The Short-Lived Fame Of Pint-Sized Rap Stars A new generation of child stars has arrived, and their YouTube videos receive millions of views. But when it comes to talented kids, there's a difference between being famous and being a spectacle.
NPR logo

The Short-Lived Fame Of Pint-Sized Rap Stars

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/131879880/131898994" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
The Short-Lived Fame Of Pint-Sized Rap Stars

The Short-Lived Fame Of Pint-Sized Rap Stars

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/131879880/131898994" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Next, let's talk for a moment about child stars - in particular, child music stars.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ABC")

INSKEEP: Michael Jackson was nine when he became a star. We're listening to "ABC," the Jackson 5's number hit from 1970. And then there's Stevie Wonder.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FINGERTIPS")

STEVIE WONDER: (Singing) Clap your hands just a little bit louder. Clap your hands just a little bit louder...

INSKEEP: Brandon McFarland reports.

BRANDON MCFARLAND: You've all heard of those child performers whose uber- involved parents are convinced their baby should be a star. YouTube is the perfect vehicle for that. Parents can just upload a video to YouTube of their kid's act - the cuter the better.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

L P: (Singing) You might be the one for me.

MCFARLAND: Exhibit A: Li'l P-Nut. This seven-year-old rapper has the swagger of a teen heartthrob and the manners of a Southern gentleman. He's been rapping, singing and dancing his way to millions of YouTube views, and recently made the leap to a daytime television cameo, performing on the "Ellen" show.

P: (Rapping) I know for sure you might be the one for me.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

P: Yeah, yeah.

MCFARLAND: Jeff Rabhan, chair of the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music.

JEFF RABHAN: Yeah, the 12-year-old girls that love the 15-year-old boys, when they turn 15, they don't love 18-year-old boys. They love the 22-year-old boys.

MCFARLAND: Adults aren't as fickle as kids. That means it's a safer bet for a musical youth to go straight for an adult audience.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MINI DADDY: (Singing) Hey. Hey...

MCFARLAND: Mini Daddy, age nine, specializes in reggaeton, a genre engineered for shaking your booty on the dance floor. In his music video, "El Nino Mas Bonito," he's outfitted with dark shades and platinum chains. He's even got two eight-year-old girls in cutoff shorts dancing behind him. And he's earned four- and-a-half million views on YouTube.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL NINO MAS BONITO")

DADDY: (Singing in Spanish)

MCFARLAND: I don't know what the kid's saying out of those chubby cheeks, but the shock value of watching him puts him right up there next to the chain- smoking toddler.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL NINO MAS BONITO")

DADDY: (Singing in Spanish)

MCFARLAND: But the flame of those viral videos is usually short-lived.

MCFARLAND: Becoming a novelty almost guarantees the next effort will flop. It's a laughing-at-you-not-with-you kind of a thing. Here you are thinking you've arrived, and to your so-called fans, you're a spectacle. And when they stop laughing, your 15 minutes of fame are over.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHIP MY HAIR")

WILLOW SMITH: (Singing) I whip my hair back and forth. I whip my hair back and forth.

MCFARLAND: People will look at anything on YouTube. But there needs to be a strategy in place to catapult an amazing talent. Like Willow Smith, actors Will and Jada Smith's 10-year-old daughter.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHIP MY HAIR")

SMITH: (Singing) I'm going to get more shine in a little bit, soon as I hit the stage. Applause, I'm hearing it...

MCFARLAND: For NPR News, I'm Brandon McFarland.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHIP MY HAIR")

SMITH: (Singing) My hair, I know I'll be fine....

INSKEEP: Brandon McFarland is a music journalist for Turnstile, an online news service from Youth Radio.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHIP MY HAIR")

SMITH: (Singing) I whip my hair back and forth. I whip my hair back and forth. I whip my hair back and forth.

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.