I had the pleasure of sitting down with Teacher-Educational Rapper Lamar Queen better known as “Mr. Q-U-E”. Lamar is a Southern California high school teacher with a very unique story. While he had a passion that led him to teaching, an even greater passion (and persistent students) led him to rapping about a subject that students often struggle with – math. Mr. Q-U-E is inspirational to the students he teaches across the country through his raps while motivating them to excel in school. He and his business partner, Jimmy Pascascio, (a fellow teacher) own the educational music company Music Notes.
In addition to gracing the classroom with his musical talent, Lamar also leads training and in-service for teachers to be more effective at ensuring their students comprehend complex material while enjoying what they are learning. He also inspired me as a fellow creative. I hope you are inspired by this educational prodigy as well! Let’s jump right in!
9toFlyGirl: Tell me about your background and how your career started.
Lamar: In undergrad [Grambling State University] I was initially a Business major. Someone saw how I worked with kids and suggested I look into Education. So I switched majors my junior year. I knew I wanted to run a business after college but this isn’t what I thought I’d be doing. I taught elementary school in Louisiana for my student teaching.
9TFG: How did you get to be Mr. Q-U-E? What is the story behind that?
Lamar: Well my original stage name was whack…
Lamar: I rapped “Mr. Q-U-E” in a song then changed it to that. It actually is an acronym: Mr. Queen Understands Everybody.
9TFG: I’ve heard you mention before that rapping in the classroom came about in an interesting way. Can you explain how that happened?
Lamar: Yeah. (Laughs) My first year teaching my students said I was boring. They said I looked like Kanye West so I should rap. My students didn’t know I could actually rap. I started rapping and it changed the culture of the classroom. It was sort of a way of “brainwashing” them into taking notes.
(*Communal laugh part II*)
9TFG: How has incorporating this talent changed your teaching career?
Lamar: Other teachers started wanting to observe my classroom. They started asking me to perform for groups. Then my business partner asked me about shooting a video and it took off online. I found my calling in teaching through music. Students and teachers demanded the music.
9TFG: Prior to you combining music and teaching, would you say you were fulfilled in your career?
Lamar: Well I was only teaching for 2 weeks before it all started. So this has pretty much been my whole career, aside from subbing short term. But I would say I’m greedy to reach more. I’m continuously looking to help students and teachers. I provide training for districts to use my music.
9TFG: Did you have prior interest in music?
Lamar: Yes. I grew up singing in the choir at church. I taught myself how to play the keyboard. In middle school I used to rap free style about school…funny how that’s where I am today.
Lamar: I created my first song in 7th grade. I’ve always had a passion for music. Toward the end of high school I was introduced to recording just for fun. I always hung around musicians.
9TFG: How did you envision your career 10 years ago? Was what you do now anywhere in the plan?
Lamar: My goal [in teaching] has always been to help parents and teachers. I thought I’d get my masters degree and be a published author writing educational journals. I wanted to write insight on how to reach kids. I guess my journals are now in the form of cds and dvds. Now I’m presenting at workshops for students, parents and teachers.
9TFG: How would you encourage a teacher or other professional that may be uninspired?
Lamar: I actually present on this topic to in-service teachers. I tell them to listen to their students. Observe what they like. I also tell them to value others like friends that can help give ideas. They should take these steps before teaching [new material] then observe the students behavior. I use the acronym L.O.V.E.: Listen, Observe, Value, Educate to teach this concept.
9TFG: What would you say to the professional that can’t afford to quit their day job but wants to do something more creative?
Lamar: Make the time and be committed. You will have to work for a certain amount of time before it gets off the ground. You have to have the mindset of “I actually DO have time”. Look for those pockets of time. Even if it’s only a few hours a week.
9TFG: What is your “secret” to success?
Lamar: An undeniable belief in yourself and your product. Faith the size of a mustard see can move mountains. So doubt the size of a mustard seed can crush mountains. Find at least 1 person who thinks the same as you [about your product]. Even if others around you don’t get it, that person will. For me, it’s my business partner. Also, you have to stick to your vision. Everything will come into fruition by sticking to your own thing.
9TFG: Where can the readers find more information about Mr. Q-U-E and Music Notes?
Lamar: We have a website and I’m on social media.