Grammy-nominated producer visits New London high school
New London – Kevin “Khao” Cates has produced music for some of the biggest names in the music industry — superstars like R. Kelly, T.I., Lil’ Kim, Snoop Dogg and Pharell Williams.
But for three days last week,the Grammy-nominated Cates turned his attention to a less well known group — students from the New London Science and Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut.
Cates is the founder of KOOLriculum — a technology-driven media company that uses videos with a hip-hop flare to teach youth from pre-K through 12th grade. He has produced more than 600 songs on a host of subjects that will be ready to launch as a supplemental tool for educators nationwide at the beginning of the year.
The catalog of subjects range from a hip-hop version of the ABCs to a feature on writing essays.
Thanks to an invitation from Louis E. Allen Jr. — the two met at a seminar in Florida a few years back — Cates is collaborating with the New London high school students to produce a feature on physics. Allen is the director of development for New London Public Schools and magnet school theme coordinator.
About 20 students were picked for a two-day in-house field trip and helped to animate, write, produce and even sing on the track. Cates was also working on a song highlighting the school’s core academic values: creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.
Cates held several assemblies for students to highlight his other organization, the non-profit Bridge DA Gap, which offers social emotional development programs and features hip-hop inspired education and mentoring activities. Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson is listed as a member of the group's advisory board.
Allen said students were transfixed by the process and were gaining experience in a host of disciplines thanks to the project.
“He’s using music to inspire,” Allen said. “The kids love it.”
With headphones on, head bobbing and hands waving in conductor-like motions, Cates on Friday guided high school junior Chloe Murphy through a few lines of a rap song, having her repeat the lines “take me to the finish line, even after high school” until he was satisfied she had hit the right cadence.
Outside the makeshift studio, junior Shineika Fareus said she had rapped for a portion of the physics song.
“It’s cool to know how music can fit into everything,” Fareus said. “If you just tell someone about physics … it’s harder to get into it.”
Senior Ashanti’ Robinson, whose hope is to enter the field of forensic pathology after school, sang on the physics track and said, “It’s something I’ll always remember.”
“His gift is he really knows how to meet kids where they are. He grabs their attention and brings them in,” said Pamela Frazier-Anderson, executive director of Bridge DA Gap and vice president of educational services for KOOLriculum.
The use of students on the physics track is something he has not yet tried, Cates said. Of his break from the mainstream music and foray into the world of education, Cates said, “My dad always told me don’t just be successful, be significant. Leave a legacy behind.”