In the summer of 2009, I was in San Diego fro Comic-Con. I was blown away by how many established indie / punk / alternative / whatever bands were taking hilarious and creative forays into kids’ entertainment. The Aquabats had done amazing work with Yo Gabba Gabba!, the dude from Presidents of the United States of America had been putting out great kids’ albums under the moniker Caspar Babypants, and They Might Be Giants had already released a few amazing educational kids’ records. Instead of partying, I spent the nights alone at my hotel watching Blue’s Clues and the Backyardigans with a notepad on my lap, brainstorming how my music might translate to a kids’ program. Would it have puppets? Would it be CGI? Live action? The wheels were turning; I was ecstatic and inspired and knew that when the timing was right, this would be an amazing, important project.
Fast forward two years – I had recently finished a two week artist-in-residency program on the island of Nantucket where I worked with young students writing rap songs about their island’s rich literary and cultural history. It reinforced that was increasingly becoming more and more apparent: music is and always will be an amazingly effective tool for teaching kids. If I could harness that power and take it to screens across the world, we would be unstoppable. I would tie in literature, history and hip-hop together under one umbrella, teaching amazing stuff to young people with the power great music. But how?
Later that fall, I reconnected with a mentor of mine, Professor Henry Jenkins, who had recently been recruited from MIT by Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at USC. I became part of his department’s weekly PLAY! “think tank” where we created a program that combined rap and literature at an after-school program for the kids at the RFK-LA school in Koreatown. With literally zero budget, we put together a video and presentation for the spring TEDx USC presentation, which I prefaced with a short talk about hip-hop’s relationship to literature. It was an amazing day. The next day, we shot “Flow Like Poe” at my Mar Vista apartment, a low budget song and video that would premier at my performance at the Scholastic Art & Writing awards at Carnegie Hall (as well as being on the following year’s Warped Tour compilation). Hot Topics across the country would play a song about iambic tetrameter, while teachers around the world would email me that they were using the song in their classrooms. It was happening! We were bringing an indie rap and punk ethos to classrooms and kids and educators were both getting and loving it.
My co-creator and longtime friend JJ Italiano and I had recently reconnected. He was as excited about doing something in kids’ entertainment / education as I had been. One weekend, we were sitting at our favorite coffee shop by Venice Beach, talking about the show and how we were actually going to make it a reality. We thought more about the concept and the characters, deciding on four robots that would each represent different elements of hip-hop culture. They would travel through time and meet famous people from history, realizing how rapping, DJ-ing, break dancing and graffiti art are all essentially extensions of ancient forms of human creativity. KRS-One’s Gospel of Hip-Hop was a huge inspiration, as were Dr. Who and Sesame Street.
We wrote scripts for three full episodes and began production on the music – when our homie Watt White sent us a final mix of the intro music, we were blown away. Things were finally coming together, our first puppet was constructed and he looked awesome! We shot a “proof of concept” piece of Pickles and me tracking in the studio for Warped Tour, demonstrating how he and I might interact in a real-world environment. We brought Pickles to some of the Warped Tour dates, where he met some of my music friends and the fans. Watching young kids interact with Pickles at the merch booth was amazing. Whenever, he comes alive I honestly almost forget that he’s a puppet.
So! Now that you’ve read this far, let me tell you what we’re looking for:
We’re currently in the process of setting up meetings with contacts at TV networks in LA that specialize in kids’ entertainment. As part of this process, we are putting together a “pitch book” that will show the visual vibe of the show, as well as models of our characters. We need about ten different illustrations that will set the tone for the show. When and if it is picked up, this will definitely lead to more work for the artist we choose. We unfortunately don’t have any money to offer now (punk rock!), but as this project moves forward, there will eventually and hopefully be a budget and actual paid work. In the meantime, we are doing everything we can to get this ball rolling, and are looking for someone with talent and dedication who can help us create bold, beautiful, colorful, stylistic interpretations of our characters and some of the scenes from the show. We are looking for someone who can work fast and well, who can also take direction, and is stoked to be part of the first ever “nerdcore” / indie rap foray into educational kids’ TV.
If this sounds like you, please send a resume, some of your art samples, and a bit about yourself to us at:
We will check out everyone’s work and get back to you in a week or so.
Thanks for reading this and for your time! This is truly a special project and I can’t believe we’ve already gotten this far. There is a lot more work to do, but we can envision the finalized pilot and know it’s going to be truly awesome.
Much love! Can’t wait to hear from you guys.