The Minor Key: Kid Rock, Hip-High Hip Hop, And Underage Awesomeness

When I was 9, I took some pretty miserable piano lessons. They didn’t last long, partly because I couldn’t pay attention to anything for a full hour back then (let alone “Mary Had a Little Lamb”), and partly because I was scared shitless of my teacher. She was 70 years old, smelled like tartar sauce, and I swear the skin on her hands was almost clear. Like, spooky vein sushi. Bear in mind, though, this is a 15-year-old memory of Mrs. I Can Tell You Didn’t Practice Like I Told You To, so I can’t vouch completely for the accuracy. But I’d prefer to blame my early-exit on her spindly fingers, rather than, say, me wanting to play Duck Hunt every Tuesday and Thursday after school. Either way, I didn’t stick with it, didn’t pick much up, and, to this day, can only play “Chopsticks” and the Adams Family theme song on the keys. For shame. But when I fire up the Tube and see things like this, I realize it’s no big deal. I was already way past my prime. Washed up at 9. A never-was. A total loser.

Meanwhile, at 3 Years Old, Romanian pop sensation Cleopatra Stratan is the youngest tot to ever chart. Anywhere. In the world. Stratan’s dad is a musician, whose fingers probably don’t look like spooky vein sushi, and don’t scare her away from lessons. So her debut album, La Varsta De 3 Ani (At The Age Of Three), a surprisingly mature collection of auto-tune-adoring kiddie pop, birthed an international smash in the form of “Ghita,” a track about — I think — Stratan’s confusing ex boyfriend [reminder: she’s 3 Years Old]. The charm of the song is captured best by its video, which features an adorable Stratan lugging around a massive Suitcase For Grown Ups through city streets, and waiting on a train that never seems to come. You remember Jordy, the French baby who sang “Dur dur d’être bébé” (“It’s Tough to Be a Baby”)? Yeah, he was 4 and a half when that song broke. Geeeeeeezer!

Then there’s the middle schooler resting under the wing of B’more club maestro DJ Rod Lee. The 14-year-old DJ Lil Jay follows in an illustrius Lil queue of underage whipersnappers — Romeo, Bow Wow, et. al. But Jay is a different monster all together, eschewing the pregnant ego of mainstream hip hop for grooves dusted in Charm City dirt. About his album Operation Playtime, Seattle Weekly rightly rattles: “jackhammer beats, Eamon homages, dusty breaks, block politics, and synth-horn stabs played in the key of dance your ass off.” Saucy language to describe a kid’s record. But, uh, not one with a song called “F*** That,” right?

And what about every indie rocker’s favorite set of sororal 90’s babies? Smoosh — known to Mom and Dad as Asya and Chloe — have been writing keyboard and drum-led pop music since they were 6 and 8, respectively. Here’s the skinny: the fam was in line at a music shop, waiting to re-string a violin, when the girls wandered into the drum section and made friends with Death Cab For Cutie‘s kitman Jason McGerr. He offered to help out, and they did what any self-respecting 6/8 year olds would do. “Uh, sorry mister, death what for who?” But they stuck with McGerr and, as a result, have churned out some quality stuff — namely 2006’s Free to Stay — over the past 8 years. Nowadays, they’re practically dinosaurs — one of them can drive(!). A car(!). But, man, when they were in their prime…

So, the moral of the story? Strike while the iron is hot, people. You’ve got — max — eight years to make an impact. So get your kids in lessons. Ignore them if they complain about the tartar sauce smell. It’s for their own good.

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