By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, MSJ
Q Brothers, the award-winning hip hop theater collective, has released its first kids’ album, and a local youth from the Edgewater neighborhood designed the album cover. The album is streaming now on all major platforms.
After 15 years packing the Family stages at the Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits music festivals, the Q Brothers has finally recorded an album for their youngest fans (and their folks). Inspired by the thousands of tunes recorded over the years and coincidentally released as a welcome shelter-in-place soundtrack, Buggin!’, the Q Brothers debut album for kids, is now available for download ($7.99) on iTunes/Spotify/GooglePlay/Amazon and other streaming platforms.
Besides the earworm-destined title track, “Buggin!,” eight other tracks all showcasing the Q Brothers’ high-energy raps and melodic hooks include “Talkin’ Trash,” “Get Weird,” and “Lemonade,” with featured guest artists Ariana Burks, The Hype, and Maya Vinice.
Plus, additional collaborators on the Q Brothers’ debut kids record are kids themselves: namely, Griffin Kubik, 7, of the Edgewater neighborhood on the far North Side, whose album cover design bested some 300 online contest submissions for the honor, and Roman Berkowitz, 12, of West Town, who shot the album’s music video for the song “Avocados.”
The Crusader reached out to Griffin and his mother, Tiana, to find out their reaction to Griffin being the esteemed artist to show his creativity in designing the album cover. “We were super excited for him! He loves the Q Brothers and being part of their new album has given such a boost in confidence,” Tiana said about Griffin being chosen. “Having our kiddos inspired by such kind and talented artists is priceless.”
Tiana offered her tips on keeping her two children in the loop educationally during the COVID-19 lockdown. “Griffin and Adair have been homeschooled for the past two years as we traveled the USA and Canada in our self-converted Sprinter van. We are stationary in Chicago during the pandemic but, aside from missing the outdoors and traveling, not much has changed for our family life.”
She added that her family mostly practices Self-Directed Education with the kids—and before the lockdown—letting the kids’ interest and the family’s travels guide their education. “During the pandemic, we are stressing social-emotional well-being above all else. If the kids fall back on some academic skills, I am not concerned. I am more concerned with their ability to cope with all that is going on in the world.”
Tiana mentioned that Griffin has shown an interest in coding, and so she’s looking into online coding classes. The Kubik family appears to be very artistic and open to new ideas, especially during these times.
“We have also taken lots of virtual classes with some of our favorite Chicago businesses. The kids have taken ballet, yoga, drawing and reading classes from so many great places. Of course, we have jammed to the Q Brothers’ Funky Friday Dance Party too!”
And while Griffin is interested in several creative activities, he was pleased to learn that he had been chosen by the Q Brothers Collective for his album design. “I was excited because I love the Q Brothers!” He had advice for other budding artists around his age. “Try it. If you try, you will get better.”
The Q Brothers generate original work fusing hip hop and theater, adapting classic stories to a wholly original, entertaining and fast-paced style of comedic performance that has been energizing audiences for over two decades. Their annual production of ”Q Brothers Christmas Carol” has been a holiday sell-out sensation at Chicago Shakespeare Theater since launching in 2013.
The Collective provided insight and excitement for the way their music affects the community. “When my kids ask me to play that track from ‘Frozen 2’ or whatever, I tell them, ‘I don’t have that on my phone,’ and then I play them something we all enjoy. We’re all hip hop heads. We needed more options of stuff we can all listen to together, so we made this record,” said Q Brothers Founding Member JQ, who also produced the record.
“The songs and topics are definitely geared towards kids, from dump trucks on the ‘I Can Dig It’ rap to dinosaurs on ‘Micropachycephalosaurus,’ but the sly wordplay, the sick beats, and our signature sense of humor is what will capture the adults’ attention. We had so much fun making this album!”
JQ talked about Griffin’s design. “Griffin’s design was incredible. It captured the essence of this album—these four best friends being silly and making each other laugh. His design is playful and scratchy, like great hip hop!”
The other Q Brother founding member, GQ, talked about what he perceives as the ease with which Griffin created the album cover. “We’ve always been big fans of the minimal and the abstract. In order for an artist to create in this fashion, it is essential to let societal constructs and preconceived notions fall away when creating and manifesting a vision. It makes perfect sense that a 7-year-old would not have to ‘work’ so hard to tap into a place from which the purity of minimalism and abstraction flow freely. We are grateful for the little homie’s brilliant contribution.”
Other members of the Q Brothers Collective include Jackson Doran and Postell Pringle.