Professor Lyrical – Put Em All To Shame
Genre: HIP-HOP / RAP
Rappers are renowned for taking self-aggrandizing names, but in the case of Professor Lyrical, his chosen moniker is spot-on. Not only is he a scholar and academic (professor? Check!) but his wordplay is impressive on this 14-track album. Opening with ‘Get Lyrical,’ Professor Lyrical sets his stall out off the bat with rhymes like, “The most sick with it, flows that are so intricate / Unlimited potential on instrumentals and instruments.”
While many rappers seem happy to just drop throw-away rhymes to please club-goers, or pace well-worn lyrical paths, Professor Lyrical is intent on delivering substance in his rhymes while managing to show skills and demonstrate he is not one to take lightly on the mic either. With a clear flow that is at the same time able to flip complex wordplay, yet stay understandable, Professor Lyrical takes his hip-hop back to a 90s ethic and readily recalls names like O.C. and, at times, like with ‘How It Should Be Done,’ Rakim.
Of course, any rapper worth his salt knows that rhymes are just part of the story, and that the beats need to bump too. This album is entirely produced by one man, DJ Shame, giving a cohesive feel to the tracks, which bring classic breaks, samples, and instrumentation to bear. A real delight for fans of true-school 90s hip-hop, this collection is the perfect antidote to the pop-lite hip-hop that is clogging up the mainstream.
The synergy between the rhymes and the beats is strong enough that Professor Lyrical doesn’t need to enlist big-name guests to make his music hit, instead using well-placed samples from well-known hip-hop acts to lift the sounds and offer a legitimacy to his music.
Professor Lyrical’s love of hip-hop is evident throughout this album, such as with ‘It’s A New Thing,’ where he couples a nod to the craft of hip-hop with a political edgeas he rhymes, “politicians are missing the whole point / they ain’t seeking votes, we seeing them finger point / crab mentality, like cats who used to battle me.” It is also telling that Professor Lyrical manages to maintain his raps without resorting to constant cursing.
Bringing his experiences to bear, while offering words of wisdom, ‘Put Em All To Shame’ is a breath of fresh air for fans of real hip-hop, and he is clearly not afraid of having his lyrics dissected as he has also released a book to accompany the album. The book, ‘Put Em All To Shame (The Curriculum)’ breaks down the tracks on the album, explaining the inspiration behind each cut.
Professor Lyrical may not be the most well-known name in hip-hop, but he has released a real diamond with ‘Put Em All To Shame.’ Real hip-hop fans need to get with this fine release.
A rapper and a math professor enter the room. While seemingly completely different, the rapper and the professor are one and the same.
PHOTO/ WICKED LOCAL PHOTO/KATHRYN GALLERANI
Silver Lake Regional Middle School seventh graders ask questions of Professor Lyrical Peter Plourde.
KINGSTON – A rapper and a math professor enter the room. While seemingly completely different, the rapper and the professor are one and the same.
When Professor Lyrical, the rapper – aka Peter Plourde, the Northeastern University professor – wasn’t rapping, the message he wanted to deliver was that they can achieve most anything with boatloads of determination, dedication and discipline, and usually that’s by following their passion.
“I do as a conviction believe that if you’re not supermotivated and passionate about what you’re doing, then you won’t be able to excel in whatever area you’re in, so you might as well do something that has a fighting chance,” he said. “Know the odds, know the probability of making it in that arena, and once you’re armed with the statistics, the math, about the industry, make a plan that’s attainable,” he said.
Opportunities can present themselves to follow their personal path to success, he said, by putting yourself in the right place and being prepared through consistency.
In group sessions in between seventh and eighth grade assemblies, he met with Silver Lake Regional Middle School students to stress the importance of a STEM (science, techonology, engineering an mathematics) education, only he prefers STEAM, including the arts.
Plourde said he encourages students to pursue a STEM education because professionals are needed in these fields with the availability of jobs in those areas that pay well. Music serves as an entry point for delivering that message.
“For me hip hop is definitely a tool that opens people up to more important and meaningful things that are needed in the workforce and in society,” he said.
The harsh reality of the rap music world, he told the students during the seventh grade assembly, is that most rappers are broke, usually because they lack the support system necessary to realize their dreams and have no other plan for their lives.
Plourde had the opportunity to pursue a career as a rap battler, having battled all over the country, but he found that he didn’t like the adversarial nature of it. He saw the value in being a part of a team. He told the students that it’s good to be different, that diversity is cool.
He asked the students who like rap if they’d want rap to be part of their job, possibly in music programming or working with the Boston Celtics on promotional projects, as he does. He encouraged them to accomplish what they want in life, no matter what, while stressing the importance of education.
“Education is the thing you can’t take away from me,” he said. “You can’t steal the bachelor’s degree I have in business, economics and marketing. I will have it for the rest of my life. You can’t steal my master’s in mathematics or my doctorate in higher education from Northeastern. You can do anything once you have a degree in your pocket.”
