A Kansas City 5th grader is making rap music for her fellow middle schoolers: ‘This ain’t baby shark’
Kansas City has its share of popular rappers, including Tech N9ne and Amira Wang — but few of them are middle schoolers. This local fifth-grader is making kid-friendly rap music that’s just as cool as the adult stuff.
Macyn "Mac Sauce" McMillian was only 5 years old when she wrote her first rap. She still remembers the day clearly. She told her dad she could rap and she had written a song, but he didn’t believe her. Still, she begged him to listen.
“He was like, ‘You don't know how to rap.’ And I was like, ‘Yes, I do. I have a rap,” says McMillian.
After her dad relented and she performed her song, he was still in disbelief, she says. Not only did she rap effortlessly, she wrote the song herself.
“He was like, ‘Alright, come on, we're going to the studio. Like, you got it,’” McMillian says, beaming.
Almost six years later, McMillian is making waves. She’s on a mission to make rap music more appropriate for kids her age.
“I have always loved music, and love to dance, so it has always been a passion for me,” says McMillian.
McMillian’s mom, Brianna Gates, says the passion runs in the family. Gates is not a musician, but she loves music and always has something playing for herself and her kids.
“I'm in the car, in the shower, at home. Soon as we walk in the house it's like, ‘Hey Alexa, play this,’ says Gates. “She's always been surrounded by music, so I'm not totally surprised. But, yeah, music has been her thing.”
McMillian went viral on Twitter in 2019 when a video of her YMCA back-to-school performance got more than a million views. In the video, an even younger, tinier McMillian wears brightly colored beads in her hair and a matching athletic shorts set. She dances around on stage rapping and hyping up the crowd of kids who surround the stage.
The next year she won the Kansas City People’s Choice Award for Best Youth Entertainer. In October, McMillian was a guest on AfroTv’s The Sisaundra Show.
But McMillian wants to achieve more than just popularity. She calls herself “the voice of the playground,” and she says she wants to uplift other kids who might be struggling at home or at school.
“Don't let them bring you down, keep your head up,” she says. “Be yourself, don't change yourself for anybody.”
Her message comes through in her music, too. It doesn’t sound like it’s made for kids — which is the point. McMillian wants parents to enjoy the music, too.
“This ain’t baby shark,” she raps in “Stupid Remix.”
Her songs feature themes like friendship, being a good student and standing up for yourself. She says she wants other kids to feel empowered and stand up to bullies.
McMillian’s longtime mentor and producer, Brandon Charleston, says she clearly knows what she’s doing. He says she memorizes lyrics effortlessly, and takes instruction and criticism well.
“I brag about her all the time,” he says. “Sometimes I show my clients that come in like, ‘Hey you heard of Mac Sauce?’”
Charleston owns Studio B Muzik Studios in Raytown. He says he’s worked with artists like Tech N9ne, who has sold more than 2 million albums, and NoCap, a popular Alabama rapper who is relatively new to the scene. He says McMillian still has a lot of time to grow and improve, but she’s ahead of a lot of adults.
Over the summer, Charleston hosted a 12-bar challenge, where contestants rap 12 verses to an instrumental track provided by Studio B and submit their video entry by posting on social media. People all over the country submitted content and they were scored based on the amount of likes or comments their posts received. McMillian won first place.
“One big thing is that she's confident and being confident in this industry, it takes you a long way,” says Charleston. “Sometimes it's not … what you say, it's how you say it.”
‘It’s a power’
McMillian says memorizing lyrics comes easily. She records lyrics into her phone’s voice memos and then listens to the recording over and over. Or, she says, she’ll sleep on it.
“I feel like it's a power, because if I don't know a rap and I'm stumbling on it and I don't know it at all, I'll get really frustrated,” says McMillian. “But it's like I'll go to sleep and it's like the whole time I'm asleep I'm just, I'm saying it in my head and I'm doing it. And then when I wake up I know it.”
McMillian has a lot more on her horizon than music, her mom says. She is preparing to launch a lip gloss and nail polish line and she’s written a children’s book.
“I love what she's doing for herself. I can see the growth in her, what she's doing for other kids her age and inspiring other kids her age, and I just can't wait to see where she goes,” says Gates.
No matter what McMillian gets up to, she’ll likely be writing songs, dropping bars, and inspiring other kids — a gift she can’t seem to turn off.
“It's after school, weekends, summertime,” she says. “I could do it while I'm on the bus or I could do it in the car on my way to school,” the 11-year-old says. “I have a lot of time to do it.”