As my name, Professor Lyrical, may suggest, I am an emcee and an educator. My book, Put Em All To Shame (The Curriculum) speaks on larger themes, which emanate from the songs, using stories from my life experiences to illustrate these concepts more holistically than the lyrics in the songs. Each chapter, therefore, shares its name with the corresponding song on the album. You are sure to see how many seemingly negative or insignificant events in my life have been some of the greatest and most noteworthy ones cloaked in disguise. It is this truth which now fuels most everything I do.
Ideally, I imagine those who purchase the book reading each chapter while simultaneously listening to the corresponding song on the album in the background. I have included the lyrics at the start of each chapter. While this book and accompanying album are suitable to be used together in a range of illuminating ways as curricula (various ones which I have also written), I leave the nature of how up to the end-user’s vision and creativity.
However one chooses to experience the project, I want to share the complete picture of the pivotal events in my life which led me to become the artist and professional I am today. Whether you are a music fan, artist, educator, parent, entertainment industry hopeful, mathematician, or student of any discipline, I hope this work illustrates the substantial effort required to make something extraordinary happen. Hopefully, Put Em All To Shame will provide enjoyment and inspiration for you—even long after the first time you experience it.
My intent was to create intelligent and thought provoking art I would feel proud to have my own children come to discover and appreciate. Moreover, I hope this “albook” will, in fact, be utilized as part of a formal or informal curriculum by those looking to inspire the next generation of learners. It is my testimony how Hip Hop[i] builds cultural capital, and how its unifying presence may be used creatively to elicit a wide array of educational end goals.
INSTRUCTOR’S CREDENTIALS (Curriculum Vitae):
After earning a Bachelor of Science in Business (Marketing and Economic concentrations) from the College of Management at UMass-Lowell, I took and passed the Mass Department of Education’s teacher certification test for Business (grades 5-12). This allowed me to secure my first high school teaching position in my hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts, and to help open (and teach at) the high school’s first free-standing alternative program. During my tenure, I gained additional employment as an adjunct professor, teaching many classes at several different colleges. The bulk of my college teaching experience took place while I worked part-time toward earning a Master of Science in Mathematics from UMASS-Lowell in 2009. I taught everything possible at these institutions, and often would teach at multiple ones in the same day. This included numerous courses in various subjects such as Event Planning, Entertainment and Sports Management, Music Industry, Music Appreciation II (Classical/Romanticism), Musical Comedy, American Music in the 20th Century, Venue Management, Hip Hop Culture (and Lyricism). Not to mention loads of math courses before accepting a full-time faculty position teaching mathematics for Northeastern University in 2010.
I am now a Doctoral candidate at Northeastern University. The concentration of my research currently focuses on establishing a higher educational institution (or program) which harnesses the power of Hiphop[ii] to build a common campus culture. This will be a vehicle to help reach and encourage traditionally underrepresented minority students pursue a credential and consider a career in the highly-rewarding core competencies of the STEM disciplines.[iii]
During my career on the microphone, I have recorded several records which have reached top ten national college radio chart positions. I have participated in some of the most prestigious invite-only “freestyle” emcee battles in the world, losing some devastating contests along the way, yet winning the vast majority of battles in which I have competed. I have amassed a home full of press, accolades, and awards throughout my career as a lyricist. I have also been sought out to write lyrics for corporations, political campaigns, private sponsors, and non-profit entities. Scores of colleges and other institutions have contracted me to appear as an inspirational speaker and performer. Various organizations, such as the Boston Celtics, and the New Hampshire Higher Educational Assistance Foundation (NHHEAF), contract me as a keynote speaker and performer to help focus and inspire students toward continued academic success. Like the material I have written for this album and book, these appearances are in high demand, in part because they are also profanity-free. However, unlike some albums or books with a clean positive message, my material is anything but watered down. This is one of the many reasons this project is titled Put Em All To Shame. So step ya game up playa!
INSTRUCTOR’S METHODS & PHILOSOPHY (Pedagogy):
Hip-hop[iv] has become increasingly disposable in the advent of the digital download era compared to when folks only purchased physical copies of their music. The impact of many newer songs now seems to be more temporary than ever before. High-volume and low-quality marketing schemes, carried out by many of today’s music execs, rob the consumer—and artist alike—of the chance to enjoy the best an artist has to offer. I hope this project counters that trend. I further hope that my adulation for Hiphop and life-long learning will ignite a similar spark for those who experience the product of my (our) passion and craftsmanship.
