Thursday, January 26, 2012

My 5-Year-Old Gets "The Message" in Hip Hop Music Class

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five

"Don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge / I'm trying not to lose my head," sang my kindergartner as she was preparing for bed tonight. I was in the other room. After I heard her sing it again, our conversation went like this:

"Baby, where did you hear that song?"

"In music class today. Have you heard it before?" she asked, and sang the part she knew.

"I'm trying not to lose my head ah ha ha ha," I chimed in. "It's like a jungle sometimes. It makes me wonder how to keep from going under huh huh huh huh huh...."

"Oh Mommy, Mommy, he didn't sing that part!" Her face lit up like it was Christmas.

"And we saw a picture of him!"

"Who, baby?"

"The boy who sings it."

"What did he look like?"

"He was sitting outside on a bench - resting."

"But what did he look like?"

"His hair was like mine."

 Check my baby's hair - mirror image of GMF's Melle Mel (far left in the top picture), who ripped it in the group's blazing 1982 single, "The Message." I was 11 years old when this dropped and since radio stations in Atlanta weren't playing hip hop at that time I probably heard it on a mixed tape - several years later.

"And we saw a man with a big Afro. And do you know who the first black person was to play baseball?"

Huh? I thought.

"I think Hank Aaron was the first to..."

"Yes! That's him. We saw a picture of him, too!"

"And all this was in music class?"

"Our music teacher was not there, so we had a substitute. And he played the accordion. And he made a drum sound with his hands!"

I'm totally confused now, but really engaged.

"How did he do that?"

She cups her hands around her mouth like a beat boxer and, of course, beat boxes.

The Fat Boys ran through my mind.

"He did this and then blew through his hands."

The Fat Boys are back / and you know they could never be wack....

It was a very enlightening conversation - especially because my daughter goes to a somewhat diverse school, which is more mainstream than anything else.

I feel some kind of way - not bad, not ecstatic. But definitely some kind of way.

I've been a lover of music (hip hop included) all my life, and have been an entertainment journalist for more than 15 years. Just today I was at a video shoot at a mega-producer's house interviewing a wildly successful 90s R&B group about their comeback. I get it.

But is "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five age appropriate for 5-year-olds? I've been trying to sing the song to myself, but I think I'm gonna have to YouTube the video to get all the lyrics.

Am I over thinking this? I can't front - I did smirk when I realized what she was singing. As the conversation went on I also sprang forward about a decade in my mind relishing when we'd be able to enjoy the exploration and discussion of all types of music. The way things are going, it'll probably be much sooner than that.

And just who was this substitute? Although he apparently only used two lines of the song, you know how kids are: They sniff out and latch on to the things that may not be appropriate for them. And it is an extremely catchy song anyway - for anyone from 5 to 75.

So it's late. I'm tired. I don't think any harm was done. Clever and intelligent hip hop is out there. And its not like she was listening to Lil' Wayne.

I'll probably just let it go - unless I bump into the actual music teacher in the hall one day soon, when a little clarification may be warranted.

Hope you're Enjoyceinglife....

Who knew this song was more than seven minutes long? That's a lot of pop locking....

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