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Hip-Hop, Philanthropy, & HBCUs – An Interview With Mississippi’s Own Young Malice & CHMA’s Jarrett Carter

It is often talked about the close relationship of HBCUs and hip-hop in the past. During the late 80s and 90s it was not uncommon to see hip-hop artist sporting HBCU gear. However, that time period seems like a distant memory and with the donation by Dr. Dre to the University of Southern California coupled with an editorial response by Dr. Walter Kimbrough of Dillard University essentially pointing out that if the $35 million he donated had been evenly spread across all 100 plus HBCUs it would have made a prodigious institutional impact. So what is the relationship of HBCUs and African American hip-hop artist today? Can a relationship be forged to raise much-needed funds and awareness? We sat down with two influential minds of hip-hop and philanthropy to get their thoughts on creating a more mutually beneficial relationship for HBCUs: Young Malice, a Jackson, Mississippi native, hip-hop artist, entrepreneur, and avid HBCU supporter. Jarrett Carter, executive director of the Center for HBCU Media Advocacy and owner of Carter Media Enterprises. We probed their thoughts on where we go from here.

We are sure both of you in some way or another heard, read, or talked about the Dr. Dre donation to the University of Southern California, which many in the HBCU community were not happy with it. What were your thoughts on the donation?

Young Malice: I heard about the donation and I think that a man’s earnings and what he chooses to do with them are HIS/HER business. He obviously had a reason, whatever that reason maybe and why he chose to give such a large amount to an institute, which is already one of the wealthier in the nation. There’s more to it than what meets the eye though, I can guarantee THAT. Headphone sales must be going well for Dre huh?! *laughs*

Jarrett Carter: It was disappointing, but not because he gave the money to a predominantly white college near where he grew up and lives; but disappointing in that we thought Dr. Dre somehow betrayed the HBCU community. I don’t know how many development officers have reached out to Dr. Dre or other rappers, athletes or actors, but the truth is that we have to reach out to young wealthy African Americans as our first and best targets for financial support. Many of these individuals have some connection to an HBCU – a relative or a friend, chances are, have been at or graduated from an HBCU. Being black is no longer a qualifier for attending or supporting an HBCU, and we would be wise to recognize this reality, expeditiously.

Do you believe there is disconnect between African American hip-hop artist and HBCUs? If there is disconnect, what could be done to fix it? If not, what could be done to strengthen the relationship? 

Young Malice: Well, there’s definitely a disconnect but like most problems in life we encounter it can be FIXED. As an artist, I’m forced to be capable of placing myself in another’s shoes and seeing ALL angles and not just my own view on things. With this being the case, I can understand why this “disconnect” between HBCUs and hip hop artists exists. I think that the HBCUs within our nation have worked so hard to shed this negative image, which has plagued us as black people for SO LONG that when anything or anyone does not conform to the standards that have been implemented they tend to be shunned. It’s deeply rooted and it will take a lot of work to understand and meet at a “common ground”.

Jarrett Carter: Absolutely. I think somewhere between controversial lyrics and the typical Ivory Tower arrogance mixed with the cultural obligation to “show others how to do better,” we totally ignored and ostracized hip-hop from HBCU culture. Which is particularly weird, since we have no problem inviting some of the more profane and controversial artists to campus to help sell homecoming concert tickets. The quickest way to build relationships with hip-hop is by genuinely drawing upon their skills and interests within the campus environment. How do you standout from others in the effort to be signed? (Career development) How do you market a product to vastly different audiences? (Personal branding) How do you stay grounded while financing so many people to manage your career? (Community empowerment) There are so many lessons to be learned from young sisters and brothers in the hip-hop community, if only we didn’t see ourselves as better or more enlightened then they are.

Some believe that hip-hop artist love HBCUs from a distance because the majority of the fans that buy the music are not African American and therefore do not want to alienate them. Do you believe this to be the case? Or misunderstanding?

Young Malice: Maybe some artists feel like they won’t be accepted by HBCUs and then again, maybe some desire no acceptance at all. I can recall many instances that shows that were booked at predominantly black colleges were canceled at the last minute mysteriously. It’s because certain artists represent EVERYTHING that the HBCUs are AGAINST…and that’s just the truth of the matter…period. It’s deeper than records sales and fans. End of the day, you just ARE who you ARE. I love my HBCUs from up close, never at a distance…but the relationships need work.

