18 With a Bullet: YA Author’s Latest Condensed to 2-Minute Rap

By Neal Comment


Shortly after Simone Elkeles sold her latest YA novel, Perfect Chemistry, she began thinking of unique ways that she could promote the story of a romance between a rich white girl and a Latino gang member in a Chicago high school to readers. “Book trailers are great, but in order for mine to stand out it needed a ‘wow’ factor,” she told us, “or at least a ‘that’s totally off-the-wall and goofy’ factor.” Elkeles was a big fan of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as a teenager, and loved the way the show’s theme song told the character’s story. So she began writing a condensed version of her novel as a rap song.

“I had been working on the rap lyrics with someone else for months,” Elkeles confessed, “but after Chris LoDuca, the director I hired, read the book he didn’t think the rap reflected the book as well as it should. Chris wrote the rap in less than 24 hours. I had a little input and a few lines were mine, but Chris really is amazing for making most of it up at the last minute—two days before we shot the video.” LoDuca had worked with several of the actors on previous projects; others were hired through a local talent agency. They spent one day in the studio recording the rap, and another lip-syncing and acting out the lyrics—and, as seen above, Elkeles (who was on the set all day both days) wound up making a cameo in the finished film. “I think everyone should make a rap video at least once in their lives!” she told us. “Well, at least the students at my kids’ school think it’s cool. (Just don’t ask me to rap or dance in public, because it won’t be pretty.)”

In addition to the actual trailer, the crew also shot a “behind the scenes” video that shows what it’s like to spend a day dancing in front of a greenscreen. We’ve tucked that film behind the fold for you, in case you’re interested…