At Northeastern, Plourde uses hip-hop in the classroom. He’s presently working with urban youth (freshmen) as part of a cohort program called Foundation Year in combination with the City of Boston.
Plourde was straightforward with the students about the financially challenged musicians, professors and others face, explaining that he generates part of his income is from speaking to school groups through grant programs.
This program meant to motivate and inspire the students was supported in part by a grant from the Kingston, Halifax and Plympton Cultural Councils, local agencies supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The SLRMS PTO also helped fund the program.
In their classrooms the students have created rhymes and raps about science and social studies concepts and performed them for each other to get everyone excited about learning.
Follow Kathryn Gallerani on Twitter, @kgallreporter.
Lowell native Peter Plourde, more commonly known to rap fans as Lyrical, is a calculus professor at Northeastern University in Boston. courtesy Photo/Raymond Jones
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Peter Plourde has lived a double life for a while now. By day, the Lowell native, who holds a bachelor's in business and a master's in mathematics from UMass Lowell, is a mild-mannered math professor and doctoral candidate at Northeastern University.
By night, he's a rapper named Lyrical. Or these days, he says, Professor Lyrical.
Lyrical is a veteran of the Massachusetts underground rap community. He's won numerous prestigious rap battles over the years and his group X-Caliber (which was based in his Mass Mills apartment in downtown Lowell) recorded in 1996 with the help of famed hip-hop producer Ski Beatz, who at the time was also working on four songs from Jay-Z's classic debut album, "Reasonable Doubt." Lyrical traveled back and forth to New York, where he saw Ski and Jay-Z work out the song "Dead Presidents" in Ski's apartment.
Lyrical will release his new album "Put Em All To Shame" and corresponding book on Aug. 6. His rapping ability that he demonstrated on the phone was too fast and complex to dictate for this story.
Q. What percentage of people actually call you by your birth name?
A. About 2 percent. My wife's parents called me Lyrical in jest just because everyone else does, but now they call me it seriously. My mom used to come to my shows and yell, "Peter!" and I'd say, "Mom, stop killing my vibe here."
Q. You grew up in Lowell?
A. I grew up in Lowell and went to high school in Chelmsford. Then I went back to teach at Lowell High from 2000 to 2005 before moving to Cambridge.
Q. Where do you teach now?
A. Now I teach calculus and statistics in a first-year program at Northeastern University. When I teach adjunct at other schools, I usually teach music-related classes.
Q. How do you incorporate hip-hop into your curriculum?
A. I really want to find out how to make the STEM curriculum (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) interesting to kids that have never really been exposed to it.
Q. What do you want your students to get out of it?
A. I really want them to think and fight for a way to make what they love viable -- for example, if you love basketball, be a math statistician. If you're a good athlete and a good statistician, you're going to get that job. I want them to know it's cool to be an intellectual in the adult world, which is different from when you're in middle and high school where it's cool to be a rapper or a basketball player.
Q. How has your rap career affected your teaching one, and vice versa?
A. It's been an evolution. When I started teaching college, I actually started getting more shows because I was a teacher and a rapper -- people were interested because I was doing something else that was thought of as intelligent, which was at odds with what people may think of when they think of rap.
Q. What was it like working with Ski Beatz?
A. He was a mentor before I even knew he was a mentor. It was like watching Ray Allen shoot 3-pointers -- you don't realize how good he is until you watch him closely every day.
My mom kept asking me what I was doing wasting my time driving back and forth to New York and sleeping in my rental car. I said, "Mom, if anybody's going to change the game, it's these guys Jay and Ski. They're going to do something amazing." And they did.
Q. Which artists, old and new, are you a fan of?
A. In terms of new artists, I definitely like Kendrick Lamar. I love Pharoah Monch and Immortal Technique, who's a good friend of mine that I've done a lot of shows with. I love the classics like Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Lauryn Hill and AZ.
Q. What's different about your new book and album?
A. It's the first time that I've ever heard of in hip-hop where someone wrote a book to go along with an album. Each song is a loose extrapolation with the content in its corresponding chapter. And in the digital versions, there are hyperlinks to the actual song recordings, videos and all this other content.
Q. What's your ultimate goal with your doctorate research?
A. It's a higher-education doctorate, so my vision is to basically open a free-standing university or university program that uses hip-hop culture to reach kids and help make it the cultural background of the school.
My world view is a critical ideology, being critical of the societal and educational system we have. Hip-hop is a cousin to that in that the people in it have seen injustice in the community, can articulate what's wrong and want to fix it.
Follow Pete McQuaid on Twitter @sweetestpete.
Where Producers Excel
You may have heard of Professor Lyrical on an ABC News video feature or a Boston Globe article, about how he is a professor by day, lyricist by night. If you were like me you were intrigued by these stories. But it wasn’t until I read his book that I truly felt completely inspired by his story. And truly saw how knowledgable and talented he was. I feel blessed to be able to review and go into his book and album further.
I present to you part 1 of the review on his albook: THE BOOK.
Get a free preview of the book here.
