First off, to anyone who isn't already familiar with 23 Skidoo, and is therefore sensibly skeptical that hip-hop for kids can be any good: This guy is the real deal, an Asheville, North Carolina–based hip-hop veteran who's spent the last five years or so bringing serious old-school beats and rhymes—think the late 1980s—to a pint-size audience. (As is so often the case, having a kid of his own—who's a featured rapper on every one of his albums, by the way—seems to have had something to do with that.) Yes, the subject matter is a little different than that of your average Public Enemy or KRS-One track, but the music and the flow will definitely set parental heads bouncing properly while they bring our kids to their feet.
23 Skidoo is letting his music for kids grow with his family, logically enough, and so Make Believers is aimed at a slightly older audience than his previous albums were: preteens, rather than the youngest elementary school kids and preschoolers. Accordingly, there's a shift in the sound—while the album as a whole remains family-friendly, a couple of tracks, like the hard-edged "Brainstorm" and the dance-friendly "Gotta Be You," (check out the video, below!) push the envelope of kids' music in satisfying ways, as 23 Skidoo has always done. There's a similar shift in the words, with an eye to the issues preteens face in school and life in general.
Then of course, there are the guest artists. For 23 Skidoo, who seems to be uncommonly plugged into the entire eastern seaboard's worth of musicians, that includes both another of our family's favorite kids' artists (Molly Ledford of Lunch Money, who's guested with so many of our favorite artists already that we're half expecting her to turn up on the next Radiohead album) and some remarkable talent we weren't previously aware of (singer Kellin Watson, indie-folk cellist Ben Sollee).
It's yet another story in the brick house of great music 23 Skidoo has been building over the years. And while I can't quite imagine what he's going to do when he gets to his teen album—doesn't it stop being kids' music at that point, and isn't there quite a bit of music-industry hip-hop marketed to that age group already?—I must also remember that there was a time I couldn't imagine good hip-hop for kids to begin with. And that this is the guy who changed all that. In fact, if there's one thing I've learned covering this beat, it's this: Never underestimate Secret Agent 23 Skidoo.
[Images courtesy of Secret Agent 23 Skidoo]