Kendrick Lamar followed his Summer Jam performance at East Rutherford, N.J.’s Meadowlands with a more low-key appearance just a few towns over — not a club or theater, but at a local high school.
Brian Mooney, a teacher at East Bergen’s High Tech High School, achieved a rare feat — a lesson plan gone viral — when he shared his techniques for bringing Lamar’s most recent album To Pimp A Butterfly to his students as a text to dissect. He eventually shared excerpts of his students’ essays, which analyzed the rapper’s lyrics in conjunction with Toni Morrison’s 1970 novel The Bluest Eye, and through the power of the Internet, their work eventually reached Lamar himself.
Lamar visited the school Monday (June 8) to discuss his work with Mooney and the students, but the visit ended up being more of a reciprocal exchange of ideas. “Something for me even bigger than mentoring is really listening,” Lamar told Rolling Stone. “When I do that we have a little bit bigger connection than me being Kendrick Lamar and you being the student. It’s almost like we’re friends.”
After listening to student poetry inspired by his own and discussing their work on a panel of teachers, Lamar was moved by the impression his album had made on the students and teachers. “I didn’t think I made [To Pimp a Butterfly] for 16-year-olds,” he said. “I always get, like, my parents or an adult saying, ‘This is great, you have a message, you have themes, you have different genres of music.’ But to get a kid actually telling me this, it’s a different type of feeling, ’cause it lets me know that their thought process is just as advanced as mine, even if I’m 10, 15 years older.
“They got heart, they got intellect, they got punchlines,” he said of the young writers and poets.