AP: Jay-Z Signs Math Educator Jovan Miles to Roc Nation

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Math Educator Jovan Miles

Somewhere in the future …

For the casual music fans, it’s easy to see why one might get confused looking at the initial Roc Nation artists. Jay-Z. J-Cole. Jay Electronica. The trifecta of J’s (and Willow Smith) have had their share of success either from the underground circuit to the international stage (in varying degrees). Yet, none of them have what the latest “J” has: the attention of classrooms for a whole city.

Enter Jovan Miles.

After another successful Roc Nation concert, the head honcho held a press conference at Phillips Arena to announce the formal signing of hometown hero Jovan Miles: a math academic coach and educator working out of Atlanta, GA. The signing marks the first time a record label has signed an educator to a major rap label of Roc Nation’s stature, and this event certainly didn’t go unnoticed. The press room had an audience equal parts media, politicians, business heads, parents, superintendents, and Jovan’s favorite constituency: his former and present students from the various classrooms he affected as teacher and academic coach for schools throughout Atlanta.

Jay-Z extolled the virtues of getting an education, stating that his primary purpose for the signing was to “ensure that more Black kids didn’t get the experience I did back in high school. Lots goes into the job, but we’re happy we can help.” His educational endeavors through his Shawn Carter Foundation only seemed focused on college, but with this statement, he may have rethought his strategy for philanthropy. Asked about the language of the contract, Jay-Z said, “Oh, it’s nothing like an artist contract. Think about it like a grant. Yeah, I called myself the Kennedy of the game, but now call me the MacArthur of the game, too. Genius.”

That drew laughs from the crowd.

Asked about the signing, Miles calls it a blessing. “It’s about time teachers get recognized for the things they do as professionals and not just the people entrusted in children’s future. Especially with what’s going on in Atlanta, I gotta thank Jay and the Roc for putting me on.” A journalist yelled out whether he would use the monies to get a Roc-A-Fella chain, he paused, then said, “Nah, I got kids to feed!” The crowd erupted, specifically his students who have had their slice of the Miles Experience.

“This is a big freakin’ deal!” said Elliott Wilson, editor of Rap Radar and former editor of XXL Magazine. “I’m usually not astounded by something Jay does, but this puts him over here,” waving his hand just above eye level. “See here? He’s past most rap philanthropists. And wannabes. Ha!”

“What you notice immediately about Jovan is his passion for teaching math,” added Danyel Smith, editor and author of She Is Every Woman. “If only most of my math teachers had that sort of passion, I probably would have liked math a bit more. Especially a Black male teacher? Hard to come by. We’ve always had guys like KRS-One and Poor Righteous Teachers who use the ‘teaching’ as an analogy, but an actual teacher signing? Awesome!”

Jovan Miles has a reputation for engaging as both students and educators alike, and his potential for national recognition might have been the key to his signing. Jose Vilson, fellow math educator in New York City, commented, “This might change the conversation some. No longer can we try to separate the art and science of teaching from lives as professionals. Now we got one person who got their money right; the others have to follow.” Asked if he may get signed to a label with a similar contract, “That might be nice, but do you think it’d be kinda weird having five J’s under the same roof? Who knows?”

While education reformers like Michelle Rhee couldn’t be reached for comment, it’s safe to say that critics have found such a contract somewhat inappropriate. “I think you can’t just throw money at the problem,” said Jonah Edelman of Stand for Children. “I get that he’s getting money, but why doesn’t the money go to the kids? Wu-Tang is for the children; why isn’t he?” He then retreated before we could ask about his more than five million dollar non-profit and his recent failure in Chicago.

The lights shone so bright at the press conference, Jovan in his patented argyle sweater vest, glistened through the Q&A session. The most charming moment may have come at the end when a student shouted to Jay-Z, “Give us a freestyle!” to which Jay replied, “Jovan, go in.”

“It’s Jovan Miles, forget all the imposters.
I’m so sick, I think I might need a doctor.
Look at the things I’ve done without a doctorate
Without the Doctor, without the beat, I’m still a monster.
Still drop the theorems worse than Pythagorean
First it was classrooms, now it’s coliseums
Museums where I took my students now is where you see em
First, they diss the kid and now they wanna be him …

OK, that’s all I got.”

“I can’t remember the last time I got an applause in the classroom. Whenever that was,” said Dr. Steve Perry, principal of Capital Preparatory School in Hartford, CT. But Jovan’s obviously not about that, at least that’s what we surmise from the kids who hugged him afterwards.

Jose, who doesn’t think anyone knew I would do this …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

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