Among the first groups to tame rap’s hardcore mentality into a positive, message-oriented music suitable for teens and mass audiences, Kid ‘n Play debuted in 1988 with the platinum album 2 Hype, which the duo later spun into a deal involving films and a Saturday-morning cartoon show, the first involving a rap act.
Kid (born Christopher Reid; Bronx, NY) and Play (born Christopher Martin; Queens, NY) first met while performing in rival high school groups (the Turnout Brothers and the Super Lovers, respectively) and initially teamed up as Fresh Force. Play’s former bandmate, Hurby “Luv Bug” Azor, became the duo’s manager and signed Kid ‘n Play to Select Records in 1987. Despite the predominance of James Brown samples during the mid-’80s, Azor gave 2 Hype a production job more rooted in disco and pop; thanks to the near-Top Ten R&B hit “Rollin’ with Kid ‘n Play,” the album eventually reached platinum status. Though many rappers were more successful at the time, Kid ‘n Play became film stars due to their clean-cut image — Kid’s six-inch “eraserhead” hairstyle, which seemed outrageous to white audiences, was vindicated by his honest, well-scrubbed face. The film House Party became a moderate success upon its release in 1990, and the duo even managed a proper LP that same year,