Talk about doing it for the culture. After partnering with Walt Disney Co. and The Undefeated in June to help fund Historically Black Scholarships for Colleges and Universities (HBCU), two-time Grammy-nominated rapper Cordae ended a Week-long tour of the Eighth Middle East Sports Conference (MEAC) to preview his new album.
The “Kickin ‘It With Cordae” tour started September 14 at Norfolk State University, before stopping in Howard, Morgan State, Coppin State, Delaware State, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, North Carolina Central and finally South Carolina State on September 7. 21.
In addition to previewing the music for his next album, Bird’s eye view, in live performances, Cordae also took part in one of many student’s favorite pastimes: gambling. The 24-year-old, who briefly attended Towson University in Md. before dropping out to pursue a musical career, is an avid player. Cordae debuted with YBN, a group of gamer-turned-rappers who released several mixtapes and singles before going their separate ways in 2020. His tour partnered with each MEAC school’s esports program and included discussions with students. on games and music, as well as giving students the opportunity to compete with Suitland, Md., native in an NBA 2K round.
“Cordae contacted us,” said Sonja Stills, chief of staff and sports director for MEAC. âHe wanted to be able to play his new music on HBCU campuses, so one of the things I asked them was, ‘Is Cordae a player? And they were like, “Yeah, you know NBA 2K is his game.” “
MEAC launched its esports (organized competitive video games) program in July 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic forced HBCU campuses to move away altogether. Now, over a year later, the MEAC is looking to expand its esports program to a potential college sport. This could offer students the opportunity to pursue careers in production, animation and communications in the multi-billion dollar esports industry. Some speculate that esports could also be a way for universities to boost science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) enrollment, thereby narrowing persistent racial and gender gaps in STEM education.
âAbout 82% of black teens play video games,â said Tarrin morgan, head coach of esports at Morgan State. But only 2% of people working in the industry are black, he said. “With this moment right now, the focus is on changing that inequality and making it possible for black and brown college students to step into the video game business and really open up a very unique path to it. . ”
Stills added: “If you look at the games, we [Black people] are not well represented. We have a certain culture and I think it’s us who can really focus on a particular game. It is important to create games that reflect us.
During a question-and-answer session with Morgan State students, Cordae said he wanted to inspire black students to get involved in the gaming industry. âI just wish when I was in school that someone would have done something like that,â he said. “Now that I’m sort of in a position of power, I’m just trying to do whatever I wish someone had done for me.”
ArtÃ© Warren, a music major and player at Morgan State, was one of the few students who got the chance to test his playing skills against Cordae in NBA 2K.
âPlaying Cordae felt like playing with a friend,â Warren said via email. âIt was really a proud moment for me to represent my HBCU by taking the W. Some of my peers would tell me that I would be kicked out of school if I lost, so I had to take care of business, lol. We played two quarters, two minutes each. i used the [Atlanta] Hawks and he used the [Portland] Trail Blazers. At the end of Q1 it was 7-0 for me, and at halftime it was 14-6 for me. I can’t say the victory surprised me. I take the game very seriously and approached this game as if it were a formal 2K competition.
âA lot of times our moms or authority figures in our lives have yelled at us to quit the game because it wouldn’t do anything for us. Well, that’s just not true anymore, âWarren continued. âAnd what’s crazy is that it goes beyond just a video game. There are graphic designers who make the characters and scenes in the games. You have distributors whose job is to sell games and make them accessible to as many people as possible. You have game promoters. You have game music markers whose job is to make the music for the games. There are so many avenues in esports where careers can be made, and the evolution of esports at HBCU will begin to expose more people of color to all of these different avenues.
Besides the games, Cordae spoke with the students about music and her new album, dedicated to her late grandmother and inspired by her diary entries.
âMy mom told me, ‘Son, the things you do everyday are a blessing, so journal about it, write down all the things you do every day,â âCordae told The top of the hill, Howard’s student newspaper, during his September 15 visit to the university. “And I started doing it, and I’m like, wow, I’m looking back on my life, and in this journal it’s like from a bird’s-eye view, so that’s what inspired this album. [For the students] I really wanted to talk and have intimate conversations where I can be enlightened. I feel like this is what I was put on this earth for: to inspire, to motivate and to be motivated.
Onya Solomon, a senior multimedia journalism major at Morgan State, also took inspiration from Cordae’s latest music. âOne thing about Cordae that inspires me is his drive,â Solomon said. âI aspire to a career in music myself someday, and his work ethic and the way he composes his art make him an inspiration to me. â¦ Just having the chance to listen to his project before the rest of the world, I found that very cool.
Whether he was talking about music, gaming, or expanding business in the black community, Cordae told Morgan State students he wanted to set a positive example for his people, especially those at HBCUs. “I can live in Beverly Hills [now], he said. don’t ever wanna be that guy.