Three words I would use to describe Professor Lyrical’s new albook, “Put Em All To Shame”. Those three words: Gotta. Have. It.
Simply a must-read for any hip hop aficionado.
Professor Lyrical‘s albook, “Put Em All To Shame” brings us back to a journey through the golden era of Hip Hop and his journey chronicling how he got to where he is today. He manages to do so while sprinkling fun tales throughout the book to keep the reader interested. You’ll laugh, cry (if you’re a female), and rejoice through your journey of reading this book. Whether it be drives up to Ski Beats’ studio, to social commentary on our educational system (using his background experiences to tell stories, that range from teaching an alternative program at Lowell High where kids were thought to be “hopeless”, to speaking at events for the Boston Celtics), Lyrical has enough content and insight to make you think twice about the world we are living in – and the current state of hip hop.
The first thing I noticed about the book was how glossy, and easy-to-read the pages were.
To me, the perfect material to print a book on. This makes a huge difference to me – I don’t read or have the interest to read many books naturally – I usually have to push myself, but when a book is printed on the correct material: it just makes the whole experience of reading it that much more enjoyable. So salute to Professor Lyrical on that.
Diving into the book: Professor makes sure to highlight the skills of his producer DJ Shame, a true legend, winning DJ battles and competing in “The New Music Seminar’s DJ Battle for World Supremacy”: his scratches are like no other. The beats used for this project were actually beats from the 90s that were works in progress or ones Shame lost motivation for because of the dying state of hip hop. Basically Prof was like “let me revive these 90s beats and bring back real hip hop”. Throughout the journey of this book, you will find that these gentlemen are two TRUE craftsmen. As an aspiring MC and producer myself, they inspire me: not because of similarity in goals, but because of how hard they work to perfect their crafts. It should be an inspiration to anyone in any craft. Shame is a shaman in quiet magnificence as Lyrical describes his home as a “House of Wax” (see picture below), completely full of vinyl, that you can’t even see the walls, and they are all organized alphabetically with double copies of almost every record.
A true craftsman.
Often throughout the book, I will be reading Prof’s lyrics (his lyrics for each chapter are displayed at the beginning of each chapter. Each of the fourteen chapters correspond with the fourteens tracks on the album), and it was obvious to me how important this album was to him; almost a life culmination to this point, a very hard thing to achieve in an album.
The book is littered with positive and uplifting quotes.
The quote of the book to me is “As a math and statistics instructor, it is hard for me to say this, but you are actually better off playing the state lottery if you want a chance at success (or getting rich) without putting in any work”
This book will resonate with any hip hop aficionado. I am not much of a hip hop historian, but this book did exactly what it was supposed to: spurred a tremendous interest in me to research the depths of the golden era of hip hop described in his book. Stories included involved amazing interactions with/characters such as: Chuck D, Jaz-O, Jay-Z and watching shows in the early days with Biggie and Busta rhymes on stage. The book had me realizing that the greats of today, really must have all studied the greats of the past like Rakim, and other beasts. Too many lyricists these days are not up to par with messages they COULD be talking on. What Professor Lyrical aims to do is fill that gap, and talk about what he would like to hear more about in hip hop: more positive messages and reform-based music, what hip hop was founded on. A method for revolutionary change. And he does so with incredibly impressive flows and raw delivery, making you think TWICE about taking up rapping as a hobby.
One particular moment he talks about really makes you think what a little bit of time can do, and gives you a little bit of hope that with the proper work ethic, you don’t know how fast things can possibly turn around. He talks about Jay-Z performing at a talent show at Lowell High School with Dame Dash, Chubby Chub, Ski, all coming out, yet only about 30 people showed up to the show!
Fast forward a couple years. Jay-Z returns to Lowell 100 yards away from where he performed in the auditorium at Lowell High to perform at a SOLD-OUT 7000+ seat capacity Tsongas Center, for a wild performance.
“It is amazing how rapidly things can change in life”, he says. Remember this and always have faith
One of the biggest lessons I learned from the book was from a story of him speaking to a batch of middle school student at the Fleet Center, on how his passion for hip hop and education fueled and TRANSFORMED his life. He explained to the students, plainly that his small successes in life “manifested simply by pursuing careers that made me eager to wake up invigorated to improve. Nothing has changed”
It is very easy to respect that quote knowing how he has successfully juggled careers in education and hip hop, remaining authentic to his true character. I might start calling him Professor Authentic. He is passionate about BOTH professing (professorizing as some call it) AND rapping. We can take this lesson and make sure we are pursuing our OWN true callings, because it will allow us to reach the farthest depths of our success. And life is too short to do otherwise.
In one very insightful moment in Chapter 11, aptly titled “It’s a Shame”, he explains the inner-workings of record labels and how they steal money from the artists. Anyone in music or considering being in the music industry will find this chapter VERY interesting.
Chapter 13: Put Em All To Shame
I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite powerful quotes of the book, from Chapter 13, that is almost a call to action to all of us, as he says at one point
I believe if you are not a part of the struggle to make the world a better place, you may be part of the problem — whether you know it or not
Amen. And he makes a convincing argument towards it.
