Yo' Mama!

New Raps, Toasts, Dozens, Jokes and Children's Rhymes from Urban Black America

edited by Onwuchekwa Jemie

Collected primarily in metropolitan New York and Philadelphia during the classic era of black "street poetry" (i.e., during the late 1960s and early 1970s) these raps, signifyings, toasts, boasts, jokes and children's rhymes will delight general readers as well as scholars. Ranging from the simple rhymes that accompany children's games to verbally inventive insults and the epic exploits of traditional characters like Shine and Stagger Lee, these texts sound the deep rivers of culture, echoing two continents. Onwuchekwa Jemie's introductory essay situates them in a globally pan-African context and relates them to more recent forms of oral culture such as rap and spoken word.


"Onwuchekwa Jemie has put together the very best collection from the masters of toasts, rhymes, jokes and raps. If you want to revel, roll, play, jump in and drown yourself in the richness of African American language, or just plain enjoy whatever language can do, this is the book for you." Bill Labov

"This is a comprehensive collection of African American folklore. The transcriptions are well done—great texts! The introductions are thoughtful, meaty, provocative." Daryl Cumber Dance, author of Honey, Hush!: An Anthology of African American Women's Humor and From My People: 400 Years of African American Folklore

"This book sets the standard for an innovative tradition in works of this sort and, in time, will become a classic. Onwuchekwa Jemie's Yo' Mama! features the best of the old and the new in African American popular cultural forms. This is by far the best contemporary work on the subject." —Molefi Kete Asante, Editor, Journal of Black Studies, and author of The Afrocentric Idea (Temple).

"This is a magnificent collection and long overdue. It builds on a long tradition of scholarship pioneered by William Labov, Roger Abraham, Geneva Smitherman and others who see African American English as performance-based and the core and heart of African American culture. Moreover with all of its toasts, boasts, ritual insults, and the like, it adds hiphop flavor, allowing us to see how rap connects to this language-performance based art. A must read for all those interested in the roots of African American culture." William Eric Perkins, Senior Research Scholar, Urban Minorities Research Project, University of Pennsylvania

"(A) thoughtfully rambunctious and judiciously outrageous collection that will make you laugh until your eyes water." The Texas Observer

"...a must read and (an) excellent addition to the library of urban folklore and argot...Highly recommended."Multicultural Review

"Jemie's introductory essay places 'the dozens' in a global context and relates them to modern forms, such as rap and spoken word. —Black Issues Book Review

"...dive straight into the collection if you want to really understand what made Langston Hughes so damn fly." City Limits

About the Author(s)

Onwuchekwa Jemie teaches African American and African Literature at Howard University. He is the author of Langston Hughes: An Introduction to the Poetry and co-author of Toward the Decolonization of African Literature.