Reviewed by Gregory Keer
To riff off the album title, the latest effort by hip-hop kindie artist Secret Agent 23 Skidoo made a believer out of me. I’ve heard a bunch of his music and have thought highly of his work, but this new recording floored me. Full of ridiculously catchy hooks, propulsive rhythms, and fantastic wordplay, this hip-hop extravaganza is unique and classic all at the same time.
23 Skidoo, whose real name is Joel Sullivan, works from his home base in Asheville, North Carolina, and employs a bevy of superb supporting players from the area, including his daughter Saki (MC Fireworks) and his wife Brooke (Bootysattva). The end product is highly polished yet deeply personal. 23 Skidoo performs with the wisdom of a dad and the sharp edge of a seasoned pro.
The 11 tracks on Make Believers hip and hop, but also rock and sway. “Magic Beans” whirls forth with funk-infused horns and an irresistible beat as the kid-friendly rapper spins a version of the “Jack and the Beanstalk” tale. “Space Cadet” has a New Orleans spice that espouses the flavors of imagination. 23 Skidoo channels a punk-rock slant into “Brainstorm,” goes old-school soulful with “Rocketfuel,” and chops some salsa for his encouraging “Hot Sauce.”
“Nightmares Disappear” is one of the most outstanding songs on the platter, with its doo-wop vibe paired with 23 Skidoo’s remarkable verbal skill as he expands on the worries a child has at night and how those anxieties are soothed by Mom and Dad. For “Snowforts and Sandcastles,” Molly Ledford of Lunch Money makes a dreamy counterpoint to the rapper’s song of trial and hope.
Secret Agent 23 Skidoo is a rare and real artist who makes music that cuts across any barrier between genre or age. Make Believers easily earn my highest Family Man Recommendation.
www.secretagent23skidoo.com – $15 (CD)/$9.99 (Digital) – Ages 2 to 11