If you think about rapping, what comes to mind? The hard streets of the East Coast and West Coast of America as they brag about what cars they own and women they date? Rap is like any musical form; it varies greatly. There is loads of Gangster Rap, but what about the pop of Will Smith, or the Grime of the UK? Just have a look at the 80s for loads of unqualified people having a dabble in the format (Wham! Rap). Rap in of itself is nothing but a way to project a message and if this message is about trying hard and succeeding, it could just be suitable for a kid’s book.
Hip and Hop are two friends that like nothing better than spitting rhymes and hanging out together. Whilst Hip is a confident Hippo, his pal Hop is a less self-assured bird. With a big bike race coming up Hop is hoping to enter, but he keeps crashing. Can Hip and all his pals convince Hop that if you keep on trying, you will get to the race on time?
‘‘You Can Do Anything’’ is the first in a series of ‘‘Hip and Hop’’ books that are written by singer/artist Akala. With this in mind you would think that the rhyming style couplets of the children’s book format would be perfect for him. However, out of all the elements of the book, the way it scans is probably the worst. The story feels a little disjointed; a series of mishaps for Hop and then him getting back on his feet. These work ok, but it is the mini rap in between that feels off. Hip tries to raise his pal’s confidence by laying down some rhymes. For the life of me I could not get the tempo right for this – perhaps I am just a bad rapper.
On a positive note, the entire book has a bright and upbeat feel. The message is all about striving for what you want and you will achieve your goals. This is reflected in Sav Akyuz illustrations. The pictures have a street art style to them that has the vibrancy of the streets, but are also suitable for a children’s book. Akyuz is particularly good and mimicking action, be it the bike rides or the sweet, sweet moves of the rappers.
It is strange that the unique selling point of Hip and Hop’s adventure, that of being written by real-life rap artist Akala, is the weakest element. The book’s heart is in the right place, but it is executed a little clumsily. If you are interested in a positive rapping message of believing in yourself for kids, then try the classic ‘‘Parappa the Rapper’’ computer game – you gotta do what? You gotta believe! It manages to do the same thing as ‘‘Anything’’, but also have some rhymes that work.