Young, Black and Gifted

Waddup y’all, it’s your man SK back in front of the MacBook for day 4 as guest blogger. First off, shouts to everyone who’s been showing love on the blog entries. I see how connected some of y’all are to these topics and the convos that get started in the comments section. I’m glad I could get y’all involved. For the 4th topic, I kinda wanna take it to sort of uncharted territories; being that I started rapping when I was 9, I’ve always had a connection to those who are young and wanna get on due to their love of the music. So today, I wanna talk about the world of kid rappers.

I was 9 when I started to write rhymes, and from the moment I filled up a page I pretty much never looked back. My initial and almost sole inspiration to go from fan to artist was Chi-Ali. I remember seeing his video for “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number” on Video Music Box, and for me, it was a one shot deal situation. Everything about Chi, from the lyrics and flow and delivery he had on the record, to the NYC imagery and the older chicks he had in the video, I was hooked. I knew as soon as the song ended that I wanted to rap. What I saw in his music was that he was young enough for me to relate to as a kid but carried himself as if he were older than he was, let alone he didn’t sound like any other kid rappers I’d ever heard.

There was a moment in hip hop when every label wanted a kid rapper. The early 90′s saw a pleathora of “16 and under” emcees. Another Bad Creation, Kris Kross, the aforementioned Chi-Ali, Da Youngstaz, Fam-Lee, Illegal, Shyheim, even Bleek was 15 when we first caught wind of him (I’m sure I may have forgotten some names, so don’t spazz in the comments section. This is just an overview). Coming up when I did, seeing all of that made me wanna start penning that much more.

The 80′s saw both LL Cool J’s and Roxanne Shante’s arrivals, and from there a lane was created. LL was never really looked at as a kid due to his subject matter and aggressive delivery, but he still deserves a huge amount of credit for carving that lane nonetheless. Once the door was open, tons of kids tried their hands at emceeing, and the game saw levels of success it hadn’t ever experienced. Besides attracting an audience that was never really considered, kid rappers also brought the revenue to the game. All of a sudden, world tours, endorsements, and triple platinum sales were a reality.

Regardless of how they may have been perceived, kid rappers definitely had a significance in the game. Some may have been looked at as gimmicks or one off’s, but some were actually dope. Obviously I’m a Chi-Ali fan being that he’s the reason I started rapping so early, but besides him, Kris Kross was an undeniably dope group. Say what you want, but that “Totally Crossed Out” album was monstrous, and the impact was just that. I remember when I copped the tape in 5th grade, and how I couldn’t get it outta my tape deck for like 3 months (the only tapes I played more as a kid then were Chi-Ali, EPMD and NWA. Go figure).

The most successful kid rapper of them was easily Bow Wow. Between consistently selling records, cross over exposue, branding, and even being able to be loved his market and excepted by ours (he was 11 with a Snoop feature, and it was the jam!), Bow pretty much lead the pack. The hardest thing for kid rappers however is making the respected transistion from child star to adult mainstay. They’ve all seemed to have a difficult time doing so, and the current climate of the biz doesn’t make it any easier. As a kid rapper, you’re loved for how young you are, how innocent, how clean and care free your life is presented as being. When you grow up however, life obviously isn’t that, and kid rappers have the same problems, wants, and emotions when turning into adults as anyone else does. The problem is, when you try to project that, it does connect because we as a people “know what we know”, nothing more, nothing less. We’re more comfortable with what we’re already familiar with (not to mention a lot of kid rappers don’t make the best music as adults either).

Aside from LL’s flawless transistion and Bow Wow’s ability to stay afloat, the one surprising transistion from A to B came in the form of Soulja Boy. Love him or hate him, he went from little kids doing his Superman dance to everyone from Lil Wayne, Fab, and Juelz remixing HIS records. He even shared a magazine cover with a group of trappers twice his age. No one saw that growth spurt coming, and regardless of what the music sounds like, he’s played in clubs that he isn’t old enough to get in (“Turn My Swag On” tears clubs apart. Gotta at least acknowledge it). Say what you want, but for him, mission accomplished.

Will there ever be another wave of kid rappers? Probably not. But will there be a few more underage success stories, yeah, probably. One on the verge of that right now is a kid I know named Baby Triggy (YouTube him for your kids/siblings/etc. if you’re curious). Regardless though, I’m happy I saw the kid wave take place, because if it hadn’t, I wouldn’t have started penning so early. So thanks Chi, and all the rest of yall who started so early. Signing off, I’ll see yall here tomorrow for the finale, day 5 of my guest blogging. Holla

  • http://Pierzy11@gmail.com Pierzy

    What up Sky…

    Whenever I think of young emcees that were nice, I often think of A+. He was ill! I mean, he more than held his own on “Beasts From The East” with Mr. Cheeks, Redman & Canibus. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, he was never really able to make the transition that you talk about.

    It’ll be interesting to see what Cory Gunz is able to do in the future…

  • Moving Sideways

    Mr. Zoo,

    I must say you have much better command of grammar and punctuation than Nipsey Hu$$le did last week (I even saw a correctly used semi-colon up there).

    All the Best,
    Moving Sideways

    • http://www.myspace.com/someloveandsomehate Slash

      …except for when he left the “r” out of exposure and used “excepted” when he meant “accepted” in the sentence below.

