The rippling effects of Kendrick Lamar’s politically-charged new album To Pimp A Butterfly, a body of work that unflinchingly confronts the experience of being black in America, are spreading ever-outward throughout the country. Now, they’ve spread to the classroom.
Brian Mooney is a freshman English teacher at High Tech High School in New Jersey who incorporated Kendrick’s music into his curriculum after students struggled with the dense and complex language of Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye. He used a process called Hip Hop Ed that he learned at Teachers College at Columbia University via the founder of the method Chris Emdin. Mooney played an edited version of Butterfly to his class to help students understand the novel, and called upon them to create poems and paintings afterward. The results were phenomenal, and Mooney blogged about the experience. His post was soon shared countless times via social media and came to Kendrick’s attention. The Compton rapper got in touch with the school about visiting and came to the school as a guest lecturer on Monday. The New York Times reports that his visit was completely free of charge; all the supportive administration had to fund was a stage set up.
Kendrick was a vocal part of the audience as students from Mooney’s world literature freshman class, after-school hip-hop literature class, and extracurricular slam poetry club shared their own art, spoken word, and slam poetry. Later, Mooney’s classes joined the rest of the student body for larger performances. Kendrick joined Chris Emdin, recent Teachers College Ph.D holder Jamilia Lyiscott, Mr. Mooney himself and some other High Tech alumni to sit on a panel and critique student works. Finally, he closed out the visit by performing the one song off To Pimp A Butterfly that he was doing live prior to Hot 97 Summer Jam, “Alright.” Watch plenty of footage captured during the visit below.
UPDATE: NPR Music just ran a story on the event, and you can watch a video segment they produced below too.