Greg Aram
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Greg Aram

New York City, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2012
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"Interview: An Alum of the School Kendrick Lamar Visited Speaks on the Inspiring Experience"

It's rare that a high school graduate genuinely feels excited to be back on school grounds years later, but when Kendrick Lamar decides to grace your halls for an impromptu visit, emotions are adjusted. New Jersey High Tech High School alum Greg Aram has been out for a couple of years. But he happily returned for a day when his former teacher Brian Mooney, who wrote an article that caught Kendrick's attention regarding his use of To Pimp a Butterfly as part of his English class curriculum, gave him the scoop on an upcoming special visit that Greg, himself a singer/songwriter, would surely appreciate. After an amazing and inspiring interaction with King Kendrick, Greg reached out to us to shed more light on Mr. Mooney's program, Kendrick's visit, and how he ended up in a cypher with one of the game's best lyricists out.

Frazier Tharpe is a staff writer for Complex. Follow him @The_SummerMan.

How did you know Kendrick would be at the high school?
Basically, my senior year of high school I had a teacher named Mr. Mooney. It was his first year there, he was an English teacher, and he created an after-school program that was for slam poetry and hip-hop education. So basically, he was like teaching societal ideals through hip-hop. We would analyze videos, we would analyze lyrics and just go into different themes, like feminism, race. And besides that, we would do poetry—for me I would do lyrics and songs—and we would perform them every semester.

So, I graduated and I just stayed in touch with him ’​cause I kind of helped build the program from the start. And then I guess last semester—he also teaches English—when Kendrick released To Pimp a Butterfly he dropped the whole curriculum and taught the English class based off of the album. In the middle of doing that, he wrote an article about it, which went viral, and then Kendrick reached out to him and was like, “Look, I want to come talk to your class.”

From there, [Mr. Mooney] reached out to me, and he was like, “Hey, you know, you were one of the first students that helped me build this program. I want you to come, I want you to be on the panel.” And basically, what would happen with the whole event was, he’d talk to the class, the after-school hip-hop program, first, and then in front of our whole school, there was a panel that included me, Kendrick, my vice principal, Mr. Mooney, and then two hip-hop educators. And then basically, students from that after-school program would perform slam poetry and analyze, or present work they analyzed with Kendrick’s, and we would analyze their poems and what they had to say, and we went into discussion about everything and just tied it back to the album.

Take me through the day.
So [Kendrick] came, he showed up, a couple of us performed for him really quick, really personal, a cappella-type things.




You freestyled or you rapped songs that you already recorded?
Just pre-written lyrics and stuff for him. Really quick, like a minute. And then he got into a discussion about the whole album, there was kind of like a Q&A between the hip-hop class, a couple of the professors, the hip-hop educators, and then me. It was just kind of like a Q&A about how the album came about, how it was different from his first album. And then, my teacher, Mr. Mooney, was like, “Hey, Greg raps, another kid raps, do you guys want to cypher for a couple of minutes?”

Wow. That’s major.
Yeah, it was crazy. Kendrick was straight off from the top.

He rapped first?
Yeah, he rapped first. He set the bar.

With Kendrick rapping first, were you nervous getting ready to rap after him and in front of him?
I mean, honestly, he could be considered the greatest bar for bar right now. So just with that in mind, it was kind of crazy. But he was interacting with us, which made it more comfortable, like talking about me, talking about other people in the circle. And you know, he was just so personable that just made it…. It was like he was just another homie and we do this rap thing all the time. We were throwing down words, just freestyling off of those, but it was just a comfortable, familiar environment that no matter who he was he was just a human in that moment.

What happened after that?
So I was next, and I follow with what I could and freestyle.

How many bars did you spit?
I spit a sweet 16 or something like that.

Was he responsive? Was he reacting?
Oh, yeah, definitely. He was doubling my words, he was throwing in ad-libs in between my bars.

Shit.
It was crazy.




And then he left after that?
Yeah. So after that they did a little press thing for Kendrick with the New York Times, NPR, or something. Then from there there was a whole field house—basically, at the basketball courts of our school, they had a whole stage set up, and then I went down there first, and I ended up opening for Kendrick. I just performed one of my songs and from there Kendrick came in.

So you opened for Kendrick?
Yeah, exactly. That was crazy.

That’s crazy.
I just basically welcomed him with a song, then we did that panel for about an hour and then he end up performing “Alright.” From there, he left. It was crazy.

So what’s this experience like, moving forward and making your own music? Does this give you a big confidence boost?
I mean, honestly, yeah. The way he interacted with me and just appreciated me for who I was, there was just no sense of celebrity there, so that was just kind of crazy. But yeah, definitely a confidence boost. Seeing everybody’s reaction and media reaction was crazy. It definitely gives me more drive—I don’t want someone else to make me more relevant, but it gives me more motivation to follow it up with good product of my own.