This book has allowed me to talk about some of the same things I teach in my classrooms, study as a doctoral scholar, or speak about at colleges and other institutions as a guest speaker and performer. My overall message is clear and consistent: I believe whatever motivates a person should be one’s life’s work, which hopefully manages to become woven into a meaningful and rewarding career. The more one’s passion reflects in one’s livelihood the more enjoyable and productive life will be. If this is not the case, it makes us all count the hours that go by at our “job.”
A counterproductive consumer culture systematically lies to—and exploits—young people. This makes it appear as if all one has to do to become a successful artist is to buy the items promulgated as cool, and marvelous things will inevitably happen—regardless if any real work went into achieving success. The glitz and glamour of sports and entertainment can be enough to convince young people to believe “athlete” and “entertainer” are the only exciting and rewarding careers out there. Compounding this problem is the fact that athletes and entertainers often receive large sums of money to endorse the products many demand. Perhaps if these folks were paid to endorse education, or careers like becoming a math or science teacher, it would help to shed light on other meaningful occupations also requiring well-educated people. These same careers would be positioned as more en vogue than they are, and consequently would attract more of the nation’s best and brightest young minds early on in the educational process.
Kids need to perceive education as “cool” in their formative years. Far too often, however, this only becomes the case by the time a student may be lucky enough to get to college; all of a sudden—smart is sexy. But if primary and secondary students are too busy acting “all that” to maintain their “swag,” then they may not position themselves for acceptance by a reputable college or university by the end of their high school careers. Once in college (even if not at the college of one’s first choice), it is no longer fashionable just acting smart, rather being smart is valued as the cool thing, and acting stupid is perceived as—well, just stupid.
I notice a similar parallelism rap artists serve to establish and maintain. When we see someone who can rap exceptionally well, usually the rapper has mastered the fine art of making it seem like it all comes naturally and effortlessly, when in reality this is rarely, if ever, the deal. The audience is usually not privy to the endless hours of behind the scenes practice at the attempt to achieve mastery. Nor is the young kid who does not understand it is all part of the act to make the rapper appear cooler and more “naturally” gifted. The cycle perpetuates itself if kids make the mistake of thinking all they have to do is act like a superstar, or hang around with the in-crowd, and talents will start to emerge by osmosis. This can lead to children undervaluing their educations and believing that school is not worth their time or efforts. Therefore, to fight this, I wanted to chronicle how, and how long, it has taken me and a few of my close friends and family to become proficient at the crafts we have chosen as part of our life’s work. I want you to know it all started with education, and that stupid is never cool.
SHOUT OUTS (Credits & Contributions):
When I first started teaching high school (and my first college course) I was somewhat of a homegrown “celebrity,” living in a penthouse loft apartment in the Mass Mills, just across the street from Lowell High and overlooking Middlesex Community College. I had already released several successful records as part of my rap group X-Caliber, but I wasn’t satisfied. While teaching at Lowell High School and studying at UMass-Lowell, I took a new step in the direction of promotion and—without ever wanting to—became one of the larger Hiphop promoters in the area during the early to middle 2000s. By this time, I had moved to Cambridge and formed a business partnership, Invasion Entertainment, with my friend Derek Goodman (aka Sickmen). This partnership began in order to promote and market my solo work and other music-business ventures I was undertaking. Later, we started a rap group which we felt compelled to name Invasion. Derek’s cousin, Jason Scott (aka Presence), is also a talented rapper. We added him to the mix and turned Invasion into a trio, which flourished in the thriving market we were taking the lead to help develop.
Though I do not feature many people on this album, it was hardly an individual effort. Invasion is featured on “Do You Need To Be Reminded?” Sickmen of Invasion also appears on “This That.” The only other collaborations are Chris Huang’s violin playing on “Poeteacher”, and Love Jones’ vocals on “Moving Up,” “It’s A Shame,” and “Do You Remember?” Please review the credentials and contributions of others who have blessed me with their talents to make this a truly exceptional project. When I have a degree granting institution of my own, I would like to present all of the following distinguished contributors with honorary diplomas:
-DJ SHAME (The Producer & DJ)
This project manifested itself through the self-betterment efforts of its principal contributors. I was fortunate enough to rap on tracks orchestrated by a master craftsman and turntablist who inspired me since I first became intrigued by hip-hop music. DJ Shame is a humble and unassuming man. For my money, he is also one of the best producer/DJ combinations that I have ever had the pleasure to meet and work alongside. He has won DJ battles and even competed in “The New Music Seminar’s DJ Battle for World Supremacy” in New York City (which I competed in as an emcee a few years later). Shame’s excellent reputation is a testament to both his enormous talent and admirable character. My lyrics and vocals (and three simple bass guitar lines) on this album fed off of Shame’s obvious passion, immense talent, and unique aura he conjures in the studio.