As someone who grew up in Mississippi you have a ground view of the history between HBCUs and TWIs in the state. The discrepancy between Alcorn State, Jackson State, and Mississippi Valley State (combined endowments of $23 million) versus Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Southern Mississippi (combined endowments of $876 million) is overwhelming. It is hard to imagine institutional reparations being given by the Mississippi legislature but do you believe it is worth pursuing to even the field? Or do you see other ways HBCUs could even the resource playing field allowing them to effectively compete?

Young Malice: There won’t be any reparations. I have no complaints about growing up in Mississippi, because this place taught me so much. People will do whatever you LET them do and that’s my view on it. The HBCUs here have withstood the test of time, kept their dignity and class…even in the midst of blatant underfunding and being overlooked time and time again. Each one of those historically black colleges you named previously has something VERY special about them! I’ve visited them all and each has it’s own unique feel. You can feel the LOVE…and that’s something that money CAN’T buy. We know why the bigger colleges get the bigger funding. It’s not a hidden injustice, especially in Mississippi. The agenda is CLEAR and in your face. Time to come together – HBCUs and the hip-hop community…it’s bigger than US!

There are some who would say that because some of the negativity in the mainstream media about the images of hip-hop at times as violent and misogynistic that HBCU leaderships tend to prefer to not view these artist as potential donors or partners despite the potential impact it could have institutionally. Would you say that is an accurate statement?

Jarrett Carter: I think that is accurate, but if it is accurate, have HBCUs as the hubs of academic and cultural development reached out to these artists to give them new perspective on their artistry? Have we given them opportunities to travel, exposure to scholarly works and cultural information that helps them to grow?

Aside from the obvious financial support what are some ways that you believe hip-hop artist and the genre could best serve HBCUs philanthropically?

Jarrett Carter: I believe that before money, hip-hop artists could be some of our greatest and most influential brand ambassadors. By just wearing hats and t-shirts, or namedropping campuses in their songs, or consistently promoting their time spent on HBCU campuses, we could engage a totally new generation of HBCU enthusiasts across racial and economic lines.

What advice would you give to hip-hop donors new to the world of philanthropy?

Jarrett Carter: I would encourage hip-hop artists and executives to be open to hearing from HBCUs about opportunities for visiting lecture, specific opportunities to fund programmatic projects and initiatives, and to avail themselves to students working to enter fields of study in the performing arts – theater, opera, jazz, etc – thereby making themselves benefactors of historic and culturally important Black art forms.

In 2012, Forbes reported the top 20 earners in hip-hop pulled in an estimated $415 million in earnings and possibly hundreds of millions more by artist who choose to keep their earnings more private. All 100 plus HBCU endowments combined have combined endowments of only an estimated $2 billion with some HBCUs having no endowment at all. What do you envision being a win-win relationship between hip-hop and HBCUs that could see some of these earnings finding their way to HBCUs?

 Young Malice: I would say EMBRACE the hip-hop community or just try to embrace the elements of the culture that you are most comfortable with. Some artists tend to be a bit more extreme than others but then again so are some actors. If you wouldn’t turn Denzel Washington or Samuel L. Jackson away from your doors, then try to understand that most artists are just attempting to paint a picture…just so happens to be that it’s through your stereo. If the MONEY is good enough to be embraced, then the individual should be also. In my opinion – EMBRACE the hip-hop community with open arms – don’t be so quick to “judge”.

Jarrett Carter: In my mind, a mutually beneficial opportunity for HBCUs and hip-hop is if rappers are recording and publishing music from HBCU campuses with shared publishing and distribution rights. That students are involved in every step of a produced project – from A&R, to production, to marketing, to distribution. This ensures that the artist can build individual wealth, and that the schools can build endowments and scholarship opportunities.

In closing, both of you grew up as the rise of hip-hop was taking place. What was your favorite hip-hop memory as it related to an HBCU?

Young Malice: My favorite moments will be when I rock the HBCU crowds around the nation!

Jarrett Carter: The legend of Jay Z being scheduled to perform at Morgan’s homecoming concert in 1996, showing up late, and upon arriving, saying into the microphone, “I’m not coming out until ya’ll pay me my f*cking money.”

Thank you to Mr. Young Malice and Mr. Jarrett Carter for participating in this interview. 

The HBCUpreneur Corner – Morgan State’s Jarrett Carter, Sr. & Carter Media Enterprises


Name: Jarrett Carter Sr.

Alma Mater: Morgan State University, Class of 2003

Business Name & Description: Carter Media Enterprises, a new media development and consulting company with focus on coverage of African-American news and lifestyle.

