The Y.N. RichKids, that crew of school-age rappers from Minneapolis, just dropped another age-appropriate banger called "The Business." Like their previous songs — they were also back last year with a minor hit called "My Bike" — "The Business" is slickly produced and thoroughly unthreatening. (Sample lyric: Don't worry if I write my rhymes / I do my homework / I do my homework.)
A few years back, the Y.N. RichKids notched a huge viral hit with their music video "Hot Cheetos and Takis." The song was an ode to, well, Hot Cheetos and Takis, two insanely spicy corn-based snacks that were all the rage among the schoolbus-and-pencil-case set. (There is some disagreement within the Code Switch team as to whether Hot Cheetos qualify as "insanely spicy" or Gene is just soft. — Ed.)
It was a clever, delightfully catchy song that blew up on the strength of being both really cute and very well-executed. (Personal favorite "Hot Cheetos" line: I'm on point like a elbow / hands red like Elmo / My mama said "have you had enough?"/ I looked and I said "No, ma'am!")
The video and song was put together by Beats & Rhymes, the YMCA after-school program they were enrolled in, which lets kids make music. To date, "Hot Cheetos" has north of 8 million YouTube views.
Screen darkens ominously, a la "Behind the Music."
*And then it all came crashing down.*
The Y.N. RichKids have already suffered a major rift over money, and most of the folks from "Hot Cheetos" have formed another group called simply, the KIDS, after a dispute over the thousands of dollars in revenue generated from their first hit. (The defectors are conspicuously absent in the video for "The Business.")
"So far, the money is modest — perhaps $10,000 — but as the KIDS prepare to sign a national recording contract, their parents want to protect them.
" 'We're not saying the Y shouldn't get a share to continue funding this program, but our kids deserve some of it for their college educations,' said Tiffany Powell, mother of Jasiona 'Lady J' White.
"The parents, meanwhile, are getting a crash course in the recording industry. The tipping point came in October, when — after a 12-hour video shoot for a follow-up single — they refused to sign a waiver from YMCA representatives that they thought would cut their children out of any legal rights to their work.
"Alicia Johnson, director of the North Community YMCA in Minneapolis, denied that but admitted to confusion over the 'Hot Cheetos' affairs.
" 'We're running a community center, not a record label,' said Johnson, who likened the situation to a kids' basketball team winning a tournament. 'If the team got $1,000 off that win, the money wouldn't go to the individual athletes. It would go back into the program.' "
It's like the Fugees all over again! (The group even has a rapper named Lauren Hill.)
Beats & Rhymes said its purpose was to give kids a chance to create and record music that they could relate to. And while it's also made the Y.N. RichKids minor celebrities, Beats & Rhymes has also given them an inadvertent crash course in the particulars of Industry Rule No. 4,080: Record company people are, in fact, shady.*
*For the record, we know that the YMCA's Beats & Rhymes program is not a record label. Also, both the parents and the YMCA make fair points.