WHEN KID 'N PLAY SLIDE INTO A booth at Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles, a funky Los Angeles soul food restaurant, they're ready to dive into a down-home lunch of fried chicken and grits. But the red-hot rap duo, who are also the stars of the 1990 movie House Party and its sequel House Party 2 (currently doing hip-hop business at the box office), are distracted by two women at a nearby table sending over looks that could kill. "See, they just hit us off again," says shy and lanky Kid (birth name: Christopher Reid, 27). "People are weird. They think we have an attitude, so they think the best defense is a good offense."

His partner, Play (Christopher Martin), 29, the street-smart half of the team, struts over to prove the star watchers wrong. "They haven't seen the movie yet," he says when he returns. "They're going tonight."

They won't be alone. The rap duo won legions of fans last year when House Party, made for a mere $2.5 million, grossed more than $27 million. What's more, their 1988 debut album 2 Hype is closing in on platinum, and their new single "Ain't Gonna Hurt Nobody" is climbing the R&B charts.

In HP 2, the party animals move beyond high school and parental disapproval to tackle dishonest music producers and the importance of college. "These guys didn't just show up, do their lines and go home," says HP 2 coproducer Doug McHenry. "They were real creative partners."

That isn't surprising, given Kid 'N Play's dreams and desires. The two friends met while growing up in the working-class East Elmhurst section of Queens in New York City. Neither is a stranger to emotional hard times. Kid's mother, Marjorie Wallace, a white schoolteacher, never married and lived briefly with his father, Calvin Reid, a black social worker from Jamaica. When Kid was 9, she and a friend were killed in a car accident, a crash he survived. "Two people died, and I'm still around," he reflects. "I must be here to do something." Although he was smart and bookish (he attended the prestigious Bronx High School of Science and graduated from Lehman College, where he majored in English), the transition to living with a father whom he saw infrequently was difficult. At first, "we had problems," says Kid, whose father tried unsuccessfully to integrate him into his new family. The pair also locked horns over rap, which the elder dismissed as "jungle music."

Play was a serious rebel. His father, Willie Martin, a minister, "was away most of the time," explains Play, who grew up in a household dominated by women—his mother, Delle, a church secretary, and three sisters, Teri, Bridgette, and Lela. By adolescence he ran with a dangerous crowd but says, "I was never a 100 percent criminal. I was always half-steppin'." He ping-ponged through a handful of high schools, eventually dropping out. After that, he worked odd jobs at Sears and UPS before studying drawing at New York City's School of Visual Arts.

When Kid and Play met around 1980, rap was their bond. Kid recalls, "It seemed the perfect way to express ourselves, and it made you popular with your peers and the young ladies."

While Kid fronted a band as Kid Cool Out, Play, known as Playboy Mr. C., also performed in Queens. When their groups broke up, the two joined forces, merged their monikers and eventually headed for Hollywood.

Post-HP 2, the pair is looking to put down roots. Kid would like to find a house in New Jersey and a steady woman but says, "I find myself bored with the courtship process." Play, meanwhile, has turned entrepreneur, opening IV Plai, a clothing shop, and IV Plai Hairstyling in Queens. While they're currently living in L.A., Play recently bought a four-bedroom home on Long Island that he shares with his girlfriend. His son, Christopher, 4, by a previous relationship, lives with his mother in New York City.

As for their screen careers, the rapping idols are into realism. "Nobody wants to see Ice Cube in outer space or Kid 'N Play doing Shakespeare," notes Play. "But Kid and I want to grow. If Hollywood comes up with something we feel we can do, we'll try."

MARJORIE ROSEN
ANDREW ABRAHAMS and WAYNE EDWARDS in Los Angeles

  • Contributors:
  • Andrew Abrahams,
  • Wayne Edwards.