Suddenly, hip-hop for kids means more than just Peter Cottontail’s stride. While tykes have been rhymin’ since long before Simple Simon ever happened upon the pie man, rap products marketed to those chillin’ in their cribs have been limited to little more than one forgettable Raven-Symone record and an embarrassing Hammer cartoon show. Well, now the controversial, multiplatinum- selling genre is being handled with kid gloves as Disney releases Mickey Unrapped (Walt Disney Records, $10 cassette) and Natalie Cole narrates a cartoon video produced by her sister Casey Cole, Nursery Raps With Mama Goose (Golden Book Video, $12.95).
Mickey benefits from the same multigenerational appeal that sent The Lion King soundtrack roaring to the top of Mount Billboard: Adults can tolerate and even enjoy repeat listenings. Here, Disney remakes pop-chart successes like Tag Team’s ”Whoomp! (There It Is),” Vanilla Ice’s ”Ice Ice Baby,” and Salt ‘N’ Pepa’s ”What a Man” by turning these symphonies silly with rewritten lyrics. On ”Whatta Mouse,” a Lisa Simpson-sounding Minnie throws down such lines about main man Mickey as ”He says I drive him crazy/and he knows that my name is not Daisy.” Parents with knowledge of the original’s lyrical raunch will chuckle at the Disneyfication of (wink wink) sexual themes.
Adding menace to the mix are Huey, Dewey, and Louie performing ”Ducks in the ‘Hood.” And on ”Bowwow to the Beat,” Whoopi Goldberg hangs with canines once again (she howled for her hyena character in The Lion King) and, with her dog-pound posse, woofs an ode to Pluto that sniffs of George Clinton’s ”Atomic Dog.” The only thing that really dogs this record is the fact that Mickey’s goofiness sometimes comes off as incredibly stupid. When he raps, ”Yeah, the Disney posse’s coming atcha/Head ‘em off at the pass, hummies, I mean homies,” images of Amos ‘n’ Andy come to mind.
Still, the clever samplings of old Mickey Mouse Club kids yelling ”yeah Mickey” coupled with a heart-pounding bass line make ”Mickey Mouse Club Mix” ready for MTV’s The Grind (Eric Nies would look so cute in mouse ears). Mickey Unrapped will sound great thumping out of ”My First Boom Boxes” everywhere. Playground poetry set to a hip-hop beat is the premise behind Nursery Raps With Mama Goose. It’s a logical connection: Childhood rhyming is rapping of a sort (Digital Underground’s lead rapper tagged himself Humpty-Hump). Unfortunately, Mama Goose is as scattered as Humpty Dumpty’s remains. At the beginning of the video, Natalie Cole explains, ”Sometimes when you can’t come up with something better, you go back to the old and you try to remake it and kind of bring it into the era.”
This lack of creativity is apparent throughout. Basically, Mama Goose rides around in a pink Cadillac chauffeured by her homegoose, MC Gander. They meet various nursery-rhyme characters, such as a hightops-clad spider from ”Little Miss Muffet,” who raps over a backbeat that sounds as weak as a toy drum machine. Phrases like ”Now you got to have pride/like a lovely bride/You got to stand up so tall” (delivered by ”Muffet”’s arachnid) are noble, but kids could write better stuff.
Perhaps in an attempt to seem retro, the animation is reminiscent of the 1970s Jackson Five cartoon show; the characters may look groovy, but their movements are clunky. The biggest problem with the video, though, is its hard- to-decipher lyrics, which frustrate any attempts to sing along. This Goose tries to be fresh, but it just doesn’t fly. Mickey Unrapped: B+