The pleasantly rounded kid-hop grooves of Bust a Nursery Rhyme were conceived by Dan and Billy Cohen, two Bay Area fathers who, inundated by inane and unimaginative children's music, decided to take matters into their own hands. The Cohens enlisted Felonious: Onelovehiphop, a San Francisco-area collective of musicians and MCs, and the group set out to put the rhymin' back in nursery rhymes. The result is Bust a Nursery Rhyme, a collection of kid classics reimagined for a new generation. The similarity of hip-hop wordplay to that of the nursery rhyme isn't a new concept, and the raps here don't actually stray very far from their source material (barring a few -isms dropped; the beatbox-driven "Alphabet Rap," for example, asserts that the letter u stands for "ultramagnetic"). But where Felonious excels is in its seamless synthesis of conventional kids' music with organic beats and rhymes, and its care to ensure that neither genre is short-changed in the interaction. Rhyme's stories still resonate with memorable characters like the Three Blind Mice, the Big Bad Wolf, and Humpty Dumpty. But throughout the set, punchy live percussion and stripped-down instrumentation effectively transform the tracks without overstating their presence, letting the qualities that made these songs preschool classics speak for themselves. "This Old Man" has the loose feel of a front-porch jam session, with MCs kicking rhymes over a slithering, bluesy slide guitar. Kids of all ages will love the aforementioned "Alphabet Rap," because everyone loves to try and beatbox with the best of them. Meanwhile, the lighthearted ska of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" recalls trombonist Rico Rodriguez's work with the Specials. There's no question that the rated-G funk of Bust a Nursery Rhyme is unconventional. But it offers children and parents a creative, ambitious alternative to the norm and does so without sacrificing any of the qualities important to kids' music. It even includes a full lyric sheet, to further encourage the rug rapper in your life.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus