Everywhere you look, Hip-Hop is there. It’s ingrained in almost every culture around us. It’s hard to avoid it. You can’t avoid hip-hop even if you wanted to.
Hip-Hop’s in the clothes we wear. It’s in the language that many of us, especially our youth, speak. It’s in almost every television commercial (especially McDonald’s) we see. Our favorite professional athletes embody its essence. And of course, it’s in the music that we listen to.
And it also has its fair share of controversy. Some of it is warranted and some of it isn’t, but it’s fair to say that a lot of its content isn’t what the original founders of the genre had envisioned upon its conception some 30 plus years ago.
From sex to drugs. Misogyny to violence. Money to crime…to more sex. These are some of the common themes that captivate the airwaves, and many would obviously deem to not be appropriate for children. In fact, many claim that this kind of music is poisoning our youth and few would argue that it isn’t.
It’s so easy to forget at times that Hip-Hop wasn’t always this way, in fact it has lost its way.
There’s a reason why Common used to love H.E.R. And this is the same reason why Chris Bivona and his partner Gustavo Angel created “The Hip Hop Kids”, which is a series of children’s books designed to introduce the Hip-Hop culture to kids properly.
The characters in the series of books each represent one of the four elements of the Hip Hop culture. They will use those talents to teach children basic fundamental skills. After all, who is better to teach kids about rhyming words than an MC?
I got a chance to sit down with “The Hip Hop Kids” co-founder and co-creator Chris Bivona, and he explains the concept and some of the core principals for why he choose to start this type of series for kids.
Brennen Jones: How did you and your partner, Gustavo meet?
Chris Bivona: We actually worked at the same company for a few years before we realized our common love of Hip Hop. We’ve been collaborating on various projects ever since.
BJ: Besides wanting your kids to become more involved more in the Hip-Hop culture, what other inspirations helped lead you to creating this series?
CB: Writing a children’s book was always something that I thought I would do at some point. I love reading to my kids, and especially enjoy any Dr. Seuss books. Once Gus and I began discussing the basic ideas for “The Hip Hop Kids”, everything came together rather quickly.
BJ: It’s actually refreshing to see a lot of positivity coming from this in a time when rap or hip-hop music is bombarding our youth with negative images and stereotypes. Is it safe to say that this series of books represents that sort of safe haven for your kids to kind of slide in to the hip-hop music genre without them being subjected to those images?
CB: That was exactly what we had in mind. We wanted to create a safe, fun way to introduce kids to not only Hip Hop music, but the entire culture of Hip Hop. Unfortunately, the negativity is unavoidable at times. But if we can teach kids about the positive side of the culture, hopefully the beauty of Hip Hop will persevere for future generations. There’s a famous KRS One quote that has been our unofficial mission statement. “If Hip-Hop has the ability to corrupt young minds, it also has the ability to uplift them!”
BJ: What are some of the hip-hop artists out now that you would let your kids listen to?
CB: Honestly, my kids can listen to whatever they like. It’s my job to try to put it all in perspective for them. I’m not foolish enough to believe that they will love the same artists that I grew up with. But, I will make sure that they are exposed to those artists, so they can have a greater appreciation of the history of Hip Hop music and its evolution.
BJ: What are your future plans with this series? When reading the sample that you sent over to the office, the book kind of has that Nickelodeon/Disney animation feel to it. I can definitely see some sort of cartoon spin-off from these books. Was that in the plans?
CB: Yes! We definitely see big things in the future for “The Hip Hop Kids”. We have discussed animation, toys, music videos. We honestly feel that the possibilities are endless. But, now our main goal is to make the book series available to the masses. We don’t know anyone over at Nickelodeon or Disney, but we figure if we grow our popularity enough, maybe someone over there will take notice! Thank you and The Urban Twist for being a part of our grassroots effort!
You can preview the books by heading over to their website and by taking a peek at some of illustrations below.