Hip-hop, undeniably, has a hold on the culture. In it's purest form, it is art; an expression of life experiences detailed and depicted by an M.C. over rhythmic sounds that can encourage, influence, or reinforce the listeners thoughts and feelings.
Music is quite powerful. Carl Lewis, creator of Positive Kids Songs, LLC, wanted to wield that power into messages for children and motivate them to make meaningful life choices. His "Positive Kids Crew" is a friendly foursome who want to inspire children to respect themselves and others, avoid bullying, use good hygiene, and working hard to be successful in school and life. Carl shares what lead him to start his kids music business and the impact he wants to make.
MRTV: Tell us how you came up with the idea of blending hip-hop with health conscious, anti-bullying messages?
C.G. Lewis: I was an Independent Hip- Hop music producer before this project Fitness Fun. I know first hand the impact that music has in shaping our culture. Media is the most powerful tool in the world and when used responsibly it creates good but when used irresponsibly it can create negative results. So I decided to use my talent for the greater good of our community. What better way to create change than to start at the beginning, the most impressionable ones, the kids pre-K, headstart, and elementary. I needed a topic for my first project, without any experience in the field of children’s songs. I began researching and landed on childhood obesity,bullying,and self esteem issues.
Mississippi has had a long-standing place at the top of the list in the United States when it comes to childhood and adult obesity. Although the rate has declined over the past decade, the obesity rate is still high. With nearly 40 percent of students in K-5th grade being overweight or obese, that is still a 13 percent decrease since 2015. Obese kids are often body shamed by their peers which is a form of bullying.
In 2016, the National Center for Educational Statistics reported that 1 in 5 students have been bullied in school. Factors that can lead to bullying include differences in appearance, social status, race, and sexual orientation. With this knowledge I began the journey of creating my first children’s project and I named it Fitness Fun. Fitness Fun is a two disc CD and DVD collection of fun sing-along songs, animation short stories and music videos. Our mission is to inspire, motivate, entertain, and educate kids age 4-10 years old. We use Hip-Hop because it is the voice of young America and it doesn’t hurt that I have 20 years of experience and knowledge in the Artform.
MRTV: Your short stories and music videos focuses on hope that encourages children to make positive choices. Tell us about the Positive Crew, what they stand for, and about each member?
C.G. Lewis: The Positive Kids Crew or the P.K.Crew is a fictional Hip-Hop music group.Their mission is to entertain kids with knowledge filled songs. Songs about good hygienic practices, loving yourself, believing in yourself, setting goals and working hard at accomplishing them and much more.
There are four characters; Kenny is the leader a black male child he is the musical producer of crew. The three remaining members are Bobby, a caucasian boy; Le, a Vietnamese boy; and Maria,a Latin girl. They are on the cover of the package and they are the stars of the animation series of videos. The P.K.Crew is also represented in mascot form. The Crew go to schools, birthdays parties, and any event that is kid friendly.
MRTV: I am a little bit of a Hip-Hop head, born in the 80's and raised in the 90's. My generation was introduced to positive messages through Hip-Hop too. Self Destruction definitely comes to mind... some messages are very bold like Brenda's Got a Baby. What differences or similarities are you using Hip-Hop to inspire today's youth?
C.G. Lewis: On this project I focused on the most impressionable ones, the grade school children. I believe in planting seeds of knowledge early in life and allowing those seeds to take root and build a strong foundation of morals and values that we all should aspire to live out.
I remember those tracks. Self Destruction I believe came about as a reaction to the increase in black on black violence that was happening in NYC in the 90 's. I believe we as a people need to begin to look at the proactive approach rather than a reactive move. I’m a military veteran and one of the strategies used by the military is planning, training, and execution. It’s difficult to change the mindset of adults but kids are new to the world and the most impressionable.
What parents let slide or ignore when Jamal is in grade school, could possibly lead to self destruction when he becomes a young man. Our youth are being exposed to the junkie culture and unfortunately Hip- Hop music is being exploited for monetary gain. The companies that control the distribution platforms seek out, exploit, and distribute the Artform of misguided and often starving artist. The results are catastrophic and damaging on the collective mindset of our community.
MRTV: What was the spark that inspired Positive Kids Songs, LLC and how long have you been in business?
C.G. Lewis: The company came about out of necessity. Positive Kids Songs, LLC was officially formed in 2018 after many setbacks. I really just wanted to write and produce music and partner with an established company for manufacturing, marketing, advertising, and distribution. I’m from Biloxi, Mississippi there are no major or small independent music labels that specialize in kids media in the entire state of Mississippi. I reached out to non-profit organizations that have business relationships with school districts in the state and the response was, “We have a production company in Jackson that creates all of our material”.
It’s crazy because I listened to their songs and before I say anything else. Let me first start by saying I don’t hate or knock anyone’s hustle. But if you have ever listened to kids songs created and marketed as “Hip-Hop” by people who really have no connection to the Artform? In my opinion, it comes off as kinda minstrel.
Well, after running into more roadblocks, I decided that I will do this myself so I began to save money and from 2014-2018 I began to test market Fitness Fun. I began to market it as part of Michelle Obama’s Childhood Obesity Initiative. I went to local Headstart schools and donated CD’s to the educators and students under one condition that each school and all it’s teachers would have to give me a report about the music good or bad. They agreed. All reports were positive and very encouraging. The kids loved the songs the teachers loved the messaging. It was a win-win. I kept doing research. I submitted Fitness Fun to The Parents’ Choice Foundation organization and we were awarded The Parents’ Choice Recommendation Award.
I continued to do research, by reaching out to parents and grandparents I listened to what they had to say about developing cartoons. I began to search for animators. Once again Mississippi came up short so I looked outside the state. I hired a guy from overseas to create all the songs and short stories into animations. All of the songs and animations have been copyrighted under my companies name. In November 2018 I launched Fitness Fun the two-disc set.
Check out this music video from the Positive Kids Crew
MRTV: What is your professional and educational background?
C.G. Lewis: I have had many job titles. Combat Medic, EMT, Chef/Cook, Independent Hip-Hop Music Producer, Recording Studio business owner, Production/ Artist Development/ Artist Management. But my most extensive experience/ knowledge is my 20 years as an Independent Hip-Hop Music producer I’ve worked for David Banner in promotions for the southern district of Mississippi when he was under contract with SRC also.
MRTV: What kind of encouragement did you have a child growing up?
C.G. Lewis: My parents were supportive of all their kids. We had very limited means, but whenever one of my siblings and I took an interest is something they would find the money to support; whether sports or the arts. Being a Mississippian spiritual development was the foundation of my early childhood as well.
MRTV: What events do you have coming up? I want to encourage people to attend and meet you in person.
C.G. Lewis: I’m currently working on Fitness Fun Live an interactive show with performances by the P.K. Crew mascots for schools in Mississippi and other states as well.
MRTV: What platforms can your music and videos be seen/purchased?
C.G. Lewis: You can buy the 2-disc set at Amazon under Positive Kids Songs LLC. You can stream and digitally purchase the CD version on all the major digital platforms. Tidal, Spotify, Google Music, iTunes…… all of them.
MRTV: I have to ask you; who is your Hip-Hop TOP FIVE?
C.G. Lewis: No particular order; Ice Cube for story telling and strategic business moves. Rakim for the artistry of his flow and word play. Chuck D for his social commentary, a leader against the grain. LL Cool J Greatest rap battle victories on records. Jay Z Business acumen.
Interested in have Carl and the Positive Kids visit your school or youth group? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.positivekidsongs.com. Connect with him on Facebook and view more Positive Kids content on YouTube.
Photo Credit: Positive Kids Songs, LLC