Biggie Smalls was right. Things done changed. But that doesn’t mean that Quadir and Jarrell are okay letting their best friend Steph’s tracks lie forgotten in his bedroom after he’s killed—not when his beats could turn any Bed-Stuy corner into a celebration, not after years of having each other’s backs.
Enlisting the help of Steph’s younger sister, Jasmine, Quadir and Jarrell come up with a plan to promote Steph’s music under a new rap name: The Architect. Soon, everyone in Brooklyn is dancing to Steph’s voice. But then his mixtape catches the attention of a hotheaded music rep and—with just hours on the clock—the trio must race to prove Steph’s talent from beyond the grave.
Now, as the pressure—and danger—of keeping their secret grows, Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine are forced to confront the truth about what happened to Steph. Only each has something to hide. And with everything riding on Steph’s fame, together they need to decide what they stand for before they lose everything they’ve worked so hard to hold on to—including each other.
TW/CW: Death/Murder, Grief, Gangs, Gun Violence, Sex (talk of sex but no actual sex scenes)
I picked this up on a whim, I saw it available at my library, I needed an audiobook and it was by a Black author – win/win. I hadn’t ever heard of this author or book before, which is surprising because it’s a great read! I will be picking up more from this author.
It follows three black teens, after the murder of Steph (two are his friends, one is his sister) trying to make him a successful rapper by releasing his music and pretending he’s still alive. I was very intrigued about how Steph died and how they were going to pull off this whole scheme. It was a little slow in places towards the middle, but not boring . It did pick up towards the end more but the very end felt a little rushed. Other than that, it was well written. I really liked the author’s writing style.
The setting – It’s set in the late 90s in New York. I absolutely loved this setting, it was so cool and interesting. I love the 90s vibe, it was right up my alley. It made me wish I grew up in the 90s. (I am a 90s baby, but I remember none of it)
I enjoyed learning about the culture of Brooklyn in the 90s and what growing up during this time was like. The hip-hop scene was super cool and a link in the community, which was really lovely to see.
Characters – I enjoyed each perspective the story had. Which is surprising. I really like Jasmine, she was probably my favourite POV. I really enjoyed the friendship that bloomed between Jasmine and Steph’s friends, Quadir and Jarrell. They bonded in their loss of Steph, which was lovely to see that something happy came out of their grief.
This audiobook had full cast narration – which I’m not usually a fan of because there’s usually at least one annoying narrator. BUT I actually liked all the narrators for this! (Will add them to my approved narrator lists) I’m super picky with narrators, they can completely ruin a book for me.
The audiobook really brought the story and characters to life. The rhymes are really effective in the audio format, I think this would be better than just reading the text. Also, the slang came through well in the audio, it felt natural and authentic. (Not that I’m an expert on Black slang in the States)
Rating: 4 Stars