Princess Superstar: From "Bad Babysitter" to Good Teacher
Hip-hop is a youth culture, but Saturdays in June at Brooklyn's Rough Trade are seeing hip-hop culture inform the youth. Indie hip-hop favorite Princess Superstar is spending her Saturday afternoons this month teaching a hip-hop class for children ages 1-8 titled Princess Superstar's Playskool: Hip-Hop For Kids. Last week's inaugural class saw the tykes, including Superstar's own daughter Siren (who can impressively rap "Rappers Delight" at the age of three better than most I've seen with 10 times the experience), come up with rap names, learn breakdance moves, use markers to graffiti on posterboard, and be introduced to the basics of rap.
Carina Zimmerman Princess Superstar (right) and Carina Zimmerman Kick Hip-Hop Truth to the Youth
While there's been plenty of attempts to spoon-feed hip-hop academia at much older levels, Superstar's presentation gets things absolutely right. Even the most jaded of rap purists would be satisfied to learn that one of the first topics discussed in the class is DJ Kool Herc. That particular section, which was co-taught by TLB Music's Carina Zimmerman who helped develop the class, explained the infamous 1973 party that became hip-hop's event horizon as a bunch of friends wanting to throw one last summer party before they had to go back to school. That particular choice of words in such a setting, while also an effective way to communicate hip-hop's beginnings to a youngster, really served as a reminder that this worldwide multi-billion dollar industry and cultural phenomenon truly stemmed from a bunch of kids looking to have a good time.
The class included a beatboxing demonstration where all the kids got a chance to make their first moments of vocal percussion (described as making a fart sound with your mouth) and getting to rock the mic by performing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and "Mary Had a Little Lamb" over the beats for Dem Franchise Boyz's "Lean With It, Rock With It" and Freeway's "Flipside." In addition, the kids were also introduced to sampling, using the example Jay-Z's "Hard Knock Life" lifting its chorus from Annie, as well as featuring the kids getting the chance to play Blondie's "Rapture" on mini-xylophones and shaking bells in rhythm to "Rappers Delight" as Zimmerman re-created the bassline on her violin. The children also learned the first four bars to Eric B. and Rakim's "I Know You Got Soul" and ended the day with a dance party.
Not bad for an impressionable mind's first taste of hip-hop.
We spoke to Superstar about putting the class together as well as her forthcoming Firecracker EP, her first official release since 2005.