Meet the Artist: Cactus
Your style as a performer for adults was very positive -- did that help move you toward doing children's music?
I've always been rapping in a positive way; I have a vivid imagination -- lots of pictures, lots of stories -- and to be completely honest, sometimes the grown-up hip-hop world expects a lot more grit, expects you to fit into a certain mold. I was always struggling against the walls of that mold. What I'm doing now is nice because there's no image of hip-hop in the kids' world; not many people are doing it. So I can create and do whatever I want. There's a lot of freedom in it.
How did the idea of performing for kids happen for you?
I'd been part of a traveling hip-hop collective for about ten years. My wife Brooke and daughter Saki, who was three at the time, were going to the beach for a couple of weeks. Brooke's a yoga teacher and she was going to be taking some classes, so they decided to make a vacation of it.
I wanted to surprise them with something really big when they got back, so I decided to create a kids' book -- write it, illustrate it, and copy it -- and have it ready for them when they got back two weeks later. I did, and they loved it -- they even cried a little! So then I made more copies and gave it to my friends who have kids and got a good reaction. So then I printed up a thousand copies and took it on tour with my band and sold it and got a really good reaction.
What did people like about that book?
It had kind of a graffiti style to it, a little hip-hop. And it rhymed and had the rhythm of an MC. The pictures had the same thing going on, too. I'm not the best artist in the world, but I can definitely get my point across. The characters had baggy pants, goatees, that sort of thing.
The people at my shows said, "I love this, because I can show it to my kids and they can relate to me." If you're in any kind of alternative lifestyle, kids' entertainment just doesn't hit it.