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Broadleaf Books

Psalms of My People: A Story of Black Liberation as Told Through Hip-Hop by Lenny Duncan (Hardcover)

Psalms of My People: A Story of Black Liberation as Told Through Hip-Hop by Lenny Duncan (Hardcover)

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Nonfiction - Music - Rap & Hip-Hop - Social Science - Popular Culture


Treating hip-hop like sacred scripture, lenny duncan, author of Dear Church and United States of Grace traces hip-hop's history, artists, lyrics, and cultural context to elucidate the story of Black liberation in this country. Beautiful illustrations illuminate the text on each page.

If you want to understand the Black experience in the US, you have to understand hip-hop.

James Baldwin, in his famous talk "The Struggle for the Artist's Integrity," suggests that "the poets (by which I mean all artists) are finally the only people who know the truth about us." And to understand the truth about the history of Black peoples in America, argues lenny duncan, we must look to the modern Black poet: the hip-hop artist.

In Psalms of My People, artist, scholar, and activist lenny duncan treats the work of hip-hop artists from the last several decades--from N.W.A, Tupac, and Biggie to Lauryn Hill, Jay-Z, and Kendrick Lamar--like sacred scripture. Their songs and lyrics are given full exegetical treatment--a critical and contextual interpretation of text--and are beautifully illustrated, with a blend of ancient and modern art styles illuminating every page.

All the while, duncan traces the history of hip-hop, revealing it as a conduit to tell the modern story of Black liberation in this country, following the bloody trail from the end of the Civil Rights Era through the day George Floyd was sacrificed on the streets of America.

"Who else but the hip-hop artist," asks Duncan, "has embodied the cries, pain, and secret concrete ? Whose art? Our art. Whose story is written in the book of life with crimson lines dipped in a well that is 400+ years deep? Whose story? Our story. For whom does God bring down empires? Us."


lenny duncan (they/them) is a writer, speaker, scholar, and media producer working at the forefront of racial justice in America. lenny is the author of Dear ChurchUnited States of Grace, and Dear Revolutionaries, and a co-creator of the podcast BlackBerryJams with PRX. A PhD student in historical and cultural studies of religion, lenny is currently researching what they call "a people's history of magic." lenny is originally from West Philadelphia, has hitchhiked thousands of miles on American byways, and makes their home up and down the I-5 with their found family, and in the East Bay area of San Francisco for research.

"In Psalms of My People the transcendent poetry that undergirds all of duncan's prose is brought front and center to comfort and challenge the reader in ways only art can. duncan weaves together hip-hop, scripture, history, and their own experiences with soft tenderness and sharp critique. It's both delicious and, at times, bitter; full of the contradictions we see reflected in all sacred texts and pregnant with possibilities for transformation." --Elle Dowd, pastor, activist, and author of Baptized in Tear Gas: From White Moderate to Abolitionist

"lenny duncan has masterfully channeled a fierce incantation for unearthing and rebirthing--as a reader you can't help but be changed by it. A poetic keening in the company of Ginsberg's 'Howl.'" --Joanna Garner, senior story creative director at Meow Wolf

"This piece welcomes you in, whispering words you thought only lovers had for you. It then spits back at you the dribble of what you think you know, asking the reader to listen to a deeper, quieter place in themself and grasp something that has always felt out of reach and yet, in some ways, has always been known. As with everything lenny does, this book is a healing that will call people home." --Lisa Sanaye Dring, writer, director, and actor


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