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You don’t have to be a music-biz wiz “to know there’s money being made somewhere off our children,” Mercedes said, adding, “there are no college scholarships for rapping.”
From the outside, Minneapolis entertainment attorney Ken Abdo said the kids and their parents appear to have a strong case. When there’s no clear contract, “copyrights go to the creative entities,” said Abdo, who has worked with Minnesota-bred stars Owl City and Jonny Lang. “Just because you put up the money and equipment for something doesn’t mean you own it.”
From ‘Hot’ to ‘Icy’
“Hot Cheetos & Takis” was recorded last June in the Beats and Rhymes program, funded with a $10,000 Best Buy grant for studio equipment. The group’s original name, Y.N.RichKids, played off the North Side Y’s national status as a Youth Enrichment Center.
When the single started blowing up in August — with a four-star review by Rolling Stone and tweets from celebrities — the iTunes download and other business matters were arranged by song producer JT Evans, an employee of the YMCA. No contracts were signed, however.
Evans declined to comment and deferred to Johnson, who said she is unaware of any money from download sales even though standard iTunes practice is to pay artists and labels monthly. “As soon as that money comes in, we’ll be happy to sit down with the parents and sort through this,” Johnson said.
The parents plan to start a nonprofit group called the Righteous Kids Foundation and teamed with a local management and production company, All Goode Music, which has enlisted attorneys to help in the YMCA dispute and the pending recording contract.
“At this point, we’re fending off labels that want them,” said AGM’s Paul Bolen. He is also an instructor at the Institute of Recording & Production, where the KIDS holed up in a studio earlier this month (but only from 6 to 8:30 p.m.).
To produce the demo recordings, AGM enlisted Alonzo Jackson, a former executive at Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Records who has worked with Eminem and 50 Cent.
The excitement in the young performers’ eyes was as bright as Hot Cheetos as Jackson steered them through a new Minnesota-flavored track titled “So Icy.”
“It’s a real studio, and it’s awesome,” said Frizzy Free, who didn’t let the environment stifle his rap skills. “It just comes naturally.”
Each of the budding stars — who’ve been stalked by fans at Cub Foods and asked for autographs, their moms say — marveled over their one-song appearance last month at First Avenue, where they earned wild applause at 89.3 the Current’s sold-out birthday parties. Modest-paying gigs such as that and a recent Minnesota Roller Girls bout have provided their only payouts.
“I hope to make money off this” someday, said Glenn “G-6” Carter, 12, “but now it’s just a passion for me. [Money] stuff is grownups’ business.”
One thing that all sides agree on: The negativity over money should not detract from the KIDS’ positive achievements.
“I love that [the Y] brought this talent out of our kids, because we really didn’t know they had it in them,” said Helen Hunter, mom of G-6 and Fly Guy. “But it’s still their talent.”
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 • Twitter: @ChrisRstrib