What year did you found your company? 2008

What was the most exciting and/or fearful moment during your HBCUpreneur career? One of the most exciting highlights of my career thus far was the chance to give the keynote address to Hampton University’s Greer-Dawson-Wilson Student Leadership program. To take a stage at one of the nation’s most prestigious HBCUs headed by perhaps the greatest black college president in history, and to speak to students who will soon become esteemed leaders in a wide range of fields is something I will never forget. And I will be forever grateful to Hampton University for such a honor.


What made you want to start your own company? Understanding that media was changing in a way that would give more black people a chance to have media leverage and credibility, I thought that I would bring a unique perspective to some underrepresented elements of our culture, and so I started a series of blogs focusing on HBCU news and issues, black images in mass media, and hip-hop culture from an artistic perspective. (StereotypeSquad.com and RapReservoir.com, respectively.)

Who was the most influential person/people for you during your time in college? Morgan gave me so many great role models. Among my professors was Frank Dexter Brown, the creator of YSB Magazine, Dr. Ruthe Sheffey, one of the world’s leading experts on William Shakespeare and Zora Neale Hurston, Dr. Michael Bayton, a brilliant scholar and professor of American literature, and Dr. Burney Hollis, my Dean Emeritus of the MSU College of Liberal Arts who to this day remains a source of humor, insight and inspiration as a Morgan Man. All of these people taught me, but also inspired me to think as a creator and observer, and not just as a student.

How do you handle complex problems? I talk to my wife constantly. She really is my best friend, my harshest critic, and the love of my life. Between her perspective and mine, we are frequently able to hash out solutions for difficult problems. I’m also blessed to have great mentors and friends, whom I can depend on to talk critical issues in my life, or even to have discourse on cultural problems and issues. Many times, the discourse is a good way to exercise the brain in such a way that complex personal problems often reveal simple answers.

What is something you wish you had known prior to starting your company? I wish I had established a larger network of media industry contacts and officials at schools. Hampton President William Harvey once told me that the key to running a college is to run it as a business with educational objectives. I set out to tell stories and to improve perceptions about HBCUs, but if I could do it over again, I would have managed my company to operate as a media brand with outreach objectives from Day One.

What do you believe HBCUs and colleges of the African Diaspora can do to spur more innovation and entrepreneurship with their students and the local community? – I think that if colleges and universities mandated for the major courses to examine ownership and business building, our students would have a different outlook on what it means to be a professional, a community member and philanthropist. They would approach work from what they could own one day, and not what company is most prestigious to work for. In turn, I think our alumni and supporters would buy into this concept enough to support by giving money and expertise.

How do you deal with rejection? When I first got started, not well. I would buy into the stereotype that black people were hesitant to support their own. But three years in, I understand that when you don’t have a lot of resources, and you are a great idea with low-level executions, our people are much more likely to invest in a personality and vision than they are an actual product. Paul Quinn President Michael Sorrell once told me that there’s no such thing as ‘no,’ only ‘not yet.’ I have found this to be true at a professional and personal level, if you invest a lot of time analyzing your vision and personality, and working to make those things come to the front of every approach you make in business or in life.

When you have down time how do you like to spend it? I’m a very simple guy, so I love being with my wife and two sons. Watching sports, playing video games, and reading are the ways I get away to think about new ideas, or to just take my mind off of overwhelming topics, requests or development strategies. I’ve learned that you have to incorporate time off to let your mind, body and spirit recover from fully investing in your calling. If you don’t, you can’t appreciate the work that you’re called to do, or the fact that you are called to do it.

What was your most memorable HBCU memory? Strangely enough, graduating from a PWI with my master’s in communication management. The five years it took me to finish that degree – a year and a half to do course requirements and three years to assemble a non-racist, supportive thesis committee, were the toughest times I ever encountered. Finishing the program made me realize several things – one, how much tougher it must have been for our forbearers to seek and endure integration in the throes of civil rights. Two, how spoiled I was by the HBCU experience of having faculty push and support you beyond the classroom. Three, how much harder I need to work for HBCUs to get fair representation in the media, so that they won’t have to endure potential scenarios of isolation, racism or discrimination at a PWI as they work towards college degrees.

In leaving is there any advice you have for budding HBCUpreneurs? – College is a professional development and networking haven. You are there to learn about an industry, and to find your place within it. If you aren’t a business major, take some business courses for electives, and learn all that you can through volunteering and internship about how to do a job and manage a product. Before you leave, make sure that you have incorporated an LLC, and even if you don’t know what product or service you can offer, create a business idea that can evolve into a business plan. In a down economoy, it is the person with the most creativity, the most innovation, and the one who finds a need to fill that will become wealthy, and will be able to give back to our people to build more entrepreneurship in our communities.