Before Kendrick Lamar led the charge for new-school rappers, the self-proclaimed "good kid" was serious about his education, and he wants students to follow in his steps.
On August 29, Kendrick, along with Houston Rockets NBA All-Star James Harden and MTV News correspondent Sway Calloway, headed to Bethel Regional High School in Bethel, Alaska, to celebrate the educational strides that its students have made.
It's all a part of an initiative spearheaded by Get Schooled Foundation, Taco Bell and Viacommunity (a charitable organization of MTV's parent company, Viacom). The students at Bethel were selected after they won an academic competition for their proven commitment to graduating high school.
"I always wanted to write. My teachers pushed me to write, so English was always my favorite subject," Lamar told Sway of his high school days after chatting with students and freestyling for them. "I never knew how much of a big deal it would be in my career until I really sat back and looked at all my old-school papers and found out these vocabulary words that I learned over the years."
James Harden, who led the NBA's Houston Rockets to the playoffs last season, remembers what it was like for him as a high school student in Lakewood, California, trying to balance academics and sports. "I was in the same situation, in school trying to make it to college, trying to do big things with my life," he said. "So, just to get back here and show my face and show them that it's important means a lot to me."
In the spring of 2013, Get Schooled, a national non-profit, sponsored a three-month competition involving 325 high schools in 14 states in an effort to help them prepare for college. It was the Bethel students who took the top prize, by achieving a 100 percent participation rate.
As soon as he arrived in the school, Kendrick could feel the excitement. "I seen the energy, obviously their energy gave me even more fuel to come out here and look them dead in their eyes and see how much more inspiration that I can give them rather than just seeing me on TV or onscreen somewhere," he said.