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Raj Haldar has to laugh, but he’s not kidding about “The Snizzle.”
"There’s a chance it’s the most consequential thing I’ve ever recorded,” says the Philly rapper-producer, who records as Lushlife.
“The Snizzle” is a dance-rap jam that Haldar — a man of many talents who is also a children’s book author and Lincoln Financial Field DJ on Eagles game days — wrote and produced last year for Nick Jr., the children’s TV channel and Nickelodeon spin-off.
With an 81-second video featuring Dora the Explorer and her canine Paw Patrol friends, “The Snizzle” aims to teach kids proper hygiene.
That means following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that have become deadly serious during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading Nick Jr. to relaunch “The Snizzle” on social media last week.
The song is a musical reminder that when you have to cough or sneeze, think about protecting others, and do it as Dora does: into your elbow!
“When you sneeze, take care
The germs go everywhere
Even if you can’t see them
They floating through the air
They’re sharing your cold
Your cough and your sniffles
The only way to stop them from spreading is ...
Creating cultural content for children wasn’t the plan for Haldar, 38, who grew up in North Jersey. He studied classical piano and played drums in his high school jazz band with Ezra Koenig, the Vampire Weekend leader, on sax.
Nineties’ rap changed Haldar’s life. In 2006, his love for the hip-hop band the Roots drew him to Philadelphia, "where my creative life blossomed,” he says.
He has recorded seven albums as Lushlife, including his 2016 Ritualize and 2017 multi-artist project My Idols Are Dead + My Enemies Are In Power, a benefit for the American Civil Liberties Union.
That year, a Nickelodeon music supervisor familiar with Halder’s brainy rap, in which names like Haruki Murakami, Ray Bradbury, and Isabella Rossellini are dropped, approached him about the channel’s Supersonic Science videos.
He was game, he recalls, particularly because “with the state of the music industry and not wanting to be on the road all the time, I was trying to do as much music for film and TV as I possibly could.”
He first contribution was a jaunty jam called “How Does A Tree Grow?” By then, Haldar was already working on the children’s book P is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever with Chris Carpenter.
The playful guide to the world of silent letters — other examples: “O is for Ouija” and “T is for Tsunami” — was illustrated by Philadelphia artist Maria Tina Beddia and published by Sourcebooks in 2018. It became an instant best-seller.
Haldar, who now lives in Manhattan but still has a house in South Philly, is in talks to turn Pterodactyl into a TV series. He also has a new book with Carpenter on its way, called No Reading Allowed: The Worst Read Aloud Book Ever.
It goes “further down the word-nerd direction,” he says, “highlighting how absurd and hilarious sentences chock full of homophones and homonyms can be.”
Facing pages with drawings, by Philadelphia artist Bryce Gladfelter, will illustrate soundalike sentences. Such as: “The new deli clerk runs a pretty sorry store” and “The New Delhi Clerk runs a pretty sari store.”
In May, No Reading Allowed is set to launch at New York’s BookExpo, where Haldar will round out a panel with fellow authors Judy Blume, Misty Copeland, and Natalie Portman. “So, you know, crazy impostor syndrome,” he says.
Haldar continues to make Lushlife music, including an intriguing collaboration with Philadelphia poet-musician Moor Mother. “Since I was 5 years old, when I look in the mirror, I self-identify as a musician," he says. "So I have to find ways to keep making music. Just for my own sanity.”
But he’s too busy creating kids content to focus on the grown-up stuff right now. (He’s got a kids’ game coming called "Raj Haldar’s Most Wondrous Creativity Card Game.” And he has his own kid coming. His wife, Amrita, is due to give birth to a baby girl in the next month.
What’s challenging about “The Snizzle” and other Nick Jr. songs, Haldar says, is that “it requires me to think lyrically about explaining some pretty complex concepts in a hyper-simple way that kids can understand and engage with.”
As the world faces an unprecedented public health crisis, Haldar is hopeful “The Snizzle” can help in some way.
The song was partly inspired by the 2015 face-in-your-elbow hip-hop dance craze the Dab. “It’s a brand new dance where you sneeze in your sleeve / That’s the place for your face / Kid, I’m begging you please!"
When he was recording it, Haldar says, the song’s potential impact was an afterthought.