Summer is ending with the sound of a crunch. “Hot Cheetos and Takis,” a song about the joys of convenience store snack foods produced by a crew of pint-sized rappers in a Minneapolis YMCA after-school program, has been deemed “Summer’s final truly great jam” by Rolling Stone. The hook — “snack snack snack CRUNCH” — is as irresistible as the the junk food.
“I thought it sounded great, the raps were killer,” said David Goldberg, a Montgomery County teacher. He knows exactly the mix of excitement and pride that the kids and their instructors are feeling right now, because the same thing happened to him five years ago. Now a ninth grade English teacher at Montgomery Blair High School, Goldberg then led an after school daycare group for five to 12 year-olds called the Rappers Delight Club that had a viral hit single of their own.
“The first day they would come up with little rap names, and we would sit at table and list things they wanted to rap about — things they liked, food, movies, etc.,” said Goldberg. “I would tell the kids, ‘Write whatever you want,’ and I would pull one kid aside and sit with them and help them write their rap. We would kind of collaborate — they would write one line and it would lead into their other lines and it would all flow. Then the first kid would practice their own raps or help the little kids write theirs.”
One day, after a friend’s encouragement, Goldberg sent one of their songs to Pitchfork. When the notoriously-prickly music blog gave it a good review, the Rappers Delight Club became famous overnight, getting coverage in CBS and the Washington Post, among other outlets. They eventually recorded a song with The Go! Team.
“It accelerated the hype to an extent I was not expecting at all,” said Goldberg. “When the article in the Post came out, we Xeroxed copies of them and had a fake autograph signing. There were 12 kids in the club. They sat at a table and other kids brought their copies of the article.”
According to CBS Minnesota, some of the kids know the “Hot Cheetos and Takis” video has gone viral, but others are away at wilderness camp and have no idea that they’re internet-famous yet. Like Rappers Delight, they wrote the lyrics and produced the music with minimal help from the YMCA staff — and according to Goldberg, that’s the most rewarding part of his club and others like it around the country.
”It will help them throughout school and life to find a voice and enjoy writing in some way,” said Goldberg. “From a high school teacher's view, a lot of kids come in with a negative view of writing. Having a program like this produces students who are excited about writing, who are confident about their writing.”
Though some music critics have put them in the same league as adult rappers, after school rap programs aren't meant to encourage kids to grow up to become hip-hop artists — they're to encourage them to express themselves. Said Goldberg: “That's more important than if they write another song.”