Hot Cheetos and Takis: Awesome or Alarming? (VIDEO)

You’ve probably seen this video of the Y.N. Rich Kids singing about their favorite snacks as part of the North Community YMCA Beats and Rhymes Program in Minneapolis, MN. (See more of their creations here).

The first time I watched it my jaw dropped open and I gaped a bit–okay, a lot. By the end, though, I was hopping around singing right along with the clever lyrics and the rather cute little rappers. Should I have been so easily won over? There are — of course — two sides:

Why am I harping on a bunch of little kids singing about Cheetos? It’s harmless, right? Maybe, but there is something more than a little disturbing about seeing kids likely under the age of ten acting like gangster rappers–hanging with their “crew”, heads bobbing, hands around their groins, adoring fans circled around them…definitely called to mind a few less than appealing rap videos I’ve seen. If I squinted, one of the kids even looked like a smaller, much younger Jay-Z strutting around on the playground. Let’s just say he’s not exactly someone I would want my kids or students looking up to.

Sure, this video is the product of an after school group singing about a rather innocuous–albeit unhealthy–topic. But what about in a few years when they hit middle school and puberty? If they’re copying the body language and mannerisms of stereotypical African American male rappers now in order to appear cool, what’s to stop them from copying their lyrics and subject matter in videos made on their own time? Something tells me that seeing some of these same kids rap about drugs, violence, or misogyny in five years would come across as a whole lot less adorable and certainly wouldn’t be seen as harmless. Although catchy and cute, videos like this one seem to flirt with the line between enabling kids to express themselves and preventing them from living out enduring stereotypes.

1. Access to technology. I know first hand that inner city schools are strapped for cash (I teach in the Bronx). As a result, kids aren’t exposed to as much technology as they need to be to keep up with the ever-growing digital world. These kids were likely involved in the shooting, producing, directing, editing, and publishing (posting) processes and all the technology that goes with each of those steps. This exposure will give them a leg up in high school, extracurricular activities, college, and–hopefully–even in their future careers.

2. Creative writing and expression. These kids came up with some pretty awesome lyrics. They are smart, quippy, snappy, and catchy–I’ve definitely woken up in the wee hours singing “Hot Cheetos and Takis” on more than one occasion. With increasing focus on standardized tests, it’s refreshing to see kids flex their English Language Arts muscles a little outside of the box–and enjoy themselves while doing it. It would be great to see them write fun, clever lyrics for academic videos, similar to what another Beats and Rhymes group,the NSJ Crew, has done with the old School House Rock songs from the 1970s and 80s. They would definitely spice up my lessons.

3. Self confidence. Although I object to the “gangsta” element of this video, these kids definitely have swagger. Hopefully the adults working with them can coach them into harnessing that confidence in order to develop the healthy self esteem they will need to navigate the bullying and peer pressure associated with middle and high school.

At this point I’m leaning toward the “awesome” end of the spectrum, but how about you?

What do you think?

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Photo Credit: via Flickr


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

I think the kids did a great job. And they were very creative. its up to their parents what they listen to and how much access they have to technology and rap music. We can bash their parenting. I admit I wouldn't make the same decisions... but bashing this could jeopardize these kids and their self esteem. They are talented.

Kamryn M.
Kay M5 years ago

I wonder how much Frito Lay compensated them. I heard they decided to do so after the fact, even though they didn't commission the video.

Lika S.
Lika P5 years ago

You know, it's disturbing when we're seeing 10 year olds swaggering around grabbing at their crotches, as if this is what our young African American youth is supposed to be - outwardly thuggish, and needing to compete for the cool contest of the gangsta land.

If I were a parent of these kids, I'd also be angry with this stereotype, because our black leaders like Rev. Jesse Jackson and others want our young black kids to grow up to compete equally in today's stiff world of competition. This just brings more stereotypes and reinforces the negative images.

On top of which, these types of bad foods may lead to obesity, which is already high in this country, and diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure can be caused by eating highly processed foods such as chips and such. Thing is, the obesity contributes to more asthma and the high blood pressure raises the risk of strokes and heart attacks. Kidney problems can be a secondary symptom of these, also. Considering that African Americans are 60% more likely to die from diabetes, and be more prone to amputations, this kind of heavy push to eat cheetos and such is shameful.

For the overall health of this country, in physical and mental stability, we NEED to stop utilizing this type of marketing, which leads to unwarranted thuganomics and preventable diseases.

Cade Bryant
Cade Bryant5 years ago

I have no problem with the fact that the kids are rapping and utilizing (supposedly) "gangster" choreography. More power to them; let them express themselves creatively. What I *do* have a problem with is that they are being exploited by huge corporations in order to advertise those companies' unhealthy processed snacks. As a result, more and more kids (including those in this video) will grow up addicted to junk food, thinking that pieces of styrofoam coated in fluorescent yellow chemicals are an acceptable substitute for real nutrition. This video would have been a hundred times better if the performers were extolling fresh fruits and veggies grown by local organic farmers.

Winn Adams
Winn A5 years ago


Petra Brokken
Petra Brokken5 years ago

Kids do not need to be exposed to technology at this age. Look at what the Waldorf schools are doing. Giving a kid an IPAD does not mean learning. Even the old calculators meant that kids did not really learn fractions or other simple math. Lets limit the technology for the kids in school. They are already getting too much at home.

Penny Bacon
.5 years ago

I liked the funky dance moves!

BMutiny TCorporationsAreE

Two things:
One is, that not ALL the kids are equally given an opportunity - as there should be in a REAL arts program. The "cute" younger kids, are just there as BACKGROUND. There is a real STAR SYSTEM going - just like, unfortunately, in school athletics for example. Those kids who are already more self-confident, and willing to aggressively push themselves forward, are the ones "starred" doing the singing and dancing and getting the camera time.
The rest of the kids are being EXPLOITED. They aren't being "given" ANYthing.
The other thing is, of course:
As Robert V. says, "It is indoctrination designed to make them conform to the economic interests of corporations." This is JUNK FOOD. They shouldn't even be EATING ANY - especially if they come from families with limited incomes, that should ALL be spent on fruits, vegies, whole grains - NOT on stuff that will make them OBESE, diabetic, etc.! It is not only INDOCTRINATION in the WRONG food to eat, that is KILLING their communities - but it sends the message that the Corporations "will give you a better education, more opportunities that you won't get anywhere else". This is no less a POISONOUS message, for being probably true to an extent! This is INSIDIOUS MIS-EDUCATION on several levels!
I don't care that much if it's Rap, or Opera or Ballet - the overall message conveyed is still POISON.

aj E.
aj E5 years ago

was that one kid groping himself to look cool? that's kinda disturbing.

Deborah L.
Deborah L5 years ago

page 2---sorry about the double post on page one, site not working right for me tonight.

There are a lot of positive things out there for children and these kids in the video may turn out okay. I hope they realize that there is more to life than just rap. Also, the gang signs are something I would have preferred these children didn't know so well.