2017-05-17 / Arts & Entertainment News

Llama llama (hey hey), red pajama!

ARTS COMMENTARY

I remember a story from when I was a little girl, though I don’t remember all the details.

It was in a children’s magazine, and I think it was called “The Llama’s Pajamas.” It might have been about a llama who didn’t put his pajamas away, but just left them on the floor, so someone stole them or hid them underneath the bed.

But I could be totally wrong. After all, childhood was a long time ago.

But I do remember this: One of my older brothers was so intrigued by the rhyme, so tickled that the writer rhymed “llama” and “pajamas,” that he took my magazine and just hijacked the whole story.

Instead of letting me read it myself, or reading it to me, he decided to read it to my other older siblings, to much merriment and laughter. It was such a tongue twister he couldn’t even read it aloud without stumbling over the words and laughing.


Ludacris version of “Llama Llama Red Pajama” has over 1.5 million views on YouTube. 
POWER 106 LOS ANGELES / COURTESY IMAGE Ludacris version of “Llama Llama Red Pajama” has over 1.5 million views on YouTube. POWER 106 LOS ANGELES / COURTESY IMAGE I thought of that long-ago incident recently when I heard on NPR what’s been happening with the children’s book “Llama Llama Red Pajama” by the late Anna Dewdney.

When J Cruz of “The Cruz Show” on Power 106FM in Los Angeles he was about to become a father, he discovered the book and began asking hip-hop artists who visited his morning show to rap the book’s rhymes and freestyle.

GoldLink, Jeezy, Migros, Kid Ink, DJ Khaled, D.R.A.M., Lecrae, Desiigner Warm Brew and Ludacris are among those who agreed. Music videos of them rapping the text of “Llama Llama Red Pajama” and freestyling off the rhymes can be found on YouTube. A new one is added every week.

Jeezy, the first artist to be asked six months ago, seems a little surprised by the request and at first, declines.

“We need it in your tone, in your cadence,” the DJ tells him.

He asks, “You want me to ad lib?”

Yep, that’s what they were asking for.

But he starts getting into it, and jokes, “This is what made me wanna be a gangsta.”

But guests who came on the show in the weeks after understood the concept, and became a musical competition of sorts.

The use of children’s nursery rhymes or jump rope songs in music isn’t unusual.

The great Ella Fitzgerald came to national attention in 1938 with her breakthrough hit, “A Tisket A Tasket,” a song based on a nursery rhyme from the late 1800s. The song was used in the opening of John Ford’s 1940 film, “The Grapes of Wrath,” and Ms. Fitzgerald performed it in “Ride ’em Cowboy” in 1942, an Abbott and Costello movie.

Raydio, Ray Parker Jr.’s first group, had a hit in 1978 with “Jack and Jill,” which went to No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.

And Kyle, with Lil Yachty, has a song on the charts currently with “iSpy.” While the music video places the rappers’ heads on top of kids’ bodies in a sandbox, it definitely sexualizes “I Spy With My Little Eye,” the kids’ game of observation.

The book “Llama Llama Red Pajama” is geared toward kids, but the hip-hop versions certainly aren’t, with use of the f-word and the n-word. This is hip-hop, after all. The artists’ personalities come through in their presentations as they rap over a variety of compelling beats.

The story is about a baby llama who experiences separation anxiety after being put to bed. He calls for his mama, who’s downstairs and, at one point, talking on the phone.

When GoldLink comes to the part about Mama Llama being on the phone, he samples a line from Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” singing, “You used to call me on my cell phone.”

He also includes a line, “I miss Obama,” whose name does rhyme well with llama and pajama.

Migos, a hip-hop group consisting of Quavo, Takeoff and Offset, get an extended rap going, passing the book among the three of them, using it as a jumping off point. They echo each other, (“Mama, Mama, Mama, Mama”), making it sound like dubstep, and provide sound effects. J Cruz tries to reel them in, but the trio’s really into it and keeps freestyling.

But the most popular version of “Llama Llama Red Pajama” is by Ludacris, whose music video went viral. In just two weeks it racked up 1,578,801 views; now, after a month, it has had almost 2 million views.

It’s a short but masterful performance, and some viewers are now requesting Ludacris make an entire album of kids’ books for parents.

J Cruz told Robert Siegel of NPR’s “All Things Considered” that he’s going to expand and ask artists to rap/sing/freestyle to other “Llama Llama” books. Looks like this party’s just getting started. ¦

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