This week, the mainstream media found out about the rap world’s tiniest talent, 9-year-old Luis Rivera, Jr., or as he’s known in the rap game, Lil’ Poopy.
Rivera has actually been around for a few years now, rapping about “big chains” and claiming to be a member of rapper French Montana’s posse, the Coke Boys.
A number of Lil’ Poopy’s videos made rounds this week. One video titled “Lil’ Poopy Getting It In” shows the 9-year-old in a nightclub surrounded by several women in suggestive positions. The video was taken down by YouTube less than three days after Massachusetts police filed a Department of Children and Families investigation of the rapper’s father.
Rivera’s lawyer, Joseph Krowski, noted that Lil’ Poopy the rapper and Rivera the child are two different entities, and that in real life Rivera is actually a “very respectful young man.”
However separate from reality, there are plenty of Lil’ Poopys out there. It’s been a universally adorable idea at many points in time for any parent or guardian to dress their child up like a favorite artist, take a photo with a beer bottle next to their baby or prompt their child to say something inappropriate for quick laughs.
It’s like stealing candy from a baby (and then putting chrome spinners on that candy and giving it back to the baby and putting footage of the whole ordeal on YouTube). It’s just so easy, which is something we can’t forget in the case of Poopy and his father.
Many are using Lil’ Poopy as a springboard for discussions of extremely bad parenting. When French Montana himself was asked about Lil’ Poopy’s affiliation with Coke Boys this week, he stated, “He was never my artist. … I would never want any little kid out there talking like a grown man. I think it comes from parenting.”
It is indeed an example of poor parenting choices, but if left at that, there is a very important opportunity being missed to shift the conversation to one that both recognizes the talent behind Poopy’s persona and calls its origin into question. The discussion should instead bring to light the influence of hip-hop culture on what we and our children view as “success” and the way a grown man “should” talk.
To accuse Lil’ Poopy’s father of child endangerment is to acknowledge that there is a something inherently less respectable about a child participating in the rap lifestyle and that there are much higher “standards” that can be achieved.
Often, the flair of a hearty rap life and the messages it brings with it is one of the most frequently bombarded and universally understood images of success portrayed in media. So how should achievement and status be marketed to youth differently, and does this mean we have to turn off rap and hip-hop culture from our kids completely?
I can’t help but to wonder if the reactions to Lil’ Poopy would be any less severe if he wasn’t a person of color. And what would happen if Lil’ Poopy were a girl, surrounded by grown men suggestively gesturing around her? Why would “grown” men and women allow a child to run free or coach them into these kinds of environments?
For most young children, the picture is very clear and very present: chains, money and half-naked women are a recipe for achievement. In fact, the message of getting money at all costs is one of the most easily accessible and understood, because it’s easy.
We have to begin to more seriously work with each other to take the harder route if not for ourselves, then for the sakes of the children who will come after us.
The problem isn’t just rap or hip-hop, it isn’t just Lil’ Poopy and it isn’t just his father or parents like him. It’s about how all of us communicate and limit ideas of what success really means, especially to youth.
How will we rise to the challenge?
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her at @BOWCHICKAFLORES