The children’s music category for the Grammy Awards has been a blender of genres over the past decade – winners have included The Okee Dokee Brothers (American folk), Secret Agent 23 Skidoo (kid hop), and Lucy Kalantari (jazz). Oakland’s Alphabet Rockers earned a nomination in 2018 for their transformative CD, Rise Shine #Woke. Co-founding duo Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Soulati Shepherd double down on their message of inclusion with their new release, The Love.
Described as an intergenerational hip hop album, more than 60 guest artists help the Alphabet Rockers promote racial, gender, and class equality. “Until We’re Free” features SaulPaul and 123 Andres joining in the refrain, “I’m not free/until you’re free” in two languages.
The Love also showcases interludes that explain the themes being discussed on the tracks, such as “They/Them” for preferred pronouns and “You” about how individuals see themselves, whether as parents, professionals, participants, or multiple designations.
Society is changing. Music culture is changing. The Alphabet Rockers envision The Love as a tool to ease the learning curve that might confuse children and their families. Getting by is one thing; doing better is fundamentally more important, they insist. The Love is a collection of power-pop-rap songs that pack a punch. “I Am Enough” features the “queer boy band” the Singing Bois, who recently called it quits:
I feel free in the skin that I’m in though I wonder when
I can wake up kick back walk through the world never thinking ‘but why
You put limits on my body and tell me how to live my life
Listen I’m free, so free
The Alphabet Rockers understand that change is incremental; every generation having the choice what direction the compass will point in the future. Album closer “Someday” is a wistful ode to having “all the pieces and the knowledge and stepping back to acknowledge.” Here’s to acknowledging that the Alphabet Rockers are on the right track as well as the right side of history, musical and otherwise.
Here is the lyric video for their song, “We Royal”: