Stomping the Yard

Can A College Degree Lead To Hip Hop Success?

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Ask a group of young kids about what careers they aspire to in adulthood and you’re guaranteed to get at least one child who will mention being an entertainer, or more specifically a rapper.

In today’s society, many people aspire to become a hip hop recording artists. Although the rags to riches stories of entertainers are often glamorized by the media, obtaining a record deal from a simple “cold call” isn’t common.

Nope, in many cases it is a lengthy, rocky, and often unsuccessful route. But, with no clear and definite route to success as a hip hop artist, should we be guiding school children to pursue a college degree first, then pursue their musical aspirations? Or, should we be telling the little kiddies to be like Roc Nation rapper J Cole, and put off a rap career until you earn a degree at St. John’s University like he did? Or instead, should we guide them to pursue the “Hard Knock Life” approach like Jay-Z, and bypass formal education, and attempt to rise from the streets to rap stardom? Alabama A & M sophomore, Tara Crawford shares the story of an Alabama rapper who made educational pursuits his priority.

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It seems that the overwhelming stereotypes about hip hop artists assume all rappers are uneducated and ignorant. Case in point, CNN’s Nancy Grace’s interview with rap veteran 2 Chainz, who happens to also be an Alabama State University alum, and considering running for mayor in College Park, GA. Obviously, mistakenly assuming 2Chainz to be incapable of holding his own in a debate about legalizing marijuana, Nancy Grace criticized 2chainz for his music rather than addressing the actual issue. Whereas, 2chainz articulately presented his position with facts and evidence. Social media viewers slammed Grace for her misstep and rallied behind 2Chainz, and his management of the debate. From my experience, the stereotype of the uneducated rapper is way off. There are lots of rappers who went to college, like David Banner, Ludacris, and Phonte, to name a few. There are many students who do aspire go to college and formally study the entertainment industry, prior branding themselves as rap artists. Yep, they’re combining creative talents, new intellectual knowledge, and practical experience to pursue music careers.  And often, they end up inspiring, motivating, and guiding others at the same time.

An excellent example of this type of artist upholding such standards is an alum of my own Alabama A&M, Juwan Rain, publicly known as Jay Dot Rain. Jay Dot Rain is an educated rising hip hop artist born and raised in Tuscaloosa, AL.  Notably, Jay was mentioned in well renowned magazines such as Complex and Source. Initially, Jay started recording music when he was 18 years old, and received his degree in Telecommunications from Alabama A&M 2013. He said his initial motivation to pursue a degree was due to family expectations, and the fact his mother was an educator.  But, obtaining a college degree was also a personal goal of his as well,  he said, “College was so valuable because it gave me an opportunity to really learn about myself and who I am.” Jay Dot Rain identifies additional benefits of pursuing a college degree, prior to a career in hip hop  saying, “It’s an added bonus, when you say you have one.  It allows you to go a little further, and people look at you in a different light. College is not the only way [to get a rap career] but it can enable longevity [in this business].”

Within his career, Jay Dot Rain has been relentless to represent not only a commitment to education, but also a remarkable and unique musical product. He has introduced a new sound of which he calls “trap jazz”. Notably, the title appeals to the modern crowd, but is indicative of the fact that current hip hop is cyclical, and still incorporates musical styles from the past. Additionally, Rain recently embarked upon a tour entitled “Alabama Power”allowing him to share his music, but also empower and enlighten others about the strong amount of creative talent throughout the state of Alabama. Rain says: “It allows us to unite the state and show others how we support one another as well as how much talent is here.”

And, perhaps another indirect consequence of the tour is to display a hip hop artist who is on a strong track to being successful in entertainment because he felt a formal education would help him manifest that dream.