Mountain View Voice

News - August 31, 2007

Castro student's knack for rap

Ten-year-old's hip-hop album all about 'Makin' the Grade'

by Susan Hong

Inside a red-walled recording studio at the Riekes Center in Menlo Park, 10-year-old Garon Bolden bounces to the beat of a song he wrote called "Makin' the Grade."

"Got an 'A' last week on my spelling test / If you listen in class you can do your best," he rapped. "I don't need a gat / I don't need a blade / Got to keep my mind on makin' the grade."

Rap music is often associated with gangs and drugs, but for Garon, rap is a way to reject that lifestyle and offer a more positive expression of life, said his father Greg. Writing lyrics this summer was also a way for the Castro Elementary School student to find his place in the world.

"Rapping makes me feel good and makes me feel excited," Garon said.

It may also make him feel successful: His second song, "We Love the Ladiez," is being considered for airplay by two Bay Area radio stations, KMEL and Wild 949.

Greg Bolden said that while other members of the family are gifted athletes, Garon seemed more gifted musically. He wanted to give his son an outlet that would help shape his identity and give him confidence, and rap seemed the obvious choice.

Garon has a natural penchant for music, his father said. He plays piano and often can be found singing songs by Dr. Dre or Snoopp Dogg. Unlike those rap artists, however, Garon takes a more uplifting tone:

"It's true you know / Read a book, and your mind will grow / Be smart / Don't be a fool / Be on time, and pay attention in school."

Before he began recording, Garon brought a book about bats to the studio earlier in the summer and practiced reading to different beats put together by his Riekes teacher, Rahman Jamaal. After the young rapper was comfortable speaking the written word to music, he and his father sat down to write lyrics.

Jamaal says rap can help kids improve their reading and writing skills.

"It improves linguistic skills because it applies the creative half [of the brain] with the linguistic half," he said. Kids naturally tend to gravitate toward music, he said, so putting words to music can make reading and writing fun.

Greg Bolden agreed. His son's rapping, he said, greatly improved his linguistic skills and fostered other abilities as well.

"There's a complete transformation," he said. "His confidence level has grown dramatically."

Rap can have a good influence in children, according to Jamaal.

"It's best to think of hip-hop as a form of cultural expression because it deals so much with language," he said.

Those interested in learning more about "Making the Grade" can contact Garon Bolden at (650) 279-4197 or rb4mepls@aol.com.

E-mail Susan Hong at shong@mv-voice.com

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