Dinosaurs and hip-hop teach life lessons to kids from Brooklyn, New York to Stockton, California.
Orlando Molina aka MC Zeps, author and creator of “Rhymosaurs,” mixes dinosaurs and hip-hop in his children’s book series to teach lessons based on aspects of his own life and those of his children.
The Brooklyn-born and raised hip-hop MC’s first book, 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 tiny arms.
A book inspired by Molina’s own life as he neglected to go to the dentist for many years resulting in surgery and many dental works.
“I said, ‘Let me write a book about how to keep your teeth clean so other kids don’t have to go through that,'” Molina said.
Inspiration for the children’s book series came when Molina’s wife became pregnant with his daughter Sultana, who is now 5 years old. He wanted to find a new way to work with hip-hop and integrate it into his new life as a father.
“I felt like I had to do hip-hop for my daughter-to-be…” Molina said. “So I got the idea of writing a children’s book and mixing it with dinosaurs was when my wife was pregnant.”
Before dinosaurs, Molina tried to use characters like aliens, robots, and monsters, but none of them made sense to Molina.
“I got the feeling kids love dinosaurs,” he said.
The remainder of the series, books two, three and four, came from Stockton.
His second book, Tara Takes Flight, was also inspired by Molina’s life. Molina remembers that his mother sent him and his brother to Puerto Rico to visit their father. They would be traveling alone and the flight attendants would take care of them until they landed.
“It’s about a young me that’s scared of flying,” Molina said.
Try, Sarah Tops, the third book in the series, is about a picky eater. Molina, who was a picky eater as a child, tries to teach his children not to be picky.
The latest book, book four in the series, Tyler Rex the…Two-O-Ninosaur is a nod to area code 209 and his own move from Brooklyn to Stockton. This book was funded by the local non-profit Tuleberg Press.
Molina and his wife moved to Stockton to raise their family closer to his wife’s family. Molina wanted to include San Joaquin County in his book for two reasons, he said.
It’s good news for children whose parents travel or relocate a lot and need to start over in a new city, and because he loves Stockton and is raising family here, he wanted to cast a positive light on Stockton to counteract what the community is saying hear or see on the news or media, he said.
Once “creative juices start flowing,” Molina and illustrator and artistic director Charles Brian Ugas “oOge” only need a few weeks to create a new book.
Molina said he writes his books “like songs” with hip-hop beats and writes 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 instructions on illustrations.
On one page of the book it says:
“Although he kinda missed the bagels and the pizza
His family found taco trucks in Manteca
Superhero Moms in Lodi with no capes
Nice shops and farms with a thousand grapes”
— Orlando Molina, a.k.a. 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 vbrnt.tm.
“Each book has a different (graphic) designer. They’re all friends of mine who have helped me on my journey…” Molina said. “That’s how we published the book Rhyme, Illustration, Graphic Design.”
All books have a black and white page section called “Graffiti Spot” where children can be creative.
“It’s meant to encourage literacy in both aspects of reading the story but then writing your own. Remix the book,” Molina said.
“Rhymosaurs” is not only a children’s book series, but also an “educational platform”. Molina hosts family-friendly events featuring MCs, DJs, graffiti artists and dancers, and runs creative writing workshops.
Many of the artists are friends who volunteer at community events, while Molina sometimes pays DJs and others to attend paid events.
Molina also spends part of his time teaching the “4 Elements of Hip-Hop” in after-school programs. The four elements are MC, DJ, breakdance 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, July 25-29. To register, visit: https://www.elevatedancecompany.com/calendar
He also has a book tour and will be in Galt on August 6th and Oakland on August 13th. For upcoming events and information visit: https://www.facebook.com/Rhymosaurs/
Molina has two children, daughter Sultana and son Leo, who will soon be 3 years old. His daughter raps and sings songs with him at events on the microphone during story time.
“My children, they are my inspiration…” said Molina. “They are my everything and they make me want to do that for the rest of the kids in the community because I know if they like it, the other kids will love it.”
The Rhymosaurs book series is available at these local stores:
- Caterpillar Children’s Boutique, 906 N. Yosemite St., Stockton
- Sweet Life Boutique, 2051 Pacific Avenue, Stockton
- GingerBugs Lodi, 2 W. Oak Street, Lodi
Record reporter Angelaydet Rocha covers community news in Stockton and San Joaquin County. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @AngelaydetRocha. Support local news by subscribing to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow.