4/10/2007 10:00:00 PM
Mom takes the basics and gives them a beat
By STASIA THOMPSON
Oak Park toddler Emerson Clark doesn't like transitions. From crib to bathtub or high chair to diaper station, he disapproved. Strongly. But instead of making it a struggle, his mother turned it into a positive. "I knew Emerson liked music so I would sing a made-up song to put him in a good mood and look forward to the new activity," says Candi Carter.
The culmination of many such moments is It's Hip Hop, Baby! is a new preschool video created by Carter, an Oak Park resident.
"My son always loves it when I sing his favorite songs in the kitchen, tapping out rhythms and beats with spatulas and spoons," she says of how she got the idea to create her spirited junior jam session. Carter is an Emmy-award winning television producer for an internationally famous Chicago-based daytime talk show that you've no doubt heard of and has plenty of professional experience with entertainment. But she wasn't thrilled with what she found when looking for something for her son.
"I was looking for that new, cutting-edge toddler video that would appeal to my 3-year-old-and to me-but it didn't exist," she says.
It's Hip Hop, Baby! includes original songs such as beloved classics like the "ABCs," "If You're Happy And You Know It," and "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes," but all the songs have been tricked out with fresh beats and rhythms. "The songs encourage children to explore music, language and sounds," says Carter. "And the music can be enjoyed by the whole family."
The songs help kids learn body parts, animals and numbers, featuring real children and child-friendly movements. "Necessity is the mother of invention," as Benjamin Franklin put it, and after composing the music, this mother tested her inventive concept on friends and families-and they gave her a resounding thumbs up.
"The songs have a catchy beat and fun, positive messages," says Carter, who grew up in New Hampshire and always loved music. "I have an unusual experience because I am an African-American who grew up in a school where there were four other kids like me and one was my brother," she recalls. "People are surprised when I know all the lyrics to Foreigner and Pat Benatar, but that's what I grew up with. I mean, my parents had albums like The Ohio Players-but it wasn't like I was around R&B or hip-hop music because there were no soul stations there."
Carter attended Boston College on a track scholarship and, upon graduation, joined CNN in Atlanta. As is common in the TV industry, she moved a few years later to Milwaukee where she oversaw several children's television programs. "I produced a teen show once a week and also a show called "Street Smart Kids" that taught youth how to be safe-like, not to fall for the "lost puppy" trick." The series won Carter an Emmy. "It's actually at my mother's house. I should get that back!" she said, on second thought.
Carter moved to Chicago to accept her current producer position and has worked there for 11 years. "I am always making up songs and singing," she says. "My experience as a mother pushed me to want to make a video that other families with young children would think was cool as well as educational."
Her husband, a private banker, supported her idea to create It's Hip Hop, Baby!
"I created the video right here in Oak Park," says Carter. "I rounded up the neighbors, friends and it's a reflection of Oak Park that the video shows diversity. We shot around town at Ridgeland pool and at Barrie Park and then at a studio downtown." Her goal is to create an ongoing series of a couple dozen videos and CDs "focusing on different subjects like "fruits and vegetables" or "learning your numbers." Carter has a CD culled from It's Hip Hop Baby! coming out soon. "Three of my original songs-the Duck Dance, the Milk Song and the Hip Hop Hokey Pokey," she says.
"I am so happy with the response other parents give me. They say they like the songs as much as the kids do-and their kids listen to the video all the time!" Carter says she isn't sure if they're attracted by the real kids, the lively music or the lyrics, but it's proving to be a popular formula, and she's just happy her concept is working.
"Kids really pay attention when you take something they are familiar with-like the ABCs-and then add some." To prove her point, she launches into her hip hop rendition of "ABCs."
The video is available locally at Magic Tree Bookstore and also online at www.amazon.com. A visit to www.itshiphopbaby.com offers information about how to order the video and T-shirts, and includes parent reviews.