Updated: Jul 8, 2019
Rap or Hip-hop is one of the more recently evolved genres in music. Sure, while there's a bunch of rappers showing off their cars, wealth and hyper-masculinity; there are others like Kendrick Lamar, Tupac, Kanye West, and Eminem, who rap out heartfelt songs about their life and the reality they live in.
For children into music, its worth giving hip-hop a spin just to observe how a blend of rhythm and poetry is used in storytelling. But a barrier to this exploration is that most of these songs are filled with profanities or ground realities that are brutal for young listeners.
While your children can definitely stream these classics as they grow up, we count down a few clean rappers in this list. These rappers have clean, family friendly content whose songs can be a good portal to the world of hip-hop for kids.
“Welcome to the continent of holidays, Africa
Where holidays quickly turn to hell days”
-K’Naan, This is Africa
Somali rapper K’Naan calls himself a poet of love. Garnering worldwide fame with Wavin Flag, Coca-Cola’s anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. K’naan is known for bringing the trials and tribulations of the African people to mainstream music ever since. Regardless of the flag you wave, you're bound to feel inspired by his simple, heartfelt songs.
The inspiration clearly sparks from his troubled childhood. He saw his friends being shot, and once even held a grenade mistaking it for a potato. K’naan’s parents then shifted to Canada. In a safer environment, he began focusing on his education. By education, we don’t mean school but hip-hop. K’naan heard a lot of Nas and Rakim and picked up their flows even before he learned to speak English fluently!
2. Lupe Fiasco
‘I was just a little boy.
Terrified of the world, now I’m on a world tour,
Given up everything, can even start a world war,
For these ghetto girls and boys I’m rapping round the world for.’
-Lupe Fiasco, The Show Goes On
His name is Fiasco but this calm MC would be the last person to create a fiasco. Apart from rapping, he practices the way of the samurai and invests in various start-ups. And personality wise, Lupe Fiasco is to hip-hop what Keanu Reeves is to Hollywood! He hops onto social media to post many inspirational videos for his fans and is very vocal about his political views.
Naturally, all of this is blended in his music. ‘I rap because I love to rap. I have a responsibility to be a voice that brings balance to the hip-hop world and radio.’ , he said in a TV interview. A humble celebrity, he is known to prioritise his fans over radio airplay.
3. Queen Latifah
‘Who said the ladies couldn't make it, you must be blind
If you don't believe, well here, listen to this rhyme
Ladies first, there's no time to rehearse
I'm divine and my mind expands throughout the universe.’
-Queen Latifah, Ladies First
Bow down to the queen of PG-13 rap! Before Cardi B and Niki Minaj’s presence tried changing misogynistic and male-centric stereotypes in rap, there was Queen Latifah. Latifah released many an uplifting and empowering power anthem in the 80s and 90s.
She was disgusted at how many so-called legendary rappers of that time objectified women and referred them by one offensive term after another. Latifah surely helped in changing some of these attitudes. Unfortunately, a few problematic aspects still thrive in today’s rap but many other rappers like Logic, Tyler the Creator, and Macklemore are rapping on equality and empowerment.
‘Akela Insaan Phir Gaadi Teri Chaar Kyun?
Ghar Mein Hai Chaar Phir Rooms Tere 8 Kyun?
Paison Se Nai Bante Kudrat Se Hum Khaas Kyun?
Teri Peedhi Ka Soch Woh Kaise Lenge Saans Kyun?’
For the non-Hindi speakers, the above lines are Mumbai rapper Divine questioning materialism in our life. He asks why does a single rich man require four cars, a house with eight rooms. And then he goes on to ask why in our obsession for riches have we forgotten the environment. Such class differences and social issues are expressed in Vivian Fernandes aka Divine’s raps, making him a perfect fit for even a kid’s playlist.
Divine came from the slums of Dharavi and rose to prominence with his aggressive and honest raps on the inequalities he faced and seen in Indian society. Starting out with English freestyles, Divine blew up on the internet when his song Mere Gully Mein went viral. This collaboration with fellow ‘gully’ rapper Naezy was on a lighter note, a heartfelt ode to the slums that made him. Currently, Mumbai’s gully rap is a major wave in Indian hip-hop and its torchbearer Divine is still surfing on this wave.
5. Will Smith
‘I said, “Mom, what are you doing, you're ruining my rep”
She said, “You're only sixteen, you don't have a rep yet”
I said, “Mom, let's put these clothes back, please”
She said “No, you go to school to learn not for a fashion show”’
-Will Smith, Parents Just Don’t Understand Me
This list wouldn't be complete without one of Hollywood’s cleanest celebs. A star of many family-blockbusters, a funny rapper, and a perfect family man, Will Smith juggles many roles and boy! he does it well. Despite being a smart kid in school, Smith didn’t attend college for he had started rapping at birthday parties and other local events. Building an alter ego called ‘The Fresh Prince’ and assisted by his friend DJ Jazzy Jeff, he sought to bring his humorous family-friendly raps to bigger stages. Will Smith never considered himself just a rapper; he was an ‘entertainer’ right from the start. The Fresh Prince persona got him a starring role in his own TV show, ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’. Smith has been on a roller coaster ride of fame since then.
The Fresh Prince soundtrack, Getting Jiggy with It, Men in Black and his most recent raps as the Genie in the new Aladdin 2019 remake are some feel-good songs by him which you can jam to any time of the day. The lyrics maybe a bit corny but for very young kids who are starting with clean hip-hop, Will Smith be no less of a rap-god!
Shaurya Singh Thapa