-ROBIE ROWLAND (The Engineer)
The origins of the album marinated with my good friend, Robie Rowland, taking trips with me to DJ Shame’s home in Worcester, Massachusetts. Robie often found inspiration rolling out to see me perform at various venues. So I figured if I brought him around someone who inspired me when I was growing up, it could be an even more powerful experience for all of us. Robie was astounded by Shame’s home studio—a virtual vinyl emporium Shame amassed as a notorious vinyl collector and music aficionado. The drum machines, keyboards, turntables, computers and audio wires that Shame arranged, in what looked once to be a modest bedroom, no doubt (pun intended), played a role in helping Robie realize what he might arrange given the chance in a larger space of his own. Robie’s tenacity and stubborn insistence to better his own lot in life inspired me prior to making this album. With some guidance and encouragement, I always thought he might one day go on to open his own studio, and do things he was not even sure fully possible. Robie has done just that.
I started teaching at The New England Institute of Art in 2007. This was the year Shame and I made our first song, “No Doubt.” It aired regularly on WERS 88.9FM and WMBR 88.1FM. Many students knew I was a rap artist on the radio, and this was part of the reason teaching at this college appealed to me—so many of them wanted to break into the industry. Robie was a student in the first class I taught that fall. He worked harder than any other student to ensure his own success, and he went on to earn an A. While the course was just starting out, Robie would ask me if he could engineer songs for me, which increasing numbers of student/artists were seeking to collaborate with me in creating. At first, my answer was always a polite no. But after Robie displayed his dedication in the classroom, I finally gave him a chance behind the mixing board. We went on to create an album (The College Project) featuring twenty-five of my talented students across four Boston area colleges. Robie’s modest home-studio became the recording headquarters where he tirelessly engineered the album over the winter break and the next semester. All of the student/artists came to his studio to add their vocals, instruments, and/or other production. Robie Rowland was rolling.
We pressed the finished product to CD the following semester and distributed it at a highly successful release and performance party (on April 14th), which the students helped to organize in conjunction with a Bay State College course in Venue Management. Incidentally, The College Project (Through the Eyes of Pupils) is now available digitally on all of your favorite sites! Robie went from his own basic-bedroom-studio, with a microphone in his closet, to a multi-room, state-of-the-art, custom built studio (Echo). He built and opened Echo in Boston with three business partners (including another of my former students); this is where we ultimately recorded and engineered Put Em All To Shame. Robie’s ear has matured into an extraordinary instrument capable to hear the slightest details at seemingly any decibel. His yeoman-like work ethic on this album has been remarkable, and the final product he has engineered is a testament to his dedication.
-RAYMOND JONES (The Photographer)
In addition to recording an album and writing a book, I wanted to provide a visual representation of each track. Therefore, each chapter in this book (and the album) comes complete with photographs which help to capture the essence of each track we created. This photography was captured by Raymond Jones (my brother-in-law). He is a remarkable artist who my wife (his sister) and I have already experienced firsthand as his subjects in a hypnotic pre-wedding shoot we posed for in downtown Boston.
Raymond’s photographs are immensely powerful and raw; he shoots what he sees and does not rely on post-editing to make the shot. His attention to detail is analogous to the work that Shame and Robie both put in from behind the boards. The concern for quality was contagious. The lines, lighting, shadings, and shadows Raymond captures on film are a perfect match for the audio of this project. Fortunately, I knew this would be the case before we even began. Thank you my brother.
