Dinosaurs and hip-hop are teaching children life lessons from Brooklyn, New York, to Stockton, California.
Orlando Molina aka MC Zeps, author and creator of “Rhymosaurs,” mixes dinosaurs and hip-hop in his kid’s book series to teach lessons based on aspects of his own life and of his kids.
The Brooklyn-born and raised hip-hop MC’s first book called “Brush Your Teeth Rex” was created in New York. The story follows Tommy Rex as he finds a way to brush his teeth with his small arms.
A book inspired by Molina’s own life as he neglected to go to the dentist for many years, leading to surgery and a lot of dental work done.
“I said ‘let me write a book about keeping your teeth clean so that other kids don’t have to go through that,’ ” Molina said.
The inspiration for the kid’s book series came as Molina’s wife became pregnant with his daughter Sultana, now 5-years-old. He wanted to find a new way to work with hip-hop and incorporate it into his new life as a dad.
“I felt like I needed to do hip-hop for my soon-to-be daughter …” Molina said. “So, that’s how I came up with the concept of writing a children’s book, and mixing it with dinosaurs was when my wife was pregnant.”
Before dinosaurs, Molina tried using characters such as aliens, robots, and monsters but none of them made sense to Molina.
“I felt like kids love dinosaurs,” he said.
The rest of the series, books two, three, and four, came out of Stockton.
His second book, “Tara Takes Flight,” was also inspired by Molina’s life. Molina recalls his mother sending him and his brother to Puerto Rico to visit their father. They would travel alone and the flight attendants would take care of them until they landed.
“It’s kind of about a young me, who’s scared to fly,” Molina said.
“Try, Sarah Tops,” the third book of the series, is about a picky eater. Molina, who was a picky eater as a child, is trying to teach his kids to not be picky eaters.
The newest book, book four of the series, “Tyler Rex the…Two-O-Ninosaur,” is a reference to the 209 area code and his own move from Brooklyn to Stockton. This book was funded by the local nonprofit Tuleberg Press.
Molina and his wife moved to Stockton to raise their family closer to his wife’s family. Molina wanted to incorporate San Joaquin County in his book for two reasons, he said.
It’s a good message for kids whose parents travel or move a lot and they need to start over in a new city and because he loves Stockton, and raising his family here, he wanted to shine a positive light on Stockton to counter what the community hears or sees in the news or media, he said.
Once “creative juices start flowing” it only takes Molina and illustrator and artistic director Charles Brian Ugas “oOge” just a couple of weeks to create a new book.
Molina said he writes his books “like songs” using hip-hop beats writing them like a rap. He records a demo, shares the rhymes with Ugas so he can listen and read the rhymes, and gives him no direction to illustrations.
One page of the book reads:
“Even though he kind of missed the bagels and the pizza
His family found taco trucks in Manteca
Superhero moms in Lodi without the capes
Cute shops and farms with a thousand grapes”
— Orlando Molina, aka MC Zeps, “Tyler Rex the…Two-O-Ninosaur”
The graphic designer for “Tyler Rex the…Two-O-Ninosaur” is a local graphic designer who can be found on Instagram under the name of vbrnt.tm.
“Each book has a different (graphic) designer. It’s all friends of mine that helped me along the journey …” Molina said. “That’s how we did the book rhyme, illustration, graphic design, published.”
All the books have a black and white pages section called “graffiti spot” where kids can be creative.
“It’s meant to boost literacy on both aspects to read the story but then write your own. Remix the book,” Molina said.
Not only is “Rhymosaurs” a kid’s book series but it’s also an “educational platform.” Molina holds family-friendly events with MCs, DJs, graffiti artists, and dancers, and does creative writing workshops.
Many of the artists are friends that volunteer their time to participate in community events while other times Molina pays DJs and others to be part of paid events.
Molina also spends part of his time teaching the “4 elements of hip-hop” at after-school programs. The four elements are MC, DJ, break-dancing, and graffiti.
His upcoming events include teaching graffiti bubble letters, flow, and rhyme writing at Elevate Dance Company owned by his sister-in-law Edith Sumaquial, from July 25 through July 29. To register, visit: https://www.elevatedancecompany.com/calendar
He also has a book tour and will be in Galt on Aug. 6, and in Oakland on Aug. 13. For upcoming events and information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/Rhymosaurs/
Molina has two kids, daughter Sultana and son Leo, who is turning 3 soon. His daughter raps and freestyles during story time on the mic with him at events.
“My kids, they are my inspiration, …” Molina said. “They are my everything and they make me want to do this for the rest of the kids in the community because I know if they like it the other kids are gonna love it.”
Rhymosaurs books series can be found at these local shops:
- Caterpillar Children’s Boutique, 906 N. Yosemite St., Stockton
- Sweet Life Boutique, 2051 Pacific Ave., Stockton
- GingerBugs Lodi, 2 W. Oak St, Lodi
Record reporter Angelaydet Rocha covers community news in Stockton and San Joaquin County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AngelaydetRocha. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow.