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Professor Lyrical: “Don’t be a jerky-boy”

Hip Hop was founded on diversity –whether by its pioneers or the rebellious diversity of thought and cultures that helped bring it all together. Diversity in nature “biodiversity” is what makes living organisms strong and survive. It is our greatest strength as a nation if ever recognized properly. The strength that it gives the people […]

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Hip Hop was founded on diversity –whether by its pioneers or the rebellious diversity of thought and cultures that helped bring it all together. Diversity in nature “biodiversity” is what makes living organisms strong and survive. It is our greatest strength as a nation if ever recognized properly. The strength that it gives the people and our country — uniquely — are likely why it is so hard to actualize as the powers that be don’t want meaningful change and a collective unity from its citizens. Kids, especially those who are underrepresented in so many areas like film, STEM, etc., need to see themselves on the screen, in books, as professors and even as rappers in some cases talking about the kinds of things they may not have thought were “OK” to talk about. It gives us all license to see people we relate with doing something we find cool or similar to what we always wanted to do. Role models are hard to find, but it’s a lot easier when you see yourself winning in society in various places so you can imagine the same, or better, for yourself.


As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dr. Peter Michael Plourde.

Dr. Peter Michael Plourde (PKA “Professor Lyrical”) is an artist and educator known for using the positive aspects of Hip Hop culture to empower citizens to self-advocate for socioeconomic change. A master craftsman lyricist, he has consistently published rap records in heavy rotation on both college and mix show formats — for two different groups (Invasion and X-Caliber) and as an award winning solo artist (Lyrical and/or Professor Lyrical) amassing scores of rap battle victories along the way. In the classroom, he has achieved similar distinction having taught over 150 courses in mathematics and music across a wide array of higher education institutions; two as a full-time professor and ten as an adjunct.

Dr. Plourde is currently an Associate Professor and Director of Faculty Development at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). Formerly an Assistant Teaching Professor of Mathematics at Northeastern University within the Foundation Year program, Plourde taught for seven years in the program and also served as the sole instructor of Math Methods for the NU Graduate School of Education — where he also earned his doctorate. He has been featured in numerous articles, feature stories, and local and national programing, including an episode of Animal Planet, an extensive feature in the Chronical of Higher Education, and even as “Lyrical” on the Wheel of Fortune with his wife, Nicole Jones, who also sings.

Lyrical often evokes the power of Hip Hop culture in many of his own lessons and as a cultural backdrop for his courses. His 2016 dissertation entitled “Increasing STEM degree attainment for underrepresented populations” examines the role Hip Hop potentially may play for other STEM and STEAM educators and the impact it has upon the students’ ability to persist and attain STEM based credentials. Professor Lyrical created an “albook,” described as the world’s first album and book combination. The album is entitled Put Em All To Shame while the book is similarly entitled Put Em All To Shame (The Curriculum). Sections of the albook form the basis of his curriculum and his first Tedx Talk “The Transformative Power of Hip Hop Culture” and many other talks he regularly gives at colleges and other institutions. His most recent breakout single, House of Lies, is a masterful double story appearing to document a modern break-up with a surprise twist ending that listeners must hear at least twice to fully appreciate. The single is stream available now with a video release of August 17, 2020.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I am from Lowell, Massachusetts which is the fourth largest city in Mass. As a product of both Lowell and Chelmsford Public Schools I was able to experience the city and suburbs early. I later would earn my bachelors and masters in my home city of Lowell at UMass-Lowell and I would return to Lowell Public Schools to teach mathematics and open an alternative high school program within the High School that later would become a free-standing school I helped to open.

I was an only child and loved anything creative since I was very young to keep me occupied and I have never stopped trying to grow as an artist and student (before teacher).

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was teased as a young kid in Lowell Public Schools for not knowing a math problem early. I was literally trying little word poems at my desk and day dreaming instead of paying attention. I had no idea of the answer — but it was a fight or flight moment one which I chose fight (sort of). I begged my mom to practice times tables with me to be super-fast to never not know an answer again. But I got my cool points in school from music and to some extent sports.

I kept up with the rapping, and by high school was rapping on the cafeteria table for money by passing the Kangol around the room (for real). My rep grew from that point on and I went on to soon after catch the ear of a local producer and my group and I had wax out while still in high school. I always saw the connection between the love I got in school and my desire to do music and when I got to do a rap in 11th grade for a project I tucked that away in the back of my mind and knew if someday I could use my blossoming math skills to teach others through music and Hip Hop culture I would be one happy dude.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I was on Animal Planet rapping because I used to bring my Pug to various schools when I was teaching and to rap shows. Or perhaps it was that I was also on the Wheel of Fortune with my wife — I appeared as Lyrical with her on a couples edition and we won some good cash and a trip to anywhere in the Beaches/Sandals chain –we chose Turks & Caicos and we went as a family trip with our son.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was selected by DJ Clark Kent to be in the Battle For World Supremacy and I did not do well. In fact, in the first round I was so convinced I was going to win that I just asked the crowd if they would rather hear me kick an acapella instead of rhyming over some old wack beat. What I didn’t know is Clark had produced all the beats we were rapping over and the crowd and judges started moaning and then booing me before I could really even get the words out my mouth. I got to go a second time and this time they stopped booing to actually hear me. Sean “Puffy” Combs was judging and told me I was dope and not to quit and many others that day told me I was nice just to work on how I want to come across to the audience. From that day on, I was much more humble in how I interacted with a live audience and I went on to win scores of battles later — still lost some too, but not usually because I was insulting the organizers. I still battle online and looking to do more live when the game returns.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

