Billboard recently spoke to Big Sean and his mother Myra Anderson about their Mogul Prep program and why education is important to the city of Detroit.
What made you guys decide to begin the Mogul Prep initiative?
Big Sean: It was a natural thing. My mom was a teacher, that was one of the many things that she's done in her life. She kind of has a natural instinct for teaching and helping, and stuff like that. She helped me with my Sean Anderson Foundation. Mogul Prep was an idea that we started from the end of 2015, right when I did a homecoming show in Detroit. It was a monumental point in my career. I brought out Eminem. It was a crazy night, but right after that, we did the first Mogul Prep. It was the first Mogul Prep event we did with that foundation, and we had people who worked on my team who helped a lot with the show from my production manager to the sound guys to my publisher, publicist, and creative directors -- all these different people who had something to do with me, got a chance to meet up with all these high school kids.
We just saw how effective it was. Basically, what we did was introduce some jobs to these kids in different ways in the music industry and how you can be involved. It's me on the stage, but there's about 30 other people who are working for me to be on that stage. You have the lighting guy, the production manager, the tour manager, the sound guys, the monitor guys -- the kids need to know that. Just growing up when I grew up, all I had was a TV. All I wanted to be was a rapper. All I wanted to be was a musician but if I had known these kind of things, who would have known the possibilities for me and my crew around me, and what we could have done to take it further? I know the unemployment rates are super high in Detroit, especially for the young ones. We're trying to really help that out and give them clear career paths that are needed, and that they probably have natural talents for.
Myra, being an educator, how successful do you see Mogul Prep becoming in the future?
MA: I think it's going to be very successful because I want kids to want to be in school. In Detroit, we have a graduation rate of about 60 percent. That's because kids don't want to come to school. They don't see the relevance. My goal is to get them excited about coming to school -- that'll keep them off the streets and out of trouble. It'll also expose them to careers and skills that they can use in any industry. We're using the music industry as a hook because that's where we have connections, but kids are excited about music. They'll start creating projects and doing different things as they go through the curriculum that they won't even be realizing all the math that they're using, or all the language arts that they're using as they write a press release or if they develop a P.S.A. spot. So it's a hands-on interactive thing that's in the real world and to me, that's what's lacking in the schools nowadays. Kids aren't just excited. They don't want to be there.
Sean, as a kid, which moguls did you look up to or aspire to be?
BS: All I wanted to do was be a rapper since I was 11 years old. That was something that I knew was gonna happen. I just didn't know how, but I could just feel it. I knew it was near for me. I didn't really want to be anything else too much. I didn't really like school. I would get in trouble here and there, but nothing crazy. [Laughs]
MA: He kind of looked up to Jay Z and Kanye [West]. I remember when Kanye first started. He used to come and tell me about, "Oh, there's this rapper," and it was "Through the Wire." It was about him getting in an accident. I couldn't really remember the name, but I used to say, "Oh, I heard that song by Kane, or Kaine, or what's his name?" [Laughs] I remembered that. He kind of used to look up to those people.
Sean, you played a big role in the Flint water crisis, and now you're starting Mogul Prep for inner city kids in Detroit. Do you wish more rappers took initiative to give back to their communities the way you have done so far in your community?
BS: I definitely feel like I have a responsibility to do that, for sure, and in my own way. That's what we're trying to do. I feel like as we put our minds to it more and more, we'll find out more and more ways to make an impact with Detroit's public school system, but even beyond all public school systems. I think that's our whole goal because everything is progressing in technology with phones. IPhones coming out with the new edition, and new computers. As everything else progresses, so does education. We can't be having the same ways of learning as we did 20 to 30 years ago. It doesn't make any sense, even 10 years ago so hopefully we do make an impact on the public school system and help out as much as we can.
From a parent's standpoint, Myra, how do you feel Mogul Prep will strengthen the relationship between the parents and the children?
MA: We've been actually talking about doing some workshops with parents because students' success is predicated on adult participation. I got that from one of my friends. [Laughs] He was so right when he said that. Parents want to do the best that they can for their kids and so many of them just don't know how or what to do so if we can break that cycle, then I think that it'll move our society forward by leaps and bounds. Parents are a real important part and we are going to address that aspect too.
At what point, Myra, do you feel that it's important as a mother to instill the value of education to a child growing up?
MA: I think children are born with an innate feel for education. I just think that the school systems kill it, because [kids] go to school bright-eyed and want to learn. Then we have to start teaching common core and the test type-stuff, and they don't see the purpose of that so I think that we just have to show them the relevance in the real world, but I think education beyond is much more than academics. I think it's the inward value and confidence that is important for teachers, schools, and parents to instill within their kids. It's giving them a sense of self-worth. That's what I think is the most important thing you can give a child.
Sean, women have played a very integral role in your life ranging from you mother to your late grandmother. What qualities did they instill in you that you’re most grateful for as a man now?
BS: First of all, women are just essential as far as being a real man. I mean in that in the sense like, my dad has always been in my life and he's a real man. I appreciate having a dad but I grew up in a house with my grandma and my mom. They were just like strong women. As a woman, you have to deal with a lot of craziness in this world and a lot of the things that that they have to put up with that doubles the load on their backs. Women are stronger than men in most ways, honestly. I truly believe that. I feel like one of the things that they instilled [in me] was to be strong and boss up. All the women in my life have proven themselves, been through crazy times, managed to just be triumphant, and no pun intended, but bounce back and be great. That's something that's inspiring to me. That's something that I really admire and appreciate about all the women in my life.