We return to the purpose of the book. He leaves you with this message to take to heart:
“But more than anything, I hope folks who listen to our album enjoy it, and feel invigorated to make a positive change in their lives and the lives of others. This keeps the cycle going; the effort and energy always come back to us. This is what Hip Hop has always meant to Shame and me, and this is why we made Put Em All to Shame, and why I wrote the book.”
This is How it Should Be Done.
Like what you’re hearing?
Buy the digital copy of the CD separately on Amazon for $8.99 and the book for $15 (total $24.99), or you can simply grab the albook (which is the combo AND you get the PHYSICAL copy of the CD) here in a special deal for only $20 from Professor Lyrical’s store! .
Find Professor Lyrical on
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This is your host, Shawn P signing off.
Have a wonderful day, and stayed tuned for Part 2 of the review: the album.
This Professor Can 'Spit a 16' and Then Find Its Square Root
November 1, 2011
By Dan Berrett
The Chronicle of Higher Education
It is safe to say that few members of the math faculty get asked the kind of question that Peter M. Plourde did at the start of a recent algebra class here at Northeastern University.
"Plourde," a student, Behailu Abreha, said, "who's better lyrically, J. Cole or Drake?"
Mr. Plourde paused, taking in the question about the two rappers. "You put me on the spot," he said before analyzing each man's writing ability, weighing how such factors as their use of profanity complicated an evaluation of their skills.
Mr. Plourde wants his students to understand "the power of math," such as the complex financial arrangements involved in a music contract.
"If I had to lock them both in a room, I think Drake would come out with the better lyrics," Mr. Plourde concluded, as a few students nodded enthusiastically. He clearly had settled a running debate.
That Mr. Plourde can speak with authority on a facet of popular culture that would perplex most of his colleagues derives from his background, and his dual passions for education and entertainment.
He is a full-time lecturer in mathematics for Northeastern's Foundation Year program, while also teaching general education at the New England Institute of Art and courses on topics as varied as statistics and the music industry at Bay State College.
And, for nearly two decades, he has made a career as a hip-hop artist. As his alter ego, Lyrical, Mr. Plourde has released albums and opened for heavyweights from rap's golden age. He still regularly records and performs around town.
In his teaching, Mr. Plourde has sought to bridge his two worlds, calling on his background to connect with his students.
Hip-hop, as both a musical genre and a larger form of cultural expression, is not new to the college classroom. Some 300 courses on the phenomenon are offered at colleges, according to New York University's Hip-Hop and Pedagogy Initiative. But most of them tend to be offered in music or black-culture departments. Sometimes such courses can be found further afield. Sujatha Fernandes, for example, an assistant professor of sociology at Queens College, has used hip-hop to teach Marxist economic theory.
Mr. Plourde is notable, however, not just for his dual identity but for using hip-hop to teach math, most often in Northeastern's Foundation Year program.
The program, now in its third year, was created in response to the findings of a longitudinal study of Boston public-school students. Nearly three-quarters of the Class of 2000 entered college, but seven years later, only 36 percent had graduated from a two- or four-year college, the study found. "They'd solved the access question, but not the success and completion question," says Molly Dugan, director of the Foundation Year program.
Her program is "high-touch," as Ms. Dugan describes it, and pulls together successful aspects of similar efforts tried elsewhere. Students are grouped as a cohort (73 this year, out of 300 applicants), taught by a dedicated eight-member department, and given intense academic and personal advising to help them manage what she calls their "complicated lives outside class."
Most are first-generation college students and don't arrive on campus already knowing how higher education works. So students earn a year's worth of credits in their academic courses, while also getting a heavy dose of such college-going skills as time management and working with the financial-aid office. Some educators "say 'they're not college-ready,' and that's the end of it," says Ms. Dugan. "We say, 'let's teach them how to do it.'"
Making a Connection
The program is still too young to have produced graduation data, but early signs are encouraging. More than 85 percent of its students have enrolled in their second year of college, at Northeastern or elsewhere.
Hiring the right faculty is critical, Ms. Dugan says. Ideal candidates should know their subjects and, more important, how to teach it in several different ways. She looks for faculty, like Mr. Plourde, who have taught in urban high schools.
"We meet students where they are and in ways that are not traditional to higher-education pedagogy," Ms. Dugan says. At the same time, she is sensitive to the suggestion that students like those in her program, who are predominantly African-American and Hispanic, can somehow only be interested in academics if it's through such vehicles as basketball and rap.
Mr. Plourde's identity as a rapper didn't figure into the decision to hire him, she says. "That's honestly completely secondary to his skills as a math teacher. We hired him to teach math and connect with students."
Then again, his biography is undeniably an asset in forging that connection. Growing up in industrial Lowell, Mr. Plourde says he let his rapping skills shine far more than his mathematical abilities. It wasn't until he transferred to a high school in nearby Chelmsford, and the prevailing culture around him changed, that he discovered being smart could be socially acceptable.
