How one teacher helped Jay-Z become a rap icon
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How one teacher helped Jay-Z become a rap icon

Jay-Z is the wealthiest man in hip-hop and since 1995, Hov has been bringing us quality music. From Reasonable Doubt to 4:44, the Brooklyn rapper has been around since the days of Big Daddy Kane and Biggie Smalls. As one of the first artists from the genre to achieve billionaire status, Hov (real name Shawn Carter) is considered one of the best rappers of all time. 

Born and raised in the drug-infested Marcy Projects, a public housing scheme located in Bedford-Stuyvesant of Brooklyn, Carter was raised by his mother. Brooklyn was a musical hotspot during the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially for hip-hop. As an adolescent, Carter attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School along with rappers The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes.

With regard to education, in 2010, Carter had an interview with Charlie Rose for his talk show, The Charlie Rose Show. Conducted at the Brooklyn Museum, the long sit-down interview saw Jay-Z speak on his journey from the destitution of the Marcy Projects to the heights of Billionaire status and included a segment in which Jay-Z spoke about his experiences in the education system. While elaborating on his ups and downs throughout school, Carter highlighted and credited his sixth-grade English teacher for sparking his love of language and showing him the acute power of words.

Further detailing his sixth-grade enlightenment, Carter named his teacher and revealed her name was Ms Lowden. Following this, the renowned newspaper The Washington Post found Miss Lowden so people could get a greater insight into her interactions with the billionaire rapper. Born Renée Rosenblum-Lowden, the former teacher remembered Jay-Z as well and even referred to him as Shawn. Ms Lowden no longer lives in New York but lives in Maryland.

However, in 1980, she taught sixth grade at I.S. 318, a middle school in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Known as a school for low-income families, over 90% of the students are African-American. Speaking to journalist Travis Williams in 2018, Lowden unveiled how Carter was an avid reader and became one of her best-performing pupils. Remembering her experiences teaching Jay-Z Lowden recalled, “The thing I remember about Shawn is he took the reading test, and he scored 12th-grade in the sixth grade. I remember telling him — because I really feel it’s important to tell kids they’re smart — I said, ‘You’re smart; you better do well.’ And he listened!”

Lowden said in the late ’90s she began hearing about Jay-Z from her students but never knew it was Carter declaring, “I didn’t know Shawn was Jay-Z at that time.” Lowden later elaborated about how she found out, detailing how it was only after she had read a 1999 Teen People profile of Jay-Z (which highlighted his birth name) that she found out. The profile was written by Jay-Z himself as a way he could let his fans know a bit more about who he was. In the piece the Brooklyn rapper wrote about Louden, highlighting her as “someone who helped turn [his] life around.”

Jay-Z wrote about a school trip, penning, “She took our class to her house in Brooklyn on a field trip You know many teachers who’d take a bunch of black kids to their house?” Carter also spoke about when she took his class to the New York Transit Museum. When asked about this in 2018, Lowden recalled the trip and explained, “We walked to the promenade and saw the skyline, and then I thought it’d be fun for them to come up to my apartment.” In his 2018 appearance on No Introduction With David Letterman, Jay-Z explained how much Lowden meant to him as he fondly remembered, “I had a sixth-grade teacher. Her name was Ms Lowden, and I just loved the class so much. Like reading the dictionary and my love of words. I just connected with her.” You can learn more about Jay-Z from Ms Lowden in the video below.