One journalist’s ideas for introducing young children to the music and culture—without the sex

Hip-hop for kids: one journalist’s ideas for introducing young children to the music and culture—without the sex

Adisa Banjoko

As a 35-year-old parent, I have seen many changes in rap music and hip-hop. When I first started listening, hip-hop was new and exciting. The music was intoxicating. Now as a father of a 7-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter, I take a pro-active approach. I recognize the dangers of songs like “How Many Licks” by Lil’ Kim, talking about men having “hurricane tongues.” But I also see the beauty of Talib Kweli’s “Africa Dream,” where he warns young people to beware of stereotypes through these clever lines: “These cats drink champagne and toast to death and pain/Like slaves on a ship talking about who got the flyest chain.”


So here are the things I do with my kids to help them appreciate hip-hop.

1. Make sure the record came out before 1988. Arguably, the best rap came out between 1987 and 1993. But before 1988, there was hardly any cursing or violence. Most of the early rap was a lot about partying

and having a good time.

2. Play the old soul and funk records that are the roots of hip-hop. The first records DJs spun at hip-hop parties and the first records sampled by the early artists were the soul groups. James Brown, Lynn Collins and Bob James are some of the most sampled records ever in hip-hop.

3. Turn off the music video channel and play footage of B-boy battles instead of the dry-hump MTV action. What is commonly called “break dancing” in mainstream America is called “b-boying” or “b-girling.” It is beautiful, athletic, fun to do and, most of all, there’s no hyper-sexualization in the dance. You can find b-boy battle footage at tons of websites online, including and An added bonus is that b-boy battles are all-age events where you can take your kids without fear of violence breaking out.

4. If you are going to play a lot of today’s rap, make sure it’s the instrumental version. Nobody wants to be the killjoy parent when it comes to music. One way I’ve kept my children in tune with today’s rap music is the instrumentals I get online. The Cash Money Millionaires have a CD of their platinum instrumentals. This makes it possible for your kids to have today’s music played in the house, and they won’t feel like you’re keeping them locked in a 1980s time zone.

Adisa Banjoko is a pioneer hip-hop journalist and author of Lyrical Swords Vol. 2: Westside Rebellion. He can be contacted at

By Adisa Banjoko, The Bishop of Hip-Hop

RELATED ARTICLE: Top 6 records to play for your kids

1. Run D.M.C. first LP — self-titled

2. Fat Boys — self-titled

3. Mantronix — The Album

4. Breakestra — The Live Mix Pt.2

5. Dr. Dre — Chronic 2001 Inst.

6. Tommy Boy — Greatest Hits

RELATED ARTICLE: Top 4 must-see DVDs

1. The Freshest Kids — The best documentary on hip-hop dance ever

2. Beat Street — One of the first films focusing on urban dance

3. Breakin’ — Another early film on urban dance (kinda corny but still fun to watch)

4. Style Wars — My favorite hip-hop documentary (high focus on graffiti art)

RELATED ARTICLE: Top 3 books to buy for yourself and your kids

1. Yes Yes Y’all by Charlie Ahearn and Jim Frike: a book about hip-hop told by those who lived it first hand.

2. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop by Jeff Chang: one of the greatest books on hip-hop and its social impact ever written.

3. A Time Before Crack by Jamel Shabazz: a photo book of the early days of hip-hop with a few small essays. A must-have!

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