-THE STUDENTS (The Cohort)
Thank you to all of my students I have taught and continue to teach; your inspiration is eternal and it is a privilege to teach and learn with you. Having one of my first students [Robie] go on to accomplish his dream is also another dream come true for me as well. All professors and educators secretly wish for that “ah-ha” moment, when their students either start to get it in the classroom or when they go on to do something the instructor may have helped inspire by believing in their abilities. This is the reason most teachers teach in the first place. We are all trying to initiate positive change and inspire students to see and act on their own potential. For this reason, I would also like to thank all of my extraordinary teachers and professors who have inspired and
encouraged me to be exceptional throughout my academic career.
-THE FACULTY & STAFF (Full-Time)
I would like to thank Northeastern University for hiring me, and for later accepting me into the Doctor of Education program. In particular, I would like to thank the College of Professional Studies (CPS) and my Foundation Year colleagues. The opportunity to work with all of you as part of such an innovative organization continues to invigorate me.
-THE FACULTY & STAFF (Part-Time)
I would like to thank Bay State College (particularly Patrick Preston, Department Chair of Entertainment Management), which was the first school in Boston to hire me as an adjunct professor based on my knowledge of the music and entertainment industries. I would also like to thank the following schools for allowing me the pleasure of teaching courses at their schools as well: Fisher College, Middlesex Community College, Lasell College, Boston Culinary Institute (Le Cordon Bleu), Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, and The New England Institute of Art.
-ORI FIENBERG (The Editor)
In addition to the above mentioned contributors, I formally wish to thank Ori Fienberg for his editing, inspiration, and guidance throughout my writing of this book. I had him proofread this book twice. I decided to add and delete mounds of material after reading his thoroughly redlined advice. In his former role as Lead Writing Specialist for Foundation Year (and his current position as Tutor Coordinator at CPS), I likely took advantage of his services more than many of the students. I excitedly hired him for my own project for these reasons—plus he is a rap music fan. Without Ori, this book may just resemble “liner notes on steroids.”
-MY BRIDE (& The “Entire” Family)
My wife Nicole (“Love Jones”) is a breathtaking singer who contributed her dynamic talents on this album by singing on three songs. I want to thank her for her eternal love, patience, and understanding. Being married to a rapper/professor certainly has its challenges. Nicole—thanks for loving the whole combo package of Peter Michael Professor Lyrical Plourde.
Throughout nearly the entire process of writing this book, you were pregnant with our first child, Henry James Jones Plourde. My love for you has grown only stronger since we brought him into this world. Watching the fabulous mother you have already become inspires me to be an even better father. I love our son—as we both do—in an unconditional and instantaneous way I previously thought was impossible to experience. He truly is a divine gift. Bringing him home from Brigham and Women’s in Boston as the hospital was in lockdown, just an hour or so after the bombings on Marathon Monday, instantly reminded us both of how precious a gift he (and life in general) is. He is my eternal motivation to improve as a person; together you both inspire everything I do. I love you both.
I would also like to thank my parents, and my entire family, for their love and support, and for never pushing me in any one direction while allowing me to follow my dreams. Finally, thank you to the entire Jones family; though I mentioned “my entire family” above, I wanted to clarify you are already included in those words as well.
[i] “Hip Hop” in this spelling usually refers to the collective elements of the culture and is consistent with the definition put forth by KRS-1 of The Temple of Hip Hop. KRS-1 was instrumental in having Hip Hop be recognized as an official culture by the United Nations in 2001. KRS was also instrumental in my early career since I opened for him several times.
[ii] The astute reader will notice here I spelled out the word “Hiphop” while previously I utilized the two word version, spelled out as “Hip Hop.” “Hiphop” denotes the lifestyle and consciousness of the movement. This is again consistent with the Temple’s definition as well. For consistency and simplicity, I lean towards using “Hiphop” throughout the bulk of this book whenever in doubt. I do this since I will mainly be discussing the consciousness and entire lifestyle embodied within all that I do in its name. Plus, I think it is the freshest definition of all and can be used in all situations if one perceives of the essence of hiphop in such noble terms.
[iii] STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The steady decline in our STEM educated labor supply is cause for growing alarm. An education within the STEM disciplines provides the essential skills and technological expertise one needs to prosper and contribute to a society in need of such skills. STEAM is a similar term which includes an “A” for the Arts—it is starting to pick up steam…sorry I had to say it.
[iv] “Hip-hop” or “hip-hop” with a lower case first “h” is the third variation of the definition and spelling listed with the Temple of Hip Hop. It denotes the musical product(s) of the genre, namely rap. Many tend to capitalize it unless strictly representing the word as a genre.