Similarly, he tries to show his students that behavior informed by hip-hop has its place, as does a more formal way of acting. "That code-switching is what you try to teach kids in college," he says.
In his first year at Northeastern, he kept Lyrical under wraps and taught class in a conservative shirt and tie, until he performed for students during homecoming. Now that he's in his second year, his alter ego is well known. He resists pleas from his students to "spit a 16," or recite a verse of his lyrics, he says. When he does agree to do so, it's at the end of class and only if they've gotten through all their work.
And he's realistic about the limits of his celebrity. "When it's wasting part of class time everyone wants me to rap," he says, "but if it's their time they'd rather watch it on YouTube."
The Power of Math
He does, however, use his knowledge of the music industry as a teaching tool. During a recent class, his students had to devise an algebraic formula to represent how much money a rapper would earn if his or her album sold enough copies to achieve gold or platinum status.
They had to account for payments that the rapper would have to make out of his or her advance to record the album, market it, produce a video, and pay management and legal fees. The earnings grew vanishingly small. It was a lesson Mr. Plourde learned himself, when he signed a one-album, one-video deal.
To heighten their interest in the exercise, Mr. Plourde offered a glimpse of his other self. He reached into his green duffel bag and fished out a shrink-wrapped copy, pressed on vinyl (to appeal to disc jockeys at dance clubs), of his single, "The Focuz Is Back," from his 2005 album, "Infiniti."
The students gaped as they passed the record to one another and took in an unfamiliar image of their teacher sitting in the front seat of a silver Infiniti with its door open. He wore a black and gray Celtics cap cocked leftward, a silver chain with pendants of a microphone and headphones dangling around his neck, and a cool stare.
"That's gangsta," one student said admiringly, turning the record in his hands.
Lyrical's lyrics, however, are far from hard-core. He sometimes records with his students, and his songs have titles like "Poeteacher" and "Ghetto Intellectual." He may well be the first hip-hop artist to make explicit reference to Fibonacci numbers in a song.
Beyond the immediate lesson on writing an equation, or teaching the students how little artists actually earn, Mr. Plourde had a larger point: getting students to understand the power of math. Grasping how numbers work will help them in other areas of life, he says, like understanding compound interest or mortgage rates.
"The people who know the numbers make ridiculous cake to this day," he told his students, citing the profits that record producers and companies earn from their artists' sales. "You want to know the math."
On a cool afternoon at the beginning of the fall semester, Pete Plourde walked into his classroom at Lasell College in Newton.
To the students in his advanced special-event planning and management class, Plourde, dressed in jeans, a button-down shirt, and a sport jacket, was just another teacher.
He joked with them as they entered, instructed them to open their books, then turned on the overhead projector. His flat-brimmed baseball cap, cocked slightly to the side, was the only sign he might be different.
His students call him Professor Plourde, but in the hip-hop community, he's better known as Lyrical. Involved in the local scene for more than a decade, he's among Boston's most established rappers. And over the course of his musical career, he's seen the inside of some of hip-hop's most elite circles, opening for everyone from KRS-One to Rakim .
A speedy lyricist with a large vocabulary, Plourde raps with old-school intelligence over beats that evoke the classic New York sound. In his rhymes, he takes on everything from world events to men respecting women to his hometown.
"Promoting Boston, I spit those rhymes," Plourde raps on "The Focuz Is Back," from his 2005 album, "iNFiNiTi." "With a logo that shines like the Citgo sign . . . Now throw your threes up, Bean, and show yo' hood some respect."
The album has done extremely well on college radio. Last summer "Focuz" and "Come With Me," another single off the independently released disc, reached the top 10 of the national college hip-hop radio charts onRapAttackLives.com, which collects data from college radio stations and various other radio programs.
The rapper is working on a mixtape slated for spring release, plus a book on throwing the perfect hip-hop event. He's also a member of Mayor Menino's Hip Hop Roundtable, which uses hip-hop to promote social change. On Wednesday, he celebrates his birthday with a performance at Harpers Ferry in Allston.
Though you're invited, he won't tell you how old he is. "I've always been a bit hesitant to speak on age as a rapper," Plourde says. "Recently Busta Rhymes echoed the same sentiments, saying that rappers get pigeonholed once they're over 25 years old to believe they're actually over the hill. Yet most of the highest-respected rappers out, such as Busta himself, LL Cool J, Jay-Z, Eminem, and Rakim, are all over 35 and some over 40."
Plourde is viewed by many as a kind of elder statesman of the Boston hip-hop community.
"He's about as committed to the culture as you can get," says local rapper Esoteric, "an MC that loves the art for the right reasons . . . and he's been in MC battles and word wars before most of these newer '8 Mile' MCs grew out of their Green Day phase."
