Now Reading: Kendrick Lamar’s Visit to High Tech High: A Journey of Artistic and Academic Connection


Kendrick Lamar’s Visit to High Tech High: A Journey of Artistic and Academic Connection

When Kendrick Lamar released the politically charged To Pimp a Butterfly in 2015, it quickly caught the attention of academia. This sparked particular interest from one high school teacher, which led the Compton rapper to visit High Tech High School in North Bergen, New Jersey, later that year.


After realizing Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye shared parallel themes, freshman English teacher Brian Mooney assigned his students to write essays, poetry, and rap lyrics inspired by both the album and the book.


Mooney highlighted their compositions via his WordPress blog and eventually captured the attention of Kendrick himself. “It just took off, and it went across the Internet, and Kendrick Lamar got it and read it,” Mooney says. “His manager reached out to me and said, ‘I want to come visit your school.’ So we made it happen.”⁠

Kendrick expressed how impressed he was with Mr. Mooney’s blog post in a 2015 NPR article. “I was intrigued how somebody can — other than myself — can articulate and break down the concepts of To Pimp A Butterfly, almost better than I can,” he stated. ⁠

“Something even — for me — even bigger than mentoring is really listening,” Kendrick shared during a brief interview with the school. “And when I do that, we have a little bit bigger connection than me being Kendrick Lamar and you being a student. It’s almost like we’re friends, you know? Because a friend listens and we learn off each other’s experiences.”⁠


He continued, “You know, the hardest thing for not only an artist but for anybody to do is look themselves in the mirror and acknowledge their own flaws and fears and imperfections. And put them out for people to relate to it. I can relate to you as well, you dig what I’m sayin’?”⁠


Throughout the day, King Kendrick joined students in a cypher and presented the poetry and essays they had written in Mooney’s class during a school assembly.


Another group showcased choreography set to a mashup of Kendrick’s songs before the rapper closed out the momentous day with a performance of “Alright.” ⁠

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