City Councilman Nick J. Mosby visited several high schools Friday to connect teens with a group of people he knew would get their attention: Baltimore-bred rappers.
The councilman — whose West Baltimore district was the center of the unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray — enlisted Young Moose, Lor Scoota, Chino and others to talk to the students about their dreams and journeys, and provide their advice.
Mosby briefed the hip-hop artists before they took the stage at Carver Vocational-Technical High School.
"You should see yourselves in them and they should see themselves in you, through the positive things you're doing," he told them.
About 200 juniors at the school erupted into cheers and applause as the guests were introduced one by one. During a 30-minute panel discussion, the artists talked about challenges they faced growing up — such as the murder of a grandmother and the loss of friends — and the way their high school classes helped them in the real world.
"Sometimes you got to go through stuff before you get where you're going," Young Moose, whose birth name is Kevron Evans, told the students. "Keep grinding."
The young artists didn't directly mention last month's riots or Gray, the 25-year-old West Baltimore man who died after suffering a severe spinal cord injury and a crushed voice box while in police custody. Instead, they focused on their advice for the teens: Stay in school and keep dreaming about the future.
Sixteen-year-old Amara Boone, vice president of the Carver student government and one of the school's cheerleading captains, said hearing the rappers speak candidly allowed her to see "a side of them that we don't usually see."
"They don't have to perform to open up something in you," Boone said. "When you get the chance to listen to how they came up, it gives you some type of motivation to move forward."
Mosby served as an emcee during the school stops, which he branded the #EYEAMBaltimore Tour. Mosby is the husband of Baltimore's State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, who has filed criminal charges against six officers involved in Gray's arrest.
Nick Mosby asked the artists where they saw themselves in five or 10 years, what they think West Baltimore needs, and what it means to be a man.
He said he was compelled to organize the tour because he felt it was important for the city's youth to hear how people from their communities have achieved success.
Some of the artists acknowledged an imperfect route. Evans is named in pending drug cases being prosecuted by the state's attorney's office.
The charges stem from drugs uncovered during a raid sparked by a detective's investigation into his lyrics, according to charging documents. A lawyer for Evans did not return a request for comment Friday.
Mosby said the artists shouldn't be considered role models, but individuals with "shared experiences" who offered positive messages to the students.
"We're at a pivotal moment to try and get our children's attention, and attempt to provide them with positive reinforcement," Mosby said. "We can take a faculty member or principal or myself as a councilman to deliver that message, but it's a stronger message when it's delivered by folks who speak their language."
At Frederick Douglass High School, sophomores Dontay Walker, 16, and Kenneth Peay, 15, said they could see themselves in the artists. More than 350 ninth- and 10th-grade students attended the presentation there.
"It makes me feel like I could do so many things," said Walker, who thinks about pursuing a degree in electronics and technology at Morgan State University, or going on to law school.
"Everyone's the same," he said. "I can do some things he can't do, but he can learn how to do it. Anybody that's famous or rich, they ain't different."
Peay dreams about going to Duke University and playing in the NFL.
"If all of them from Baltimore can do it," he said, "I can do it."