Remember Schoolhouse Rock? The catchy animated TV series bolstered kids’ classroom lessons. The original shorts also feature some dated ’70s ditties.
That’s where Emmanuel Smith, aka Mr. E in the D, comes in. This local educator and father of four is releasing his own educational tunes set to the sounds of today.
“I’m that ‘different’ type of learner – I’m more auditory and kinesthetic,” explains Smith, who’s dean of culture at University Prep Ellen Thompson Elementary in Detroit. “When rhythm or music was involved, that would help me learn.”
His first album, Math Mixtape Vol. 1, uses mainstream beats like Drake’s “The Motto” to teach multiples of two and Big Sean’s “Guap” for multiples of three (minus the swears, of course). And later this month, he’s dropping Donuts with a Tall Glass of Milk, which kicks off a series focused on the 100 “sight words” for young kids as they’re learning to read. Each features a “say-spell-say” part, he says, imaginative fun and nods to Detroit artists like producer legend J Dilla.
With both projects (expect Math Mixtape Vol. 2 in July), Smith’s goal is making something cool – not cheesy. “It’s something that kids will want to listen to,” he says, and “that parents can actually bang while they’re in the car.” At home in Detroit, Smith also draws inspiration from his own crew – Emmanuel II, age 7; Analiese, 6; Eleazar, 4; and Grace Abigail, who’s 1.
“We’re the loud house,” laughs Smith – who, beyond singing and sampling, plays drums, piano, organ and bass. “We’re always making up songs.” He hopes his music emphasizes the importance of learning educational building blocks early on.
To stream or download Mr. E in the D’s math and reading mixtapes, visit mreinthed.com.