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He's Got the Beat

Rapper Lil' P-Nut has caught Hollywood's attention, at age 9.

Lil’ P-Nut’ might look like a cherub, but his skill with wordplay is anything but juvenile. The boy stays on beat as he delivers original raps about school, his relationship with God, and a bad dream he had one night. “When I rap, I’m not cussing, but kids still want to listen,” says the 9-year-old. “I have rhythm, that’s why the kids can feel what I’m saying,”

The talented youngster’s real name is Benjamin Flores Jr., but everyone calls him Lil’ P-Nut. He first gained notice when he won the New Daisy Theatre Talent Show at age 5. Two years later, a performance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show got him national exposure, which opened other doors. Now that Hollywood has his number, this fourth-grader from Georgia Avenue Elementary School is poised for bigger things. In October, he starts production on a Cartoon Network comedy sitcom scheduled to debut early next year. In a starring role on the network’s first non-animated program, Lil’ P-Nut plays a kid very much like himself.

“My character [also called Lil’ P-Nut] lives with his uncle, who is a producer, and he wants to be a big-time rapper. He’s a prankster and he likes to trick people. In one script, I tie up the rapper Bow Wow and lock him in a room,” he says with a grin. “I hope this show is a big thing for me. I hope the kids like it.”

Take a listen

“I had posted a lot of stuff on You Tube,” says Lil’ P-Nut. “I performed around town in talent shows and barber shops, at my school, and in Summer Jam. And I did a commercial for It’s All Good Auto Sales.” His dad Benjamin Flores Sr. says, “I didn’t think much about his rapping until people started saying ‘He’s amazing.’ Then we put him in the New Daisy Theatre Talent Show (at age 5) and he won first place.”

Word spread. “I got all these phone calls from people saying, ‘You ‘gotta hear this rapper,’ ” says his Memphis agent, Marcus Shaw. “I just ignored them. What was I going to do with a 7-year-old rapper? One day, someone put Lil’ P-Nut on the phone. He rapped about God and education. I had him come to see me in Atlanta two days later.”

Lil’ P-Nut‘s “swag” stood out. “He can be around us, and we’ll think he’s 18,” says Marcus. “When he leaves us, he’ll be out with the kids, getting dirty.”

Marcus immediately called Meda Leacock, a friend in New York who has worked for Puff Daddy and other high-profile rappers. Marcus bought her a plane ticket and flew her to Atlanta to meet the boy. Impressed, she signed on as his New York agent.

Soon after, a local Fox 13 broadcast about the rapper went national and caught the attention of producers for talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. At age 7, Lil’ P-Nut sang “You Might Be the One for Me,” an original love rap. Ellen found him charming and the audience went wild. After that, producers from Cartoon Network and the film Happy Feet 2 soon came calling. He won the film role of Atticus, a rapping penguin. Kon Live Records also offered him a record deal. And he did an episode of the TBS sitcom, Are We There Yet? which will air this fall.

The next step

Lil’ P-Nut didn’t pick up his craft doing voice or dance lessons. Instead, he buys “beats” from local producer L.P., then starts to write. “I sit in my room with a notepad and pen and I focus and I think,” he says. “When I go on Facebook, I hear a lot of good responses from other kids. I’m happy ’cuz it’s keeping me out there.”

The Flores family plans to relocate before production starts on the Cartoon Network show. They don’t yet know where the show will be filmed. “It’s a new experience for all of us,” notes his dad. “We’ll keep moving and not let anything stop us.”

The parents plan to homeschool their son and his 14-year-old sister, Melissa. The family appreciates the local support their son has received and hopes to see more attention drawn to the Memphis music scene.

“It’s like an angel is watching over him,” says his dad. “His grandmother and step-grandmother passed away around the time that he was born. Their spirits are looking over him and making sure he’s being taken care of.”

Lil’ P-Nut is currently studying a 47-page script to learn lines for the comedy’s pilot. Soon, his mother will take him to pick a knock-out tuxedo for the Happy Feet 2 premiere.

We’ll be watching, Lil’ P-Nut.  `

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