When Mass Appeal CEO Peter Bittenbender and his wife had their first daughter, the toy aisle suddenly came into clearer (and bleaker) focus.
“Until I had my first experience with toys as a parent, I didn’t think about kids’ products,” Bittenbender says. “But the minute you have kids, you’re spending a lot of time trying to get them the best things, give them the best opportunities. I was just baffled by the lack of diversity in the space.”
Mass Appeal has expanded well beyond its origins as a magazine to include a record label, production company, and creative agency, all through the lens of hip-hop culture. So when Bittenbender started noticing the lackluster options for kids’ toys and apparel, he set in motion what is now Mass Appeal’s newest brand: Mass Appeal Junior (MAJR).
“Hip-hop has constantly reinvented itself for the past 45 years, and every space it touches gets reinvented with it,” Bittenbender says. “There are so many places where hip-hop has had a massive influence, but it hasn’t in this space.”
Targeted to newborns through preteens, MAJR’s first product rollout includes matching apparel for parents and children; the “Boomblox,” building blocks that form into an old-school boombox; and I Know I Can, an empowering book series based on Mass Appeal co-owner Nas’s song “I Can.”
“His song ‘I Can’ embodies everything that MAJR represents,” Bittenbender says. “There are a lot of layers to it, but overall it’s a message of inspiration. It’s a message of limitless possibility.”
Additional products and artist collaborations are in the pipeline, as well as the opportunity for original content. But with everything MAJR touches, Bittenbender wants to make sure they’re not just making hip-hop-themed toys and threads for the sake of being cool.
“When we see doors that haven’t been opened, we feel a responsibility to open them. This space and this world of educating and inspiring the next generation of leaders hasn’t ever really been instilled with the diversity that, as adults, you see,” Bittenbender says. “I think doing things like this will continually progress how people look at this culture and this world.”
“I’ve always understood the limitless power of young people, and being a father has brought it even closer to home,” Nas adds. “We’re introducing MAJR to prepare today’s youth for tomorrow’s world. Our goal is to help children of all backgrounds fully realize their potential by tapping into their creativity in new and innovative ways.”