My House of Lies song and video are about the election/politics in the USA — though you may not guess that when watching the video at first or hearing the song. It’s way different than anything I’ve done before so check that out, I am pretty proud of the concept and how it has played a very small part in getting people to think politically and exercise their voice and right to vote. Also, I am working on a colab album project with my man Jay “QuoKane” Cruz that we call ProQuo –which is also the name of a weekly live streamed show we run at 9pm on all of our social media and on Hip Hop Citizen.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Hip Hop was founded on diversity –whether by its pioneers or the rebellious diversity of thought and cultures that helped bring it all together. Diversity in nature “biodiversity” is what makes living organisms strong and survive. It is our greatest strength as a nation if ever recognized properly. The strength that it gives the people and our country — uniquely — are likely why it is so hard to actualize as the powers that be don’t want meaningful change and a collective unity from its citizens. Kids, especially those who are underrepresented in so many areas like film, STEM, etc., need to see themselves on the screen, in books, as professors and even as rappers in some cases talking about the kinds of things they may not have thought were “OK” to talk about. It gives us all license to see people we relate with doing something we find cool or similar to what we always wanted to do. Role models are hard to find, but it’s a lot easier when you see yourself winning in society in various places so you can imagine the same, or better, for yourself.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

The music industry is shady (Tribe Called Quest told me though as industry rule # 4080).

I wish someone had told me to stay in school and take no breaks off as it’s harder to do later.

I wish I knew and understood what a BS, MS, and doctorate were when I was younger.

Don’t switch your name from Lyrical — Lord Plourde to plain old Lyrical as it’s not very Google friendly — go with Professor Lyrical as it will pull you right up in searches! And similarly, having one group known as X-Caliber and one group known as Invasion means you have 6 vinyl records but four of them with different names and four albums — two with different names — also harder to search your catalogue — so stay more consistent.

Colleges and Universities pay more than clubs!

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Solicit yourself to schools, colleges, etc. However, this usually only works well (and for the long-term) when you have something relevant to say. The more trendy you are, sometimes the more you can play yourself. There is great reward there and lots of immediate impact. However you won’t look like a superstar the next day. If you are seeking super stardom, then perhaps not. Be comfortable learning to speak as well as you can to communicate your ideas as effective in real life as you may do as a song-writer. Don’t be a jerky-boy, just be a good person and it finds its way back — plus it’s the right thing to do.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

There is almost zero percent chance that what you “believe” now will stay consistent or is even true. Be open to everything, but learn how to think critically. The music industry can be weird, even cultish at times–avoid anything that is too herdish as group think usually is dumb think. The reason I say this is that good to many can be obtained by not following the wrong people or movements that are not well-intentioned. People have been lied to countlessly by false prophets for at least as long as we have had a recorded history of it to cite. I am not saying don’t follow leaders and experts, quite the opposite, as following good examples that are based on logic and sound reasoning is what intelligent people do all the time. Just avoid the charlatans and anything that sounds too good to be true — it is often just that simple.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

One of my mentors from a distance has always been Chuck D. He let me into a concert when I was a young kid and gave me back stage passes and put me and my fan Fee to work for him that night. We have connected a few other times throughout my career, including a concert we did a few years back in Denver, Colorado at a dope college event where we were two of the three featured people (clearly he was the most featured). Our hotel rooms were across the hall, and they rode us over to different talks we gave and participated in using the same little golf carts etc. During our stay, he checked out my album and book and then gave it a big cosign the next day through twitter and called me “a rapademic reacher” and that meant a lot and gave me the confidence to pursue the true blend of professor and emcee even more seriously and with greater focus.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My dad always says “there is a right way and a wrong way to do something.” From doing things the wrong way countless times I got to see how much time I had wasted by not doing it right first. I get it now, and value our time on this rock so much that we truly have to live like tomorrow is not promised (I guess that is another quote right there).

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Dr. Neil DeGrasseTyson.

Because he gets Hip Hop, he gets science, physics, mathematics, and the value of rationale thought. He is a big kid also doing exactly what he loves to do and inspires millions.

How can our readers follow you online?

Soundcloud.com/ProfessorLyrical

Facebook.com/ProfessorLyrical

@ProfessorLyrical

$ProLyrical

IG: Professor Lyrical

www.ProfessorLyrical.com

[email protected]

Youtube.com/LyricalOfInvasion

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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