BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s 8 o’clock on a Tuesday night and a beat can be heard coming from inside the green recording studio at the Maryland Art Place.
Baltimore teenagers are learning how rap can teach life skills and lessons in a relatively new program teaching “rap education.”
“I have faith in him, you know,” said MC Bravado.
An up-and-comer by the name kingwuane was in the studio recording his first track on an album back in February.
“Yeah, it is a sky’s the limit kind of situation,” said MC Bravado.
It’s on MC Bravado‘s studio album. He asked a Chesapeake High School sophomore to be on a track.
“As far as an actual song collaboration, wuane will be the first,” he said.
‘Wuane was just 16 years old when WJZ’s Paul Gessler met up with him in February as part of the “Beats Not Bullets” program — a nonprofit giving music education to Baltimore students.
“There’s kids dying every day. Bullets don’t have no names,” said Kingwuane. “You could get killed just from being outside. I feel as though working with these studio sessions this opportunity may never come again.”
MC Bravado, formerly known as Mr. Croce, is an English teacher who volunteers with “Beats Not Bullets.”
“I’m still teaching, but, you know, on my terms,” he said.
MC Bravado and Lineup Room owner Brandon Lackey, he’s engineering this album, are both former city school teachers.
“I think it’s poetry in its highest form,” MC Bravado said. “I think a lot of the greatest songwriters ever are hip hop artists.”
“It ties into every part of the curriculum you can think of,” Lackey said.
“It just naturally transpired that ‘Wow, these are more interlocked than I could have imagined’,” MC Bravado said.
“Your vocabulary gotta be up,” Kingwuane said. “You gotta know how to talk to people, your social skills.”
His skills are so good, Lineup Room brought him on as an intern. The 17-year-old is learning but also teaching in his own right.
“It shows what educators in hip hop do on the performance side,” MC Bravado said.
“With hip hop, everyone has a voice, and it can be whatever you want,” Lackey added.
Back at the studio, they’re reviewing Kingwuane’s collaboration and admitting the learning is multi-generational.
“The youth are the keepers of the cool and hip hop is very much a product of that,” Lackey said.
So cool that Kingwuane opened for MC Bravado and Big Daddy Kane in Baltimore last year — as a 15-year-old.
“He’s so self-assured without being cocky,” MC Bravado said.
The “Beats Not Bullets” curriculum gave Wuane an incentive to work hard and get good grades.
“After that, it was like, ‘bam, I’m not leaving,” Kingwuane said. “I’m gonna work for this.”
Hip hop’s greatest life lesson seems to have already stuck.
Those two former teachers planned on teaching at South by Southwest this year before the festival got cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.