Plourde's tales of the entertainment industry read like a who's who of hip-hop. In the mid '90s, he says, he had a freestyle battle with Damon Dash , cofounder of Roc-A-Fella Records , in a New York City living room. Dash had told Plourde he couldn't accompany the executive and a young Shawn Carter , currently referred to as Island/Def Jam CEO and president Jay-Z , to a club because he wasn't dressed well enough.
"I did get his point, even though he didn't make it with his horrible flows," Plourde says of Dash, who is a businessman and not a rapper. "[His point] was that image is everything in this business, and he was 100 percent correct."
On a separate occasion, he remembers being on the guest list with one of Jay-Z's producers, David "Ski" Willis , to see Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes perform. This time it was Carter who had a tough time getting into the club -- he didn't "look like a superstar" yet, says Plourde, who was also in the room when Jay-Z recorded some of the tracks for "Reasonable Doubt."
That's heady stuff for a boy from Lowell. Plourde spent his early years there, a smart kid so good at math (another subject he teaches) he could spend his time in class writing rhymes and still keep up. At home, he practiced rapping, creating bass lines on a guitar with missing strings.
Still, Plourde learned to value education. His father, a Navy veteran and strict disciplinarian, made an early impression on his son when he graduated from Fitchburg State College with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering after taking night classes. Plourde, then in his early teens, saw how the family's income increased after his father graduated. "I used to say, 'I want one of those,' " he says of his father's college degree.
As a teenager, he moved with his family to Chelmsford. He spent several years there, playing basketball and spitting rhymes, and graduated from Chelmsford High. Then he went on to the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and earned a bachelor's degree in business management. He also became certified to teach. Soon after, he was hired as a math instructor at Lowell High, and his career in education began.
"I love teaching," Plourde says. "The style of hip-hop I do has always been from the perspective of trying to teach certain lessons within the music."
In addition to event planning at Lasell last semester -- he's also a concert promoter -- the artist, now based in Cambridge, taught mathematics at Middlesex Community College's Bedford and Lowell campuses and at the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology. He's been teaching at Middlesex since 2000; last year was his first at Benjamin Franklin and Lasell. He's also pursuing a master's in math at UMass-Lowell.
His two careers aren't as divergent as they might seem, he says. For Plourde, there are similarities between rapping and teaching.
"Teaching a subject you don't love is hard, but if you have passion for it, students are able to feed off it much like a crowd feeds off the energy of the performer," he says.
Also, he adds, his rapping earns him the students' respect. They view him as "one of them," he says, not a "stuffy professor looking down on them."
Mercedes Garcia-Bancroft, 20, of Watertown is one of Plourde's students at Lasell. "I thought it was really cool and different," she says of having him as a teacher. She saw Plourde perform at the school's "Lyricists Lounge," an annual open- mike event. "[The students] weren't expecting it," she says. "He is definitely talented."
This ability to connect with young adults is part of the reason he is in demand as an educator.
"You have to be somewhat of a performer to keep their attention," said Benjamin Franklin physics/mathematics department head James Giumarra . "He does a good job making the class interesting using pop- culture references."
Plourde certainly knows how to handle a tough crowd. Last year he started performing between bouts at World Fighting League events. (The next event, "Winter Brawl 2007," takes place at Revere's Club Lido on Feb. 3.)
League owner Zachary Tesler says Plourde's rhymes incorporating martial arts slang won over the predominantly rock-loving WFL crowds. "He seems to be pretty in control," Tesler says.
At one such event last month, Lyrical takes the stage at Club Lido. His facial expressions are animated; he saunters around the ring in slow motion. With one hand on the microphone and the other moving in time to the syllables that flow from his mouth, he engages the audience with confidence, smiling as he works. As they applaud, he tosses CDs into the crowd.
Winter break is almost over, and soon the rapper will start gearing up for the new semester's students. He'll be back at Lasell, and if the other schools can work out the scheduling around his hip-hop career, he'll teach there again too.
"At the end of the day," he says later, "it's all about communicating what you know effectively. If you do that, learning is fun, whether in a classroom or on a stage."
© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company. 1 2 3
Lyrical’s birthday bash, Harpers Ferry, January 10, 2007
With its tradition of blues and jam bands, Allston’s Harpers Ferry isn’t the first place you’d expect one of Boston’s most promising hip-hop artists to celebrate his birthday. But times have changed, and a week ago Wednesday it indeed was Harpers Ferry that played host to the Lyrical birthday bash, a party/show to celebrate one more year in the life of the Lowell-bred rapper.
Clad in a sport coat and a button-down shirt, Lyrical took a break from mingling in the crowd to announce that he is “forever 29.” The tall and skinny enigma of a rapper (a/k/a Pete Plourde, by day a business-management and mathematics professor) is the first to admit with a smile that he was also 29 last year and will still be 29 in 10 years. “If Sylvester Stallone can be 50 when he’s 60, I can be 29 when I’m 59. I got an album called iNFiNiTi. . . it’s timeless.”
