Rapper Kendrick Lamar has been a role model rapper and human-being every since he stepped on the scene several years ago. But one young man found the presence of Kendrick Lamar entering his old high school an inspiring experience.
New Jersey High Tech High School alumni Greg Aram got a treat from his former high school teacher Brian Mooney. Mooney caught the attention of Lamar when he wrote an article about using To Pimp A Butterfly as a part of his lesson plan in his english class. Mooney gave Aram the heads up about the visit from the Grammy-nominated rapper and decided to come through to gain a moment he will never forget.
Complex caught up with the high school graduate about the day Kendrick Lamar came to his former high school.
How did you know Kendrick would be at the high school?
Basically, my senior year of high school I had a teacher named Mr. Mooney. It was his first year there, he was an English teacher, and he created an after-school program that was for slam poetry and hip-hop education. So basically, he was like teaching societal ideals through hip-hop. We would analyze videos, we would analyze lyrics and just go into different themes, like feminism, race. And besides that, we would do poetry—for me I would do lyrics and songs—and we would perform them every semester.
So, I graduated and I just stayed in touch with him ’cause I kind of helped build the program from the start. And then I guess last semester—he also teaches English—when Kendrick released To Pimp a Butterfly he dropped the whole curriculum and taught the English class based off of the album. In the middle of doing that, he wrote an article about it, which went viral, and then Kendrick reached out to him and was like, “Look, I want to come talk to your class.”
From there, [Mr. Mooney] reached out to me, and he was like, “Hey, you know, you were one of the first students that helped me build this program. I want you to come, I want you to be on the panel.” And basically, what would happen with the whole event was, he’d talk to the class, the after-school hip-hop program, first, and then in front of our whole school, there was a panel that included me, Kendrick, my vice principal, Mr. Mooney, and then two hip-hop educators. And then basically, students from that after-school program would perform slam poetry and analyze, or present work they analyzed with Kendrick’s, and we would analyze their poems and what they had to say, and we went into discussion about everything and just tied it back to the album.
Take me through the day.
So [Kendrick] came, he showed up, a couple of us performed for him really quick, really personal, a cappella-type things.
You freestyled or you rapped songs that you already recorded?
Just pre-written lyrics and stuff for him. Really quick, like a minute. And then he got into a discussion about the whole album, there was kind of like a Q&A between the hip-hop class, a couple of the professors, the hip-hop educators, and then me. It was just kind of like a Q&A about how the album came about, how it was different from his first album. And then, my teacher, Mr. Mooney, was like, “Hey, Greg raps, another kid raps, do you guys want to cypher for a couple of minutes?”
Wow. That’s major.
Yeah, it was crazy. Kendrick was straight off from the top.
He rapped first?
Yeah, he rapped first. He set the bar.
With Kendrick rapping first, were you nervous getting ready to rap after him and in front of him?
I mean, honestly, he could be considered the greatest bar for bar right now. So just with that in mind, it was kind of crazy. But he was interacting with us, which made it more comfortable, like talking about me, talking about other people in the circle. And you know, he was just so personable that just made it…. It was like he was just another homie and we do this rap thing all the time. We were throwing down words, just freestyling off of those, but it was just a comfortable, familiar environment that no matter who he was he was just a human in that moment.
You can read more of the interview at Complex.com