBeat Poets is a thorough and complete summation of Golden Era writers who continue to build the scene of literary and performance poetry."
—Chance The Rapper

"The Breakbeat Poets presents the struggle-born whispers, joyous shouts, and hopeful flows of a beautiful multitude four decades in the making. Here are the voices of a movement that just won't stop. For the urgent midnight roar of the people's poetry and the glimpses of freshly conjured dawns awaiting their own breaks—this book is nothing short of essential."
—Jeff Chang, author of Who We Be: The Colorization of America

"The BreakBeat Poets digs past simplified stereotypes and outdated narratives and opens us up to thoughtfully crafted work that positions hip hop not only as a culture, but also as a messenger of social context, a vehicle of political response and a tangible solution."
Lambda Literary

"One of the most diverse and important poetry anthologies of the last 25 years."
Latino Rebels

"The success of hip-hop has radically reshaped many American art forms. This is particularly true of poetry... The BreakBeat Poets comes at an exciting time."

"The BreakBeat Poets is not concerned with proving that hip-hop is poetry but rather with documenting the positive impact this musical form has had on poetry. In addition to the diversity of writers and themes, there is a wonderful variety of forms and styles in The BreakBeat Poets."
The Rumpus

"The BreakBeat Poets offers a thrilling vortex of diverse voices. From slavery to Jim Crow, from gang violence to black identity, The BreakBeat Poets presents an enthralling and necessary overview of an often overlooked vein of contemporary poetry."
Foreword Reviews

"[A] must-read for anyone interested in the deep and every-growing motifs of wordplay, cadence, rhyme structure and symbolism."

"Blurs the lines between Wordsworth and the Wu-Tang Clan."

"Every generation needs its poets; we never doubted that the rappers were poets, but as The Breakbeat Poets shows, the rappers didn’t put the poets out of work.”
—Mark Anthony Neal, co-editor of That’s the Joint: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader

"This is for the hip-hop fan of any age and any generation, regardless if you’ve ever read a poem or not. It’s deeper than rap, for real."
Fake Shore Drive

"Finally! Here’s the anthology that puts in print what we’ve know all along: Rap is Poetry, and Hip-Hop is a genre of poetry bigger than poetry itself. Read these poems and get rid of the notion once and for all that Hip-Hop poems are meant for the stage and don’t work on the page. And the author’s statements and essays place these poems straight in the American grain, the current iteration of the African-American poetic lineage. The Breakbeat Poets is the essential text for anyone who wants to know what’s up with American poetry in the Digital Age."
—Bob Holman, Bowery Poetry Club

"It's amazing to see how expansive the dialogue has become. This book is heavy!"
—Bobbito Garcia, cohost of The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show