Various Artists
Kids Rap Radio, Vols. 1-2
Music World Entertainment
2006
C



mathew Knowles, the paternal half of Beyonce’s gene pool, is a hustler by any definition. But even the most jaded listener has to believe there’s something very different at stake with Kids Rap Radio, Knowles’s newest project, a Superfund scrub job of the day’s tart radio hits. Two short pants MC’s (Lil’ Max$o and Steve Wash, both as effervescently chipper as you’d hope) go after songs like “Touch It,” “I Know You See It,” and “Fresh Azimiz,” squeaking out hooks and pasteurizing verses. “Chewin’ on the dick like a piece of bubble gum”? Try “Stevie got chips, soda pop, and bubble gum!”

Knowles is doing this for the kids, or, as the MySpace page and liner notes trumpet over and over, one in particular: his grandchild. Who can refuse his concern? Every hip-hop fan crafts a timeline for introducing their beloved children to the art. Efforts to censor the grizzly, the provocative, and the just plain inappropriate gives youngsters a cheesecloth view of hip-hop. There’s no trouble in supplanting the Wiggles with Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, or even Public Enemy. It’s that huge 1990’s opening brick wall of white powder, pop-guns, and spread legs that gives hip-hop mentors pause.

Hip-hop is the only American art in which a huge portion of the canonical, formative material is maliciously violent, psychologically disturbing, and totally “irresponsible.” You can get a classic education in English literature and work your way around books like Clockwork Orange and Ariel. An educated hip-hop fan ignorant (or even unappreciative) of AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted and We Can’t Be Stopped doesn’t exist.

Kids Rap Radio tries its best. Every caretaker (like Mr.Knowles) knows that it’s impossible to talk a small child out of liking a song. Think of Kids Rap Radio as the playground safety equipment in the jungle gym of rap. It’s not here to revamp the informal channels of hip-hop education—rap purists (and this reviewer, for that matter) would prefer little (vs. Lil’) MC’s going after “I Know You Got Soul” and “Radio.” This is sugary social diversion. Lil’ Max$o is going to leave the best clean parts of Wayne’s “Go DJ” untouched, but instead turn the nickel-plated (“I got army guns!”) into literal glee: “I’m having lots of fun!” Steve Wash has perhaps the best trick up his sleeve: T.I.’s “Why You Wanna” shifts from a five-star seduction jam to an ode to pre-dinner snacking (“I see you with a Snickers in your hand, and you lovin it!”). “Grillz” is about bike spokes, “Wait” is about “kicks,” you get the idea.

Perhaps the most pleasure Kids Rap Radio offers are in the places where almost nothing changes. This album’s versions of both “I Know You See It” and “It’s Goin’ Down” outshine and embarrass Yung Joc’s originals. Even better, there’s only a half dozen words that get changed between the two. And hey, if Mathew Knowles can get just a few kids to turn off Joc and have some faith in their own lyric abilities, he’s already done his duty for the next generation.



Reviewed by: Evan McGarvey
Reviewed on: 2007-01-24
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