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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

Children's music is not what it used to be. As the genre has gained in popularity, it's also broadened its range of artists and sounds.

Our kids' music reviewer Stefan Shepherd has picked two albums now that showed just how many options parents have these days.

(Soundbite of song, "Sticks and Stones")

SECRET AGENT 23 SKIDOO (Singer): (Rapping) Here we go. Oh. That's right, you all. That's right, you all.

STEFAN SHEPHERD: Family music has expanded a bit since Pete Seeger and Ella Jenkins recorded folk songs for kids on the venerable Smithsonian Folkways label. Many subgenres - jazz, polka, Latino - are increasingly available to tickle the ears of the preschool set.

Hip-hop for kids is no exception, and nobody is making better kid-hop than North Carolina musician Secret Agent 23 Skidoo. Here's "Sticks and Stones," one of the tracks from his great new album "Underground Playground."

(Soundbite of song, "Sticks and Stones")

SECRET AGENT 23 SKIDOO: (Rapping) ...a little while to get back the crown. He started acting strange. He called me lots of names because getting angry, that could make a kid change. I got mad, too, and so we had an argument. We started yelling back and forth, and this is how it went. I know you are, but what am I?

Unidentified Group: (Rapping) I know you are, but what am I?

SECRET AGENT 23 SKIDOO: (Rapping) I know you are, but what am I?

Unidentified Group: (Rapping) I know you are, but what am I?

SECRET AGENT 23 SKIDOO: (Rapping) I know you are, but what am I?

Unidentified Group: (Rapping) I know you are, but what am I?

SECRET AGENT 23 SKIDOO: (Singing) Na, na, na, na, na.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Na, na, na, na, na.

SHEPHERD: With help from dozens of musicians, Skidoo keeps it light-hearted while rapping about arguments with friends, road trips with families and clouds that race. But his songs recognize the challenges and changes that all kids face growing up, like butterflies in the stomach.

(Soundbite of song, "Ride the Butterflies")

SECRET AGENT 23 SKIDOO: (Rapping) But here's what it's all about. Butterflies are just doubts, so let them come out. Believe in yourself and it feels like flying. That's butterfly riding. And it's like skydiving.

Unidentified Man (Singer): Uh-huh.

SECRET AGENT 23 SKIDOO: (Rapping) Except you don't fall. You keep rising. And the crowd loves it when they see you smiling. Butterflies are the fuel to get energy from. And life is a game, so it's meant to be fun.

Unidentified Woman (Singer): (Singing) Oh.

SHEPHERD: "Underground Playground" is a first-rate album, with appeal to more than just hip-hop fans. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo's songs celebrate kids embracing their strengths, whatever they are.

Meanwhile, on her new album, "Sunny Day," Elizabeth Mitchell uses music of recent vintage to give kids a quiet spot to embrace those strengths.

(Soundbite of song, "Lovely Day")

Ms. ELIZABETH MITCHELL (Singer): (Singing) Then I look at you, and the world is all right with me. Just one look at you and I know it's going to be a lovely day.

Unidentified Child #1: (Singing) Lovely day, lovely day, lovely day, lovely day.

SHEPHERD: This is Bill Withers' "Lovely Day," one of the album's several covers of pop and folk songs from the not-too-distant past. Introducing old songs to young ears has been a constant throughout Mitchell's family music career. Sometimes, it's Chuck Berry, and sometimes it's a friends-and-family call-and-response from Georgia's Sea Islands.

(Soundbite of song, "Shoo Lie Loo")

Ms. MITCHELL: (Singing) Just from the kitchen.

Unidentified Child #2: (Singing) Shoo lie loo.

Ms. MITCHELL: (Singing) With a handful of biscuits.

Unidentified Child #2: (Singing) Shoo lie loo.

Ms. MITCHELL: (Singing) Oh, Miss Bessie.

Unidentified Child #2: (Singing) Shoo lie loo.

Ms. MITCHELL: (Singing) Fly away over yonder.

Unidentified Child #2: (Singing) Shoo lie loo.

SHEPHERD: Kids come in many shapes and sizes, and more and more, so does kids' music. Whatever your family's musical tastes, artists like these show there is kids' music out there to fit it perfectly or broaden it more.

(Soundbite of song, "Shoo Lie Loo")

Unidentified Child #2: (Singing) Just from the kitchen.

Ms. MITCHELL: (Singing) Shoo lie loo.

Unidentified Child #2: (Singing) With a handful of biscuits.

Ms. MITCHELL: (Singing) Shoo lie loo.

KELLY: Stefan Shepherd writes about kids' music at Zooglobble.com. He reviewed the "Underground Playground" by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo and "Sunny Day" by Elizabeth Mitchell.

(Soundbite of song, "Shoo Lie Loo")

Ms. MITCHELL: (Singing) Shoo lie loo.

Unidentified Child #2: (Singing) Oh, Mister Can.

Ms. MITCHELL: (Singing) Shoo lie loo.

Unidentified Child #2: (Singing) Fly away over yonder.

Ms. MITCHELL: (Singing) Shoo lie loo.

Unidentified Child #3: (Singing) Just from the kitchen.

Ms. MITCHELL: (Singing) Shoo lie loo.

Unidentified Child #3: (Singing) With a handful of biscuits.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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