Though pre-millennial generations may not always connect the dots between hip-hop and academics, things have come a long way since Biggie Smalls' crack rock & jump shot career options mentality of the mid-nineties. Now that rap has grown into a global, billion dollar industry, the culture has made major strides in the last decade in using hip-hop music as an educational tool. Wu Tang Clan's GZA has lectured at many Ivy League colleges and helped develop a pilot program for teaching science in New York City's public schools. Super producer 9th Wonder is a current Harvard fellow. Now, rap promotions powerhouse of the South- Scoremore- is focusing on an education initiative for Texas students. Today, on the last day of school, Scomore will surprise 35 DISD students who have worked hard to overcome adversity or positively impact their community with free tickets to see Kendrick Lamar at tonight's Verizon Theatre show.
"I want to reward kids who do well in school." says Scoremore's Sascha Stone Guttfreund, "I want the kid who didn't go out that Friday night, and decided not to drink, and got the A or the B+ to be the cool kid. At the end of the day, those kids end up being the cool kids anyway. When you're in high school there's this association with lame as the kids who take their schoolwork seriously, and cool as those who cut class. Later in life, it flip-flops."
Since partnering with Dallas creative agency, MEplusYOU, Scoremore has donated over 100 concert tickets to DISD schools and programs, as a motivational tool and reward for students. Today's lucky recipients have been selected from a variety of student programs including South Oak Cliff High School students who participated in the Mayor's Star Council's "Though Our Eyes" documentary, Booker T. Washington High School students who participated in the Big Read Dallas Creative Contest, Youth Village Resource students who have shown exceptional progress since being released from juvenile detention, as well as students being mentored by Rosalinda Ruiz.
Guttfreund, who has four years of sobriety under his belt, is trying to send a message to Dallas students is one that has had to learn firsthand.
"I've done both. I've seen it from both perspectives and I can tell you there's nothing cool about underachieving." he says, "I was the kid who fucked around and got high and didn't pay attention for the first three years of high school. Then I had a teacher sit me down and have a conversation with me... it put things in perspective for me and said, 'Listen, you have the potential to do something special with your life', so I quit the shit, and graduated at the top of my class. I went from being the eyes glazed over, 'lets try to get drunk at lunch' type of kid to being the nerdy valedictorian."
By using hip-hop, Guttfreund hopes to motivate in students in a way that excites them. Before Kendrick takes the stage, the Scoremore founder will have the opportunity to speak to the winning students about the importance of hard work and education.
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"I think a lot of times when you have the adults come in and lecture about why not to do drugs, and you're 16 and the dude is 45, there's no real connection. The kids are like, 'you don't understand my life, you don't have Twitter or Facebook'. I kind of want to like, explain things from my perspective. Maybe I'm more approachable or I'm somebody, for lack of a better word, they'll think is cool because I know their favorite rappers..." he says, of the importance of communicating with students on a level they can relate and look up to.
For Scoremore, ticket giveaways are just the beginning of their plans to give back to students.
"I want people to know that if you're a student and you're looking for an internship or experience in the music business, we're here." says Guttfreund, "We're always looking for cool ideas to give back to the community and to reward students who work hard. We're on Twitter, we're on Facebook, we have an email link on our website, and we read every single piece of literature... everything that comes through. We're here for the community, and that's what makes us different. I hope that people don't sleep on that."