What’s your favorite track on To Pimp a Butterfly?
It depends on what mood I am, you know? Lately—it’s summertime, I’m in the mood to party, and “Alright” is definitely the banger of the summer.

Is Kendrick one of your favorite rappers out?
Bar for bar, he could be the greatest.

Of all time?
Bar for bar, lyric for lyric...yeah.

Are you working on your own music?
I’m making singles right now, I’m about to shoot a video for my song called “Mr. Jones,” that should release in a month or two. I released a project last winter called Loser. I rode that out for awhile, now I’m just working on music for a different season. I’m ready to drop summer songs, summer singles. That’s the mindset I’ll be in for the next couple of months.


Did Kendrick say anything to you specifically that really inspired you, after you told him you were a rapper?
I told him “I’m gonna work with you,” and he said, “I wouldn’t doubt it.” And looked me right in my eyes. That was—it was just real.

Would you say Mr. Mooney inspired the career path you’re on right now?
I mean he definitely inspired me, being a white teacher fresh out of NYU and teaching hip-hop education, it just in itself said that there aren’t any limitations to anybody, you don’t have to follow any stereotypes.

What’s your relationship like, with him being an NYU alum then you going there yourself?
He was the one who convinced me to go to NYU. He made me realize how crazy this city is and how many opportunities are available. He definitely influenced my college choice.

Is High Tech a dope place to go to school? Are there other teachers like Mr. Mooney doing dope shit like this?
Education is usually so institutionalized, and there’s usually a format. Whereas, my high school, you were free to be liberal and find yourself. Although there were rules, teachers were more friends than like, oppressors. That helped me find who I was from an early age and do what I wanted to do without thinking that I couldn’t.

Did you observe any kids currently in Mr. Mooney’s class who, especially after the Kendrick visit, are being inspired in the same way you were?
Definitely. Maybe not literally like me, but just free to create. There are no limits to creations, and [Mr. Mooney] exercises that thought and encourages it. We have the coolest fucking high school around. - Complex


"Greg Aram Shines on Mr.Jones"

New York University is increasingly becoming a hotbed for new musical talent in recent years (e.g. Arca, Daye Jack, Day Trip, Topaz Jones, etc.). NYU Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music alum Arca, recently collaborated with acclaimed Icelandic singer-songwriter Bjork, and former NYU student Daye Jack is featured on Tori Kelly’s new album.
Enter Greg Aram, a junior at NYU, who most recently got a taste of the spotlight when his former high school teacher asked the fleshing artist to attend a special club event. That special club event was none other than Kendrick Lamar’s visit to a New Jersey high school, which Aram is alum of, to promote and talk with Aram’s former teacher, Brian Mooney. Aram opened for Lamar at the event and was also able to spit a sweet, little cypher with the Compton MC.
Fortunately for the NYU singer-songwriter, the event caused a blip on the blogosphere radar, which Aram had yet to be noticed on, despite releasing his standout single “Mr. Jones.” “Mr. Jones” exudes summer vibes as Aram details a person special to him and their trials and tribulations. After listening to the track, I feel as if I know “Mr. Jones” without ever meeting him, due to the 20-year-old musician’s spectacular songwriting ability.
Take a listen to the track below and be sure to check out Aram’s debut project Loser on Soundcloud as well. - EarMilk


"PREMIERE: GREG ARAM AND BENSTEINER. SHARE THEIR ‘ANASTASIA’ EP"

Rather than pinpoint past relationship experiences to specific people, Greg Aram and bensteiner. came together to build a character who encompasses all of them. The title of the collaborative anastasia EP is a clever conflation of a traditional girl name and the anesthetic cool so often associated with recurring romantic struggle.

Effect-doused vocals and synth scribblings mark much of the project’s four songs. The two NYU students, friends since their Freshmen year, shared writing responsibility. Although they both unsurprisingly penned the synthesis of their respective dabbling in love and lust, bensteiner. alone handled production and engineering work (though not without feedback from his partner).

Image via bensteiner.
Image via bensteiner.

“I think what attracted me to Ben’s production is that his sound walks the fine line between being unique, but also aurally familiar, ” Aram told us. “In my opinion, I believe the pallet of sounds put into anastasia clearly paints the beauty of a woman, with the underlying darkness that exists in the modern age relationship.”

The soundscapes balance out, with busier, heavier sections retreating to drawn-back spots that allow Greg’s rhymes space to take centerstage, as they do during the sandwiched middle of “blink.”

“Greg has this really, really fine attention to detail, but he has trouble describing what he’s thinking sometimes,” bensteiner. added. “So getting his ears on a mix is essential to me because his nontraditional ear and methods of description hone in on the things that mine miss. He also has some fire bars.”

Listen to anastasia below. You can also download the project for free right here. - Pigeons And Planes


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