Oxon Hill rapper Dwayne “Storm the Unpredictable” Henrywho wrote and recorded such ditties as “Darker the Berry” and “Get Your Weight Up (The Big Girls’ Anthem)”has taken home the gold again from the Songwriters’ Association of Washington.
This time, it’s for a kids’ song.
Storm’s “It’s My Culture” beat out 35 other entries earlier this month to win this year’s Gold Award in the children’s category of the association’s Mid-Atlantic Song Contest (MASC). “Get Your Weight Up” won the contest’s grand prize last year.
“It’s My Culture” isn’t just the first hiphop winner in the MASC’s children’s category, according to contest director Jean Bayou. It’s the category’s first hiphop entry, period.
Actually, a kids’ song isn’t a wild departure for Storm, a 33-year-old father of two and former pre-kindergarten teacher who works now as the biology-lab coordinator at the Takoma Park campus of Montgomery College. The MC, who released his latest album, Amalgamation, on Orpheus Records in January, has always considered his music all-ages.
“Children can listen to my music, but…it doesn’t sound like children’s music,” he told the Washington City Paper in a profile last year. “Parents don’t have to worry about me talking about sleeping with all of these different women or cursing all over the place.”
Still, “It’s My Culture,” which Storm wrote earlier this year and recorded at the District’s Urban Intellect Studios, is his first take at writing specifically for kids. To make allowances for the smaller set, Storm slowed down portions of his lyrics so that children could understand their themes of cultural pride and acceptance of diversity. He assumes, though, that kids want to hear the same music as everybody else.
“I take the same type of fill they hear on the radio, but I change up the lyrical content and gear it towards them,” Storm says. “The emphasis isn’t on dancingit’s on children really getting [the message]. It’s telling people: ‘This is my cultureaccept me and appreciate me for who I am.’ Better for me to learn your ways and understand them instead of condemning them.”
Besides delivering a message, another motivation for writing “It’s My Culture” was Storm’s opinion of most music for kids: pretty low.
“I really wanted something for [children] to be able to listen to,” he says. “There aren’t a lot of songs geared to children that don’t sound corny. And a majority of these songs on the radio are deemed to be OK just because they bleeped out the curse words. As we know, children these days have figured out what the curse word is supposed to be.”
Storm says he’s in negotiations to have “It’s My Culture” distributed, and he’s thinking about putting out a whole album of hiphop geared toward young adults and children. And given 6-year-old son Ty-Riek’s reaction to “In My Culture,” Storm should start laying down tracks.
“He’s taken the liberty of playing it for his friends,” says Storm, with mock chagrin. “It’s his favorite song.” Robert Lalasz