      “The most successful kid rapper of them was easily Bow Wow. Between consistently selling records, cross over exposue, branding, and even being able to be loved his market and excepted by ours (he was 11 with a Snoop feature, and it was the jam!), Bow pretty much lead the pack.

      Can’t argue with the content though. Good post.

  • Chris Cash

    I think theres a huge lane for kid rappers if they follow Shyhiem’s role because the kids around my way live a very adult lifestyle, from selling and ding hard drugs and having sex on a regular basis,and im talking about 9 or 10 yrs old.

    If the mainstream saw the harsh realities of these kids lifestyles it would blow them away.

    And although Nas wasnt a child rapper he did release Illmatic when he was 19 and to me thats amazing.

  • John Cochran

    There will always be a lane for kid rappers because, more often than not, you learn how to rap at a young age and thats when you’re the hungriest. Although Id rather listen to a chopped and screwed luther vandross album than a bow wow one, you cant deny his hustle.

  • *BLOCK*

    BLOCK BITCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I WAS LISTENING TO TOTALLY KROSSED OUT LAST WEEK JUST FOR KICKS AND REMEMBERED THAT FOR THERE TIME THE LIL DUDES WAS O.K IM NOT SURE WHO WAS WRITTING FOR THEM BUT IM SURE IT WAS J.D…THEY ACTUALLY HAD SONGS THAT FIT THERE LIFESTYLE…I THINK THEM AND CATS LIKE A.B.C (EVEN THOUGH IT WAS A SHORT LIVED CAREER) OPENED UP DOORS FOR YOUNGER HIP HOP ARTIST..IM SURE THERE WERE MANY BEFORE THEM THEY JUST OPENED IT UP. THE HARDEST PART I THINK FOR KIDS RAPPERS IS…IF U TALK ABOUT EVERYDAY LIFE OF AN AVERAGE 14YR OLD THAT AINT LIVING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WORST HOOD EVER ITS HARD TO MAKE IT PAST 18,19,20. IF YOU ARE A YOUNG ARTIST AND YOU COME OUT TALKIN ABOUT SELLING DRUGS AND GUN BUSTING IT BECOMES HARD FOR LISTENERS TO BELIEVE…

    youtube.com/federalranga <—-FREE PROMO!!

    *BLOCK*
    ~FRONT LINE ALLIANCE~
    CAROLINA SURVIVOR

  • http://myspace.com/federalranga Federal Ranga

    What it is, people?

    I can’t think that there will be any more child rappers coming into the game just based of what the barely grown rappers are dealing with these days and who their mentors are… like that little kid who supposedly raps and was mentored by Hurricane Chris… y’know that’s got problem written all over it. And what about that little nigga who did that class video with Chris Brown? What happened to the Magnificent 7… those 7 little rappers and shit back in like 1998 or 1997? Whatever.

    For those of ya’ll wondering… next week’s vlog is coming from the BEACH since we got a library out there on that bitch… GET ON MY LEVEL! youtube.com/federalranga

    Oh, and for my Commission brethren, I gotta a treat for ya’ll coming soon. A T.R.O.Y. freestyle dedicated to the fam… WHO WANT IT!!!

    COMMISSION!!!

    • http://www.reverbnation.com/EmCDL EmCDL

      The only kid rappers I can remember is Kris Kross…I was a big fan of them growing up. Them “Jump, Jump” and “I Missed The Bus” tracks were my ish!

      Yo Federal Ranga I’ma add you up on my youtube page too fam! COMMISSION!

  • El Tico Loco

    Chi Ali and “one shot” in the same paragraph, priceless.

    Anyway Mobb Deep had a good transition in fact maybe one of the best ones if you followed their careers since they were Unsigned Hype in the Sauce.

  • Curtis75Black

    I would’ve thought Da Youngsta’s and illegal had the best chance to remain emcee’s into their lattter years being that they can spit and was able to write their own lyrics unlike Kris Kross at the time. I believe alot has to do with confidence as much as growth as a writer, something we take for granted as fans. LL, Busta, Ice Cube, EPMD and MC Lyte all had growth as writers and the confidence to keep it up where as once the novelty wore off of the other emcee’s they fell off.

  • Apollo

    Yo Sky, I started rapping at Age 13 I’m Now 15, and in THAT small ammount of time i felt my pen game grow alot, im into serious shit, but i like to spit knowledge over fun vibrant beats to make em acknowledged by many while stickin to my roots, the song that made me start spittin was I know I can by Nas, that shit was surreal to me, anyways, i like your style man, and i was hopeing i could get your email ? so i could show ya some of my stuff ? if not at least give me a follow on TWITTER sky. I know this aint the right way to contact ya, but i see no other way, Peace.

    Apollo

  • http://www.justice.gov.za GO-Getta’

    When i was 10 & countin’ i was a fan of the Kriss Kross.
    & by the time the lil bow wows/soulja boys etc came out i was mo in2 conscious & hardcore rap so i missed out on those.

    Yeah right soulja boy may sound corny 4 my age but the kid produces his own shit & 4 other artist & that’s dope most of his elder peers can’t do it like he does,
    So yeah true much respect 2 that.

  • Pana

    This was a very good post. I like the fact that you acknowledged the kids of rap very refreshing angle.