When you think of the rap genre, your mind might automatically scream, “My kids are not listening to that!” But if you vet the lyrics to some rap songs, you learn that some of them are actually totally appropriate for children to listen to — while being more fun for the average parent too. What’s a grown-up to do if you’re like me, and you downright refuse to dive into the pool of KIDZ BOP to satisfy that craving for rhymes and beats and storytelling with clean lyrics? Listen to “Old Town Road” for the 3 bajillionth time? No disrespect to Lil’ Nas X, but no, I can’t “take my horse” down there because I officially “can’t no more.”
If you get what I’m saying, and are similarly desperate to connect with the kids in your life through music, quality music, this is the perfect list for you to check out, full of explicitly non-explicit jams that you can sing along to with your kids. These tunes may even tempt you to bust out some old dance moves — just a friendly word of advice, maybe stretch a little first?
Hopefully your small humans will not only have fun listening to these songs with you, but will thank you when they’re older for the introduction you provided. Since finding rap and hip hop picks that make the kid-friendly cut can be super limiting, we’ve done the work for you below, each vetted to have exactly zero words you wouldn’t want your kid repeating elsewhere.
Read on for the best rap songs that prove the genre can be family-friendly.
A version of this article was originally published in December 2015.
1. The Sugarhill Gang — “Rapper’s Delight”
The song that’s credited with introducing rap to the masses. 41 years after it’s initial release, it’s instantly recognizable and impossible not to sing along to – if only I could memorize the words! For your little kids, the lyrics include the word “boogie” and we all know nothing makes a kid laugh harder.
2. Another Bad Creation — “Playground”
Remember playgrounds? Sigh. This classic, sung by actual children, from the album “Coolin’ at the Playground Ya Know!” (sensing a theme here), is a great introduction to New Jack Swing and the sound of Bel Biv DeVoe (whose lyrics are sadly, not so kid friendly.)
3. Skee-Lo — “I Wish”
Every kid, no matter where they live, has the same wish. To. Be. Bigger! There’s nothing cuter than watching a tiny human try to memorize the chorus – and on this, I speak from experience.
4. Kris Kross — “Jump”
Challenge your kid to wear her/his clothes backwards in honor of this winning duo (who did) and bounce every time they shout “Jump,” but be forewarned, I think they say it 89 times (Hashtag Depends?)
5. J.J. Fad — “Supersonic”
Did you sing this with your siblings growing up? Do you still? No, just me? Ok, I’m fine with that. The beats, the sounds, it’s a jam.
6. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince — “Parents Just Don’t Understand”
What’s a universal confederation all kids will swear allegiance to? The My “Parents Just Don’t Understand” club. All kids. Forever. Hey, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
7. MC Hammer — “U Can’t Touch This”
Haters gonna hate, but you know you can’t touch this. It’s a classic. And those pants?
8. Salt-N-Pepa — “Push It”
If this doesn’t instantly take you back, then “Ooh baby baby baby baby” you need help. This hit sits at the top of the list of songs about very adult topics that don’t sound that way to kids AT all! (Phew!)
9. Us3 — “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)”
For a jazzier take, go for this one-hit wonder from British group Us3 and get the bonus of introducing your littles to Herbie Hancock courtesy of the sample of his “Cantaloupe Island.”