Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly is rich with themes, dramas between characters and deep lyrics that need dissecting after a couple listens. The context of To Pimp a Butterfly was used in Brian Mooney’s classroom, where he drew correlations from the album and Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye. His students were excited to learn that the two bodies of work were related in “the dichotomy of black culture in America — the celebration of itself and its struggle with historic oppression.”
In March, Mooney’s students struggled with understanding The Bluest Eye until he decided to use Kendrick’s album in his curriculum. He wrote a blog post about it and shared his student’s essay excerpts. Of course, Kendrick caught wind of Mooney’s efforts and decided to visit High Tech High School in North Bergen, N.J., as a guest lecturer.
The New York Times was in the building to see students interact with Lamar. Mooney combined 50 of his students from his world literature freshman class, after-school hip-hop literature class and extracurricular slam poetry club to hang out with Lamar. Selected students also performed spoken word sessions and rapped for Lamar before discussing the inspiration behind To Pimp a Butterfly as a group.
“When I talk to kids, I’m really listening,” Lamar said. “When I do that, we have a little bit of a bigger connection than me being Kendrick Lamar and you being a student. It’s almost like we’re friends. Because a friend listens.”
Afterwards, the entire student body was treated to a panel with Lamar and several other hip hop education advocates. Then he capped off his visit with a performance of “Alright” that received a lot of cheers.
Less than 24 hours after his Summer Jam performance, you gotta give it up for Kendrick inspiring the youth any way he can.
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