Maya Angelou, an acclaimed writer who has influenced many Hip Hop lyrics, has passed away, according to CNN.
CNN cites Helen Brann, Angelou’s literary agent. No immediate cause of death has been determined.
Angelou, born April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, reportedly passed away in her home, which is located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
At 14 years old, Angelou dropped out of high school and became San Francisco, California’s first African-American female cable car conductor, according to CNN. Angelou toured Europe in the 1950s as part of Porgy and Bess and recorded her first album, Calypso Lady, an effort released in 1957. Around the same time, she became part of the Harlem Writers Guild in New York and was part of The Blacks, an off-Broadway play. Later, she would become one of the first Black women film directors. Her work in this field has been up for Tony Awards.
Angelou, who never attended formal university, has more than 30 honorary degrees and is often referred to as Dr. Angelou. She also taught American studies at Wake Forest University for many years.
Angelou spoke approximately six languages and was a newspaper editor in Egypt and Ghana. While editing around the world, the poet wrote I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, one of her most acclaimed works.
Angelou has been celebrated by several rappers and her work has been cited as inspiration in Hip Hop. Kanye West, who mentions Angelou in rhyme-form, has also spoken about his appreciation for her work.
“We will follow in the same footsteps Maya Angelou, Gill Scott Herron and Nina Simone,” West said in 2010. “Their work improved with time. They documented what was happening in culture. That is our responsibility as the modern day artists and poets, to accurately represent what is happening now, so when the powers that be try to rewrite history you can always look at our works and find truth and sincerity in a world of processed information.”
Maya Angelou has criticized several rappers for their use of “nigga.” Specifically, Angelou spoke about being shocked Common would use the term in a song he worked on with her.
“I had no idea that Common was using the piece we had done together on [a track] in which he also used the ‘N’ word numerous times,” she said in December 2011. “I’m surprised and disappointed…I don’t know why he chose to do that. I had never heard him use that [word] before. I admired him so because he wasn’t singing the line of least resistance.”
Days after these initial comments, Angelou spoke with 106 & Park about her statements and stance.
“I was surprised,” she said. “I know Common is brilliant. He may in fact be close enough to be called a genius. I’m not sure,” said Angelou. “I know that we’re all in process, and young artists are in process. It’s important to realize that all of you – all of us – I’m 83 years old so I’m almost out of the running.”
In 2013, Angelou was asked if she is optimistic about poetry.
“Oh, yes,” she said to TIME at the time. “All I have to do is listen to Hip Hop or some of the rappers.”
HipHopDX extends its condolences to Angelou’s family, friends and fans.