Featured Artists and Guest Artists:
Over 60 guest artists join the Alphabet Rockers co-founders, Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Soulati Shepherd. Voices from our next generation — Lillian Ellis, Maya Fleming, Kali de Jesus and Tommy “T3PO” Shepherd III, as well as 123 Andrés, Angel & Koja Adeyoha, Aris Wong, Ashanti Branch, Billy Dean Thomas, Celestina Pearl and Esperanza Carter-Pearl, Genevieve Goings, H. Daniel Mujahid, Harlow Carpenter, Honey Mahogany, Jennifer Johns, Juan “Wonway Posibul” Amador, Kanyon “CoyoteWoman” Sayers-Roods, KARLON, Kiran Nagraj, Lucy Kalantari, M. Zamora, MADLines, Mahawam, Malachi Garza, mariposa & AmihanCh’íníbaa’, Michelle “CHELLE” Jacques, Mike McCann, Nizhoni & Pálxcqíwn Ellenwood, Okee Dokee Brothers, Rei Matsuno, Rhonda Crane, RyanNicole, Samara Atkins, SaulPaul, Shaina Evoniuk, The Singing Bois, Sólás B. Lalgee, Yaw, Yiann, Zumbi Zoom.
Language: Primarily English and Spanish, but features many other languages in songs such as This is Ohlone Land which acknowledges the variety of indigenous groups and languages of Oakland, CA, where the album was recorded.
Topics Covered: LGBTQ, Non-Binary Identity, Transgender Activism, Radical Joy, Self-Love, Cultural Consciousness and Pride, Self-Expression, Respect for All, Survival, Black Gxrl Magic, Ancestral Power and Healing, Strength, and Truth.
It is impossible to sit silent and still when listening
to the Alphabet Rocker’s album The Love.
The album begins with a respectful acknowledgement of the land on which it was recorded, setting the stage for the thoughtful and transformational nature of the album. Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Soulati Shepherd cover a wide range of topics artfully and powerfully. In other hands and different voices the album could be heavy-handed and preachy, but by allowing the guest artists featured on the album to speak their truth, McGaw and Shepherd spread the love and recognition across the board.
The Love is joyful, realistic but also hopeful, which can be an extremely challenging balance to strike-and they do it expertly. The music and lyrics recognize the struggle and work of past generations and queer people of color from the far reaches of history like Hatshepsut to Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, founders of STAR, the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries as well as today’s activists like two-spirit Representative Sharice Davids of Kansas.
The album’s lyrics could easily parrot the “everything is sunshine and rainbows!” or “life is suffering” binary found in many narratives. Instead, the artists both acknowledge the injustice heaped upon marginalized groups and create a sense of hope that emanates from songs like “Black Gxrl Magic.” This faith in the promise of the future is fired up by “the next generation” of voices, empowered young people who speak their mind clearly and energetically.
We loved the small photos with pronouns of all the other artists featured on the album! It allowed us to get to know each artist as an individual, and provided a visual reference for the wide range of personalities, identities and cultures represented in the fantastic music. The explicit celebration of the many intersections of queerness and cultural identity is refreshing and radical, as so many queer narratives are whitewashed and simplified to appeal to a larger audience. The Alphabet Rockers recognize the truth of the windows and mirrors approach that we reference here at the Tiny Activist; that honoring the distinct identities of people who are not like you creates more space for everyone.
One feature of the album that we particularly enjoyed were the interludes, especially They/Them, where each speaker introduces themselves with their pronouns. It was powerful recognizing that children are able to grasp and see the importance this practice, especially when so many adults can’t be bothered to do the same. It gives us great hope that the next generation will be more open and accepting from a young age.The interludes create a space for dialogue, and they echo the practice found in other hip-hop albums, presenting more voices and personalities to be heard (both literally and figuratively).
Thinking in terms of incorporating this album in a class or community space, the short interludes allow for breaks and group discussion. The lyrics are thoughtful and complex in their understanding of culture and intersectionality, but easy to follow along with. The language is accessible and the lyrics are nuanced, subverting the tradition of simplifying concepts and wording in music produced for children.
The songs in this album went by so quickly, and it hardly seemed like 17 tracks! The Love should be in every classroom, so bring on the social justice dance parties!
About the Artists:
ALPHABET ROCKERS make music that makes change. Led by Kaitlin McGaw (she/her) and Tommy Shepherd (he/him), they create brave spaces to shape a more equitable world through hip hop. Their GRAMMY nominated 2018 album, Rise Shine #Woke has reached 300K kids and families since its release, inspiring American kids to stand up to hate and be their brave and beautiful selves. Their latest album, The Love (2019) lifts up voices of our trans, two-spirit and gender non-conforming community.
With headlining performances at Lollapalooza, The Kennedy Center, San Francisco Pride Festival, Art & Soul Festival (Oakland) and Kidchella (Philadelphia), and in over 50 schools across the country each year, diverse audiences love their contemporary sound and positive messages. They were Izzy Award Winners in 2018, American Library Association’s Top Album in 2017 and 2018, and won the Parents’ Choice Award for their 5-album catalogue. Alphabet Rockers appeal to a broad audience with lyrics like “I will stand up for you” and “I shine in my beautiful skin,” landing them in the top 5 songs of 2018 on Kids Place Live SiriusXM Radio. Their music, videos, concerts and curriculum are designed by an intercultural team of anti-bias thought leaders, educators, artists, parents and young people of all genders.