On paper, it sounds like your average hip-hop video: a posse of rappers hanging outside a corner food mart, rhyming about their vices. On YouTube, though -- where the clip has attracted more than 1 million views in a week and a half -- the song by north Minneapolis' Y.N.RichKids offers something far more wholesome than Snoop Dogg's "Gin & Juice."
"Yo, I'm hungry, where them Cheetos at? They stay biting like, Where them mosquitoes at?"
"Hot Cheetos & Takis," featuring a group of elementary- and middle-school children, riffs on two brands of snack chips that the song's young lyricists devour off the shelves at Wally's Foods on Penn Avenue N., where the video was shot.
The number of YouTube views doubled from Thursday to Friday alone, thanks in part to support from popular comedians Aziz Ansari and Hannibal Buress. "Very on board with this," Ansari tweeted along with a YouTube link. Websites such as the Huffington Post, Gawker and Rolling Stone posted the clip. Another, Prefix, called it "the song of the summer."
The ridiculously cute yet seriously well produced song is the product of an after-school program at the North Community YMCA called Beats and Rhymes, which is affiliated with the Nellie Stone Johnson Community School. While the snacks at the center of the song aren't exactly nutritious, school staff and the parents of the budding rap stars believe the project provided nourishing lessons on creativity and teamwork.
"They're a bunch of North Side kids loaded with energy, and as you can see, this was a great outlet for it," said the school's assistant principal, Yusuf Abdullah, who expects his students to have plenty to talk and perhaps brag about when classes resume Aug. 27.
Alicia Johnson, director of the North Community YMCA's center, said the young hitmakers and their parents "have been blown away by the phenomenal response." However, she admitted there has been criticism of the track's promotion of non-healthy snacks. As if "Broccoli & Cauliflower" would have been cooler.
"The song reflects the sad reality of kids in north Minneapolis, where many of the families can't afford or don't have access to fresher and more nutritious foods," Johnson said.
'Ridin' with my allowance'
To put it in hip-hop terms, the track is slammin'. One of its pint-sized MCs, Damian Jones -- who goes by the rapper name Dame Jones -- hollers at the start: "I'm with my crew, and we gonna show y'all what we've been snacking on." The video shows a good chunk of the 60 or so participants in Y.N.RichKids bouncing and breakdancing for five minutes around the song's fast-flowing, sternly delivered lyrics.
My mama said, "Have you had enough?"
I looked, and I said, "No ma'am"
I go ham in the grocery store, orange Fanta and Takis
Ridin' with my allowance, so nobody can stop me
Minneapolis rapper and educator Toki Wright applauded the quality of the song and video, and had especially high praise for the Beats and Rhymes program. His 11-year-old daughter, Asata, dances in the video.
"Kids can make a lot with a little, and this video shows it," said Wright. "It's beautiful," though he added that "I told my daughter they need to work in some vegetables, too."
Reaction in the often cantankerous YouTube comments section has also been mostly positive. "I have no idea what Takis are, but I want some," one viewer wrote.
Takis look like rolled Doritos and are manufactured by Mexican foodmaker Barcel. Johnson said the company contacted her about possible promotional tie-ins, but nothing formal has been presented.
Concerts, maybe even TV
The Y.N.RichKids -- their name comes from the North Side Y's national status as a Youth & Teen Enrichment Center -- went to work on the song shortly after school ended in June, recording at the center's studio, built in 2010 with a $10,000 grant from Best Buy.
All told, the Beats and Rhymes crew has produced eight albums, which can be heard at YNRichKids.com. Aside from inappropriate language, the kids are free to do what they want. Said Johnson: "They learn how to express themselves and work together and do the bulk of the work themselves, with the adults only acting as facilitators."
Johnson expects the Y.N.RichKids to stage some performances at park and recreation centers over the coming months. TV appearances seem a distinct possibility, too. However, none of the kids are talking with the media. Things are happening so fast, privacy issues are still being sorted out with the families involved, the song's producer said.
Not talking with the media? Sounds like they're already acting like bigshot rappers.
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 • Twitter: @ChrisRstrib