Kendrick Lamar is one of the top artists in the rap industry today, something Morgan State University President David Wilson was aware of when he proposed inviting him to speak on campus.
Wilson and SGA decided to use a rap video with the student body to convince Lamar to come.
“We thought that perhaps having the president of Morgan ‘rap’ in a video invitation, or at least be in a rap video where the students were taking the lead, would be convincing,” said Wilson. “I put the SGA in charge of the lyrics; they wrote the lyrics within 48 hours, and I found myself on the academic quad trying to rap.”
Over the next several weeks, Wilson and a large group of students gathered in the campus’s academic quad to help put the video together. Joy Barnes, Morgan’s SGA vice-president, wrote the lyrics, which are sung to the tune of Lamar’s single, “Alright.”
“I said that if we brought Kendrick [to Morgan], our enrollment would shoot up,” said Barnes. “Then he mentioned making a video. I told him I’d write it and here we are a few weeks later.”
Wilson said Lamar’s influence, and specifically the message he believes Lamar is delivering, are what ultimately made him more appealing, and that Lamar reminded him of a popular group he listened to as a young man.
“Public Enemy was a group that was out there with a different kind of message – a very uplifting, socially-conscious type of message,” said Wilson. “Then the whole industry delved into an era where the music became, ‘I can curse better than you can’ and ‘I can demean women more than you can.’ Mr. Kendrick Lamar’s seemingly trying to elevate the genre above that.”
“When he won at the Grammys [two years ago], I thought his speech was very, very powerful,” said Wilson. “It was just as powerful as Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the Oscars. That was really when I began to look at him as a person who had a lot going on between his ears.”
If Lamar were to come to Morgan, it’s unclear which event he would be speaking in, but the president said he would work with Lamar and his representatives to come up with a time that “would be convenient for everybody,” whether it’s commencement, a separate series or even a homecoming concert.
“I hope he delivers a message of hope and keeping true to yourself, even when the world is against you,” Barnes explained. “There are so many distractions but keeping focused and working hard are major keys I personally think he’s mastered.”
Once completed, the video will go up online for students to spread on social media, and it will also be sent to representatives at Lamar’s record label, Top Dawg Entertainment.