Inspired by hip-hop’s golden era, Lyrical emerged as the voice of X-Caliber in the late ’90s, and he did a stint in the group Invasion before going solo. iNFiNiTi (D.i.M.E.) dropped in ’05 and was voted Album of the Year in last June’s first annual Mass Industry Committee Hip-Hop Awards. He plans to keep pushing the disc (available on iTunes and Rhapsody, as well as at Underground Hip-Hop on Huntington Avenue) till August of 2008, when he’ll release a follow-up.
At Harpers, Lyrical freestyled about the Big Dig and Saddam Hussein and performed only a couple of iNFiNiTi tracks with backing from the mellow jazz/funk quartet Velvet Stylus. But he shared the spotlight by inviting a group of racially diverse MCs to join him on stage for a freestyle symphony of everything from gangsta rap to suburban backpack rhymes before slipping off stage and back into the crowd. That left Rebel Love, Chaos, Doe Boy, Metaphorick, and Carbon on stage to trade bars over the Wu-Tang classic “C.R.E.A.M.” and Capleton’s “Wings of the Morning,” with grooves by Velvet Stylus.
And Harpers Ferry general manager Andrew Wolan? The 27-year-old sat at the back bar working on his laptop. “I love hip-hop,” he enthused. “We try to do a lot more hip-hop to help the scene grow.” It certainly seemed to be doing the trick for 29-year-old Lyrical.
Talk to local hip-hop aficionados, and they’ll tell you Boston is home to some of the best underground hip-hop artists in the nation. Artists like Dre Robinson and Slaine may not have the name recognition of high-profile local acts like the Perceptionists, and they may be all but unknown to mainstream audiences, but they’re steadily honing their chops and building audiences for their material. This up-and-coming group of rappers is at the leading edge of what one local performer, DL, calls Boston’s ‘‘new hip-hop renaissance.’’ They don’t have major-label recording or distribution deals, but they’ve worked with national stars like Mobb Deep, Inspectah Deck, Cappadonna, DJ Lethal from House of Pain, Terror Squad, and others. Their stuff is getting played on both commercial and college radio, and local listeners are buying their CDs. It all adds up to a collective profile that’s becoming larger and more sharply defined. During the next two weeks, Bostonians can see these emerging artists up close at a series of shows around town. Check them out, and you can say you saw them when.
DL, Dre Robinson, and Natural Born Spitters, with special guests Lyrical, and IroQ & John Doe
Sunday, Milky Way Lounge
DL hails from Roxbury and has had a lot of recent airplay on college radio stations around New England. His song ‘‘Massterpiece,’’ which samples the ‘‘Cheers’’ theme, has been the No. 1 requested song on WERS, the Emerson College station, over the past year, according to Kevin Dingle, a station DJ who hosts a hip-hop show under the name Kerosene. DL’s smooth delivery and catchy hooks are supported by inventive, head-bobbing beats, and his lyrics are considered part of the emerging ‘‘conscious’’ movement in hip-hop, one that forgoes prevailing hip-hop themes of violence, misogyny, and materialism.
Natural Born Spitters — a pair of cousins, originally from Roxbury and now based in Cambridge, otherwise known as E’Flash and V-Knucks — attack the ears in a style E’Flash describes as an ‘‘intellectual street movement.’’ V-Knucks adds that ‘‘the trials and tribulations of the streets are written in our scripts.’’ Natural Born Spitters sold 1,000 copies of their album, ‘‘In Due Time,’’ in just four months following its completion in 2002. A year later they released their widely praised mixtape, ‘‘Green Heist II,’’ which included ‘‘Come and Get It,’’ featuring Big Daddy Kane. E’Flash says NBS packed the Middle East for a show last year, a rarity for an unsigned act.
With their album and several mixtapes available, and a new album on the way — they’ve begun recording, but no release date is set — NBS is ‘‘developing fast,’’ says Pete Mazalewski, who DJ’s under the name Mr. Peter Parker at Hot 97.7.
403-405 Centre St., Jamaica Plain. 617-524-3740. 9 p.m. $5. 21+www.milkywayjp.com
‘‘Beast Mode @ Night’’ featuring Dre Robinson, with R Da Fact, IroQ & John Doe, Cekret Society, Survival Unit, Lyrical, and Slaine. Hosted by Kerosene.
Aug. 24, the Greatest Bar
Mazalewski describes Robinson as one of the most exciting artists in the Boston hip-hop scene. ‘‘He has mass appeal,’’ Mazalewski says. ‘‘He’s definitely going to make it.’’
Robinson, from Dorchester, is a ferocious lyricist who attacks the mike with intense lyricism and catchy hooks. His song ‘‘Get Right,’’ off his album ‘‘Starvin 2: Still Hungry,’’ was remixed by Mobb Deep and has received considerable radio play on stations like Jam’n 94.5 and WERS. Robinson was recently approached by Universal for a nationwide distribution deal. ‘‘I’d be happy to open the door for [Boston hip-hop artists] on a national scale,’’ Robinson says. He’ll release a new album, ‘‘This Is Me,’’ in the fall, along with a companion mixtape, ‘‘Who Am I,’’ and will support them with a national tour.
