Rappin' Granny

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Rappin' Granny
Birth nameVivian Lee Smallwood
Born(1933-06-18)June 18, 1933
OriginCastaic, California, U.S.
DiedJuly 22, 2017(2017-07-22) (aged 84)
GenresHip hop
Years active1989–2017

Vivian Lee Smallwood (June 18, 1933 – July 22, 2017[1]), known by her stage name Rappin' Granny, was an American grandmother who performed hip-hop music. She lived in Castaic, California, near Los Angeles.

Smallwood was a contestant on the NBC television series America's Got Talent during the 2006 season.



Smallwood was employed as a postal worker and began rapping in the mid-1980s. She took first place in a rap contest at a South-Central Los Angeles roller rink with an anti-drug themed rap.[2] By 1988 she had formed a group with her son called Rappin' Granny and DJ Len.[3] She won a Granny of the Year contest in Pasadena in 1988, performing a rap version of the song "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena".[2][3] In 1989, she released a little-known, self-titled music video called "Rock-n-Soul".[4] Smallwood was signed to Tandem Records in 1992. She released the single "You Didn't Use Your Blinker Fool" as a response to the DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince song "You Saw My Blinker".[2] A brand of soda, Rappin Granny's Slammin Strawberry Hip Hop Pop, was named for her in 1995.[5]


Smallwood had been a working Hollywood actress since the mid-1990s. She has appeared in numerous television shows with small parts and a few feature films. Some of her credits are, Everybody Hates Chris, Malcolm in the Middle, The Shield, and The Ladykillers.[6] In Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood (1996) she is credited as Vivian 'Rappin Granny' Smallwood.[7] She also played "Nano" in Big Bad Beetleborgs, a show on the former Fox Kids network. In 2012, she appeared on the How I Met Your Mother episode "The Magician's Code: Part 1".

Smallwood was featured in the Apollo Theater's Apollo Circus of Soul in 2007.[8]

America's Got Talent[edit]

Smallwood was a contestant on the NBC television series America's Got Talent[9][10] and qualified on the August 16, 2006 season finale for the one-million-dollar grand prize. In her audition, Rappin' Granny gave a performance that was very popular among the crowd and the judges, all of whom (Brandy, David Hasselhoff, and Piers Morgan) advanced her to the next round by way of a unanimous vote. Smallwood then returned for the semifinal episode that aired July 26, 2006. After another crowd-pleasing song, the judges again put her through to the next round, by another unanimous vote. For the final round, Smallwood rode in on a motorcycle.[11] However, the final round was not kind to Smallwood; not only did she not win the million-dollar prize, she finished in the bottom half of the public vote that determined the winner, as announced by host Regis Philbin.

Personal life[edit]

Smallwood had 15 grandchildren[11] and 9 great-grandchildren.


Vivian Smallwood died from natural causes at the age of 84 on July 22, 2017.


Year Title Role Notes
1996 Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood Sister Williams
1996-1998 Big Bad Beetleborgs Nano / Nana Williams 46 episodes
2004 The Ladykillers Tea Lady
2004 Gas Beatrice
2005 Halfway Decent Tom's Mom
2005-2008 Everybody Hates Chris Old Black Lady 9 episodes
2009 A Day in the Life Granny
2010 Dirty Girl Shellie the Neighbor
2012 Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Speck's Mother Uncredited, (final film role)


  1. ^ "SAG-AFTRA-Spring Edition 2019, In Memoriam". SAG-AFTRA.
  2. ^ a b c Lacey, Marc (April 12, 1992). "'Rappin' Granny' Sends Message With a Youthful Beat". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ a b "Granny raps to fight problems of youth". Star-News. June 26, 1988.
  4. ^ [1] Archived March 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Gertjegerdes, Carol (August 29, 1995). "Radio Personality Turns Hip Hop Pop Entrepreneur". Columbus Times. Archived from the original on October 25, 2012.
  6. ^ Willis, John; Monush, Barry, eds. (2006). Screen World: 2005 Film Annual. New York: Applause. p. 50. ISBN 978-1-55783-668-7.
  7. ^ Willis, John; Monush, Barry, eds. (1998). Screen World 1997. New York: Applause. p. 12. ISBN 978-1-55783-320-4.
  8. ^ Collins, Glenn (November 24, 2007). "The Circus Is in Town. All Over It, in Fact, in Six Troupes". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Slezak, Michael (July 27, 2006). "'America's Got Talent': The return of Rappin' Granny". Entertainment Weekly.
  10. ^ Muir, John Kenneth (2007). TV Year: The Prime Time 2005-2006 Season. New York: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-55783-684-7. Vivian Smallwood.
  11. ^ a b Hope, Clover (2006). "Rapping Grandmother". XXL. Harris Publications. 10 (10).

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