In an interview with CNN earlier this month, Florida senator and presidential hopeful Marco Rubio said he used to be a big rap fan, "but the lyrics have gotten harder and harder to listen to when you have 10-year-olds in the car." While it's up for debate what else Rubio is right about, he's definitely right about this. Hip-hop is an infamously profane genre, but it's a genre millennial parents grew up with. Do we really have to part ways? As a parent, you have to make sacrifices in so many other areas of your life for the benefit of your kids, but your music choice doesn't have to be one of them—at least not entirely.
There are plenty of fun, light-hearted and child-safe hip-hop songs out there, they just take some time and diligent sleuthing to find. Luckily, I've done the hard part for you and compiled a 10-song playlist of some of the best profanity-free, positive rap music, performed by a blend of well- and little-known artists. Grab your toddler and get ready to do your best Dougie.
"Sunday Candy" by Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment
Quality usually takes a nosedive when you're on the search for wholesome hip-hop music (looking at you, Will Smith and Macklemore), but that isn't the case with Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, a jazz-soul fusion rap group led by the Chicago-native Chance, The Rapper. "Sunday Candy," a beautiful, goosebump-inducing ode to grandmas, was arguably the best song in any genre to come out in 2015—so if you listen to nothing else on this playlist, make sure you check out this one.
"All I Need Is You" by Lecrae
Lecrae is a Houston-based rapper that makes some surprisingly fun, contemporary-sounding music despite specializing in "Christian hip-hop." This breezy, bouncy track in particular is sure to get both your heads bobbing.
"Hey Mama" by Kanye West
Say what you will about Kanye West, but his love for his mom knows no bounds. The controversial rapper trades in his typical brashness and egotism for sweetness and vulnerability in this earnest, joyful homage to his late mother.
"To Zion" by Lauryn Hill
When Lauryn Hill broke away from The Fugees to go solo, she went on to create one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. "To Zion" is one of many standouts on the album. Led by some brilliant guitar-plucking by Carlos Santana, Ms. Hill waxes poetic about her visceral love for her newborn son. It's the perfect song if you're in the mood to shed some happy tears with your little one.
"Crazy In Love" by Beyoncé ft. Jay Z
We can only aspire to have the chemistry with our significant others that Queen Bey and Jay Z have on this classic throwback from 2003. With its bombastic brass section and infectious chorus, it's hard not to feel senselessly happy listening to it.
"Hotline Bling" by Drake
I know you've probably heard this one thousands of times by now, but I couldn't leave it off the list. Yeah, we know it's about a booty call, but the lyrics are pretty innocent and its meaning will totally sail over kids' heads. Plus, its groovy instrumental is like aural analgesic, and it's impossible not to carelessly dance very badly to this song. Since that's the only level of dance that toddlers operate at, it's the perfect song for this playlist.
"Not Letting Go" by Tinie Tempah ft. Jess Glynne
This track comes to us from across the pond. UK-based rapper Tinie Tempah and singer/songwriter Jess Glynne combine for a joyful, rhythmic and lively track that'll be sure to make even the most reserved children bust a move.
"All Things Go" by Chiddy Bang
This track functions on a frequency your preschooler will love, with an upbeat, lullaby-like instrumental track and a catchy, chipmunk-pitched chorus containing a "sample for the kids," as Chiddy Bang puts it, that comes from Sufjan Stevens' song "Chicago."
"Now or Never" by Kendrick Lamar ft. Mary J. Blige
When Kendrick Lamar isn't making politically divisive rap music, he's banding together with the matriarch of R&B, Mary J. Blige, for feel-good jams about chasing your dreams and being thankful for what you have. You and your tot will have your hands in the air by the time the chorus hits.
"Family Business" by Kanye West
Rounding off the list is another Kanye track. What better song to end a child-safe hip-hop playlist than a sentimental song about family with an outro spoken by a toddler?
Zach Verbit is a music-loving Editorial Intern at Parents Magazine.