IroQ & John Doe are a powerful Cambridge-based duo that Dingle says ‘‘deserves more attention.’’ Their 2002 release, ‘‘Brotherly Love,’’ samples old Motown tracks for its hooks and has a decidedly old-school flavor. Their song ‘‘Believe’’ was the second-most requested song on WERS over the past year. Their latest project, a mixtape called ‘‘The Uprising,’’ features the hit ‘‘Thugg Life’’ with KJ.
‘‘We just use music to talk about what we’ve seen,’’ IroQ says of their work. ‘‘Whether it’s good or bad, it’s our lives.’’
The duo has a new album, ‘‘My Brother’s Keeper,’’ due out Aug. 30, and their songs will be featured on an upcoming Mandalay Films movie soundtrack.
Lyrical, from Lowell, has been around hip-hop for a long time, and it shows in his upcoming release, ‘‘iNFiNiTi,’’ due out Sept. 9. As his performing name suggests, Lyrical is a wordsmith with a flowing delivery, and his hooks are as potent as his beats. As a measure of his flexibility, one of his new songs, ‘‘Ghetto Intellectual,’’ masterfully delves into reggae, with help from Koki Man. The record release party for ‘‘iNFiNiTi’’ will be held at Massive Records (1105 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. 617-576-1887) Aug. 27 at 3 p.m.
262 Friend St., Boston. 617-367-0544. 10 p.m. $10, $12 door. 21+.www.thegreatestbar.com
Slaine, with DL and Cekret Society
Aug. 25, the Reel Bar
Mazalewski describes Slaine, from South Boston, as one of the city’s most talented hip-hop artists, one who exudes mass appeal. He’s been compared to Necro and Ill Bill, but his voice is smoother and he creates tenaciously catchy hooks. He uses layering masterfully, and isn’t afraid to inject a lot of emotion into his rapping. His mixtape, ‘‘White Man Is Devil Part II,’’ is a well-crafted yet deranged look at a cocaine binge. ‘‘I’m teaching people about drugs,’’ Slaine says. ‘‘I walk outside in South Boston and I see drugs but nobody wants to talk about it.’’ Lethal and Danny Boy, both from House of Pain, produced a number of tracks on the mixtape.
Slaine has teamed up with local legend Edo G for a November release called ‘‘Special Teams,’’ and plans to release a solo album in April. You can catch Slaine with Edo G on Saturday at the Water Club in Quincy.
477 Cambridge St., Allston. 617-783-3222. 9 p.m. $8. 21+.
Termanology, with St. Da Squad
Aug. 27, Knights of Columbus, Lawrence
Termanology, from Lawrence, is featured in the Source, the magazine devoted to hip-hop culture, next month in a feature called ‘‘Unsigned Hype,’’ which is where the legendary Brooklyn rapper Notorious B.I.G. got his start. Termanology’s beats are crisp, and Mazalewski describes him as ‘‘one of the hardest working rappers in the game.’’ His rhyming and vocabulary are his strengths, and his hooks are laid back while retaining a hardcore edge. Typical of his work is the song ‘‘Rear View Mirror’’ — off his album ‘‘Hood Politics II,’’ released earlier this year — that features a menacing beat beneath effortlessly flowing lyrics, all bolstered by top-notch production. His new album, ‘‘Hood Politics III,’’ is due out in November, along with a mix tape featuring a song with previously unreleased tracks of B.I.G. rapping, recorded shortly before he was shot to death in 1997.
1 Market St., Lawrence. 978-687-9834. 9 p.m. $10. All ages.
Mic Stylz, Clip One, Golden Brown, and Q-Unique of the Arsonists, with special guest DJ On-and-On
Aug. 31, the Greatest Bar
Mic Stylz is a lyricist who isn’t afraid to look in the mirror. ‘‘I’m a white boy from the suburbs,’’ says Stylz, who’s from Andover. ‘‘I sought out hip-hop before it was popular to do so.’’
Stylz, a former on-air personality at Jam’n 94.5, has been rapping since the early 1990s. He plays on words and is a gifted lyricist. He’s done songs with Krumbsnatcha, Poverty, and Grafh, and has been featured on Shade 45 mixtapes. He’s performed with KRS-1 and opened for Eve, among others. ‘‘Mic Stylz is phenomenal,’’ Mazalewski enthuses. ‘‘He has melodic hooks. ..... He’s a superstar.’’
His current single, ‘‘Bringing It Back,’’ featuring Esoteric, is getting radio play and a lot of buzz in the local hip-hop scene. A new album, ‘‘Found,’’ along with a mixtape, ‘‘Lost,’’ are due out in November, and Stylz says he’ll perform ‘‘anywhere there are shows.’’ His Aug. 31 performance is part of the Mr. Peter Parker of Hot 97.7 Birthday Bash, hosted by Kerosene.
262 Friend St., Boston. 617-367-0544. 9 p.m. $10. 21+.www.mrpeterparker.com
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company. 1 2 3