It’s weird, but I don’t think it’s as a common occurrence these days, but prepubescent teen rappers were all the rage back in the 90′s. I never went overly crazy about the tiny teens doing their thing on the mic, I can’t say I didn’t buy Kriss Kross when they dropped (and some of those beats are still rather dope on that first album) and I did jam my fair share of “Coolin’ At The Playground Ya Know”, I won’t lie. While none of the kid MCs/groups released certified classic, several of them left their mark on the hip hop game. Here is my top five list for the underage hip hop artists. I realize Mobb Deep, LL, Special Ed and others released music at a young age, but I don’t think many people consider those artists as child artists.
Of course it helped coming up with the Wu-Tang Clan having your back, Shyhiem is easily the best “child” rapper to come up through the ranks. The funny thing is, Shyhiem is commonly seen as a kid rapper, but he was 17 when his first album, A.K.A. The Rugged Child, hardly any younger than say Mobb Deep or even Kwame and his first album. None the less, we’ll go along with common perception and name Shyheim the best under 18 MC to do it….or at least in the commonly perceived list of child rappers.
2. Illegal aka Malik & Jamal
You can chalk up all three careers and round them up as one for these two MCs. Their group release as the hip hop duo Illegal came in 1993 when the two were merely fourteen. They dropped Head or Gut on Dallas Austin’s Rowdy label. The effort was backed by the likes of Diamond D, Lord Finesse and Erick Sermon all producing tracks, but in the end, it was an uneven release. The group split by 1995, with Jamal joining the Def Squad and releasing the good album, Last Chance, No Breaks. Malik would join forces with the west coast and Snoop, Dre and Death Row and would appear on Doggystyle and Dogg Food.
3. Chi Ali
Chi Ali, the most famous child rapper to appear in the Native Tongue entourage, and well, the only one to roll with the legendary click. Chi is probably most notably known for his guest appearances with De La Soul and of course his spots on Black Sheep’s debut album. That’s not to say that his own album didn’t contain notable bangers, but it’s the remixes of “Roadrunner”, and “Funky Lemondade” that probably made the most noise. Both jams, appearing on the 12 inch releases are some of his best works.
4. Da Youngstas
I personally was never that crazy about Da Youngsta’s, they were given much credit from the hip hop underground. The trio released several albums while still being considered a “kid group”. Two of the brothers in the group were sons of legendary Philly label boss, Lawrence Goodman, who is responsible for much of the Pop Art early success and collapse. The kids wrote their own lyrics, which is more than a lot of the early child stars did in those days.
5. Kriss Kross
Yes, I know, a bunch of you are booing your screen right now. While they weren’t the greatest MCs, you can’t deny their success of their first album and the mark they had on the mainstream. And as I said before, I know a lot of people in their 30′s that bought that album, don’t lie, you know you did. And those beats were straight rip offs of the Bomb Squad but daaaayum. The fad and Daddy Mack and Mack Daddy grew old rather quickly and I don’t think I’ve heard the whole second album to this day, but we’ll give it to them.