Ken Maiuri's Clubland — A bad rap: NHS student launches book, contest at The Parlor Room

  • Henry Reade, right, and a middle-school kid who claims his rap name is Puddin Tayne Vivian Myron

Published: 12/7/2016 3:41:41 PM

Let me guess: you are not a professional rapper. But do you wish you could jump onstage sometimes, and try to rhyme, just for fun? Maybe you once wrote some creative, heartfelt or totally silly lines on paper and then shrugged and shoved them into a drawer? Would you give it a go if you were in a supportive atmosphere?

That’s what’s being offered by Northampton High School students Henry Reade and Zion Barbour (aka Zodd the MC) when they host the Valley’s first-ever Bad Rap Contest Friday at 6 p.m. at The Parlor Room in Northampton. It’s free; kids, teens and families are encouraged to attend.

“Our basic idea was to create a fun event where people who aren’t necessarily good at rapping — which is pretty much everybody — could feel comfortable giving it a try, or doing whatever they want up onstage,” Reade said. “So we decided, rather than trying for good rap, we’d go for bad rap.

That, Reade says, can be anything you want.

“People can write actual raps, or they can recite the worst song they’ve ever heard to one of Zodd’s beats, or, for all we care, they can wrap a present,” he said.

Reade, 16, is also an author, and the event is his unique way to celebrate the release of his first official novel, “The Pencil Bandits: Finding Crime.” The book, available in hardcover, is the first in a planned series of four Young Adult novels.

The protagonists are three brothers named after brands of pencils: Ticonderoga, Dixon and Eagle.

One of Eagle’s character traits — he wants to be a rap star but isn’t very good — informed the cavalcade of entertainment planned for The Parlor Room show, aimed at kids and teens.

“I wrote ‘The Pencil Bandits’ books because it’s hard for middle-school kids to find fun, funny things to read. And the same goes for things to do. Not much is geared toward kids in that age group,” Reade said. “We’ve planned the Bad Rap Contest and Book Party to be something that’s a fun night out for middle-schoolers.”

So there’ll be snacks — “unhealthy” ones, the event poster proudly proclaims, including donuts and various orange crunchy junk foods — and much activity: a short movie about why Reade (with help from his father, Nathaniel) decided to write the book series; a dramatic reading of a scene from the novel by Reade and folks from the audience; a book signing; and schmoozing.

Reade shared another reason why people should attend: “They can watch all kinds of people get up onstage and do funny stuff. They might even be able to watch my little brother embarrass himself,” he said.

Zodd the MC will get the party started and then it’ll be time for gutsy people to take the stage for the Bad Rap Contest. The crowd will pick the winners, who might receive an actual bag of money (containing $50-ish) or a “really ugly trophy.”

There will be a special division in the contest for kids under 15.

“I don’t think we’re so much hoping for a population of budding rappers, though that’d be cool, but some people who will come up onstage and do something goofy, and that the environment will promote that,” Reade said.

“We’re not even asking people to be bad, we just wanted to create an environment where there’s no pretense that anyone will be good. If someone comes up onstage and drops a remarkable freestyle, that would be super dope, but we just want to inspire people to feel comfortable doing something that would not pass as good rap.”

A percentage of the proceeds from the Bad Rap Contest and Book Launch Party will be donated to the PTO of JFK Middle School, where Reade was a student when he began writing the book series at age 11.

Reade has described “The Pencil Bandits” as “Oliver Twist meets the Marx Brothers during the Great Recession. A comedy-adventure novel for kids ages 9+, by a kid 9+.”

If you can’t make the event, the book (and a memorable bumper sticker) are for sale at the novel’s website, pencilbandits.com.

Ken Maiuri can be reached at clublandcolumn@gmail.com.




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