Rapper 50 Cent is taking part in Dream School, a SundanceTV reality show that is based on education. In a press event for the show’s second season four years ago, he told Rolling Stone, “I started assessing my legacy and how I want people to remember me. Not as a guy who made a couple of cool songs or picked up a couple of good roles in film and television, but more as someone who helped others the most.” The rapper went on to explain that having to deal with the business side of music business for his 2009 album Before I Self Destruct that it gave him plenty of time to reflect on who he wants to be.
In 2011, 50 Cent saw a British documentary called Jamie Oliver’s Dream School in which the eponymous chef brings students with records of low performance in school to a specialized “dream school” where teachers and celebrities work with students. The rapper/businessman knew immediately that he wanted to take part in the U.S. version of the show, which premiered last year on SundanceTV in Los Angeles. 50 Cent was involved as both a teacher and a producer. In a panel alongside civil rights lawyer Gloria Allred, who is also a teacher on the show, 50 Cent said, “When the students get a chance to see people that are in a position that they can aspire to who have had similar tough situations in front of them, then they don’t make excuses for not being successful and can identify with them.”
Season Two of the U.S. premiered Wednesday, October 1st at 10pm on EST on SundanceTV. The cast of celebrity mentors includes chef and restaurant owner David Chang, Chuck D who is also executive producer, figure skater Johnny Weir, and LouAnne Johnson, who wrote My Posse Don’t Do Homework (1993), a book later made into the popular film Dangerous Minds, as the school’s principal. The students are fifteen New York City kids who have either been expelled or dropped out and who will now be offered a chance to graduate. 50 Cent is hopeful on their success. “They look at the content you create that is aimed at the dysfunctional behavior in the communities you grew up in and they know you know. It’s an opportunity to utilize your celebrity in the right way.”
More that 3 million U.S. students annually drop out of school. With this in mind, civil rights lawyer Allred said she tried to focus on something positive with the Dream School: NYC students, by asking them to complete the sentence, “I am unfortunate because…but I am fortunate because….” An idea of the troubled lifestyle the students on the show have had to deal with is apparent in one student’s answer: “I am unfortunate because a lot of my homeboys have been killed, but I am fortunate because I still have some left.” 50 Cent can identify well with these students, having had a troubled past himself. “These kids are smart,” he says, “they’re just taking on bad habits.” For many of the kids, Dream School is the last opportunity for them, and they understand how lucky they are. “Even in 12-step programs,” the rapper says, “they tell you to change people, places, and things. But when you go home into the same environment, you start doing things that are connected to the bad habits.” Lucky for these kids, they get another opportunity, one with support from people who can relate and empathize with them.