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