Hip-Hop has proven itself to be a genre that not only impacts the scope of music but culture as a whole. However, Grammy-nominated producer Kevin “Khao” Cates has discovered a new use for hip-hop through education.
Known for working with artists like Jay-Z, T.I., Snoop Dogg, Pharrell, Lil Kim, and others, Cates uses his gift for making music to improve K-12 education.
“I’ve been blessed to be a part of over 25 million records sold. I’ve produced T.I.’s “Why You Wanna,” and I was also the lead producer on the “King” album,” Cates said.
His platform, KOOLriculum, is the product of a five-year process to create over 600 songs teaching math, science, social studies, and English for students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Before deciding to develop the platform Cates received a lot of requests from superintendents, asking him if he had something to improve test scores; especially after his textbooks were able to enhance their students’ behavior.
The textbook that they were referring to was a product was of his non-profit organization Bridge DA Gap, which combined hip-hop and music education to mentor students.
“I wrote a textbook that would help guide our youth if they don’t have those positive role models, Cates said.”
With actress Meagan Good onboard as the spokesperson, Bridge DA Gap was able to produce 25 courses used in four school districts in the United States and the Bahamas.
Notable people including the cast of the “Sister Circle Live”, Kesha Ward (wife of 2 Chainz), singer Queen Naija, and rapper Cardi B have been some of Bridge DA Gap’s biggest supporters and customers.
“I’m going to be getting one to Cardi B soon,” Cates said. “Queen Naija, I’ll be getting her son one, and I’ve actually talked with 2 Chainz’s wife, and she has a daycare. So, I was going to be getting them over there as well.”
However, while Bridge DA Gap focuses on life skills and mentorship for older kids, KOOLriculum is the solution to tackling education for all kids.
“I would get frustrated with certain educators that may not care so much about what our youth were going through. My gift is meeting our youth where they are,” Cates said.
“I went, and I looked at the national standards and every single item from kindergarten to twelfth grade, I made a list of songs to create.”
With two versions of KOOLriculum, one for traditional school and other for homeschoolers, Cates’ platform has received positive responses from students, teachers, and school administrators.
“Their kids can log in, and they have this subscription and work on school work,” he said.
According to Cates, creating KOOLriculum allowed him to channel his passion for music and hip-hop into a vehicle for education.
“In my eyes, how can I make Algebra sound hot and make a kid not only learn it but retain the information,” Cates said. “The hooks and everything is so catchy that it’s something they will want to listen to any way regularly.”
The system works similarly for homeschoolers, who are able to utilize the search engine and hear videos, and do activities.
“We also have it set up for the teachers to where we have all of the standards, so they can click on a standard and drag and drop the songs they want to use for that classroom earlier in the day,” Cates said. “They can also create playlists for their students when they go home.”
More recently, he’s developed an addition to KOOLriculum called Kool AR.
“Kool AR is the app in the book that we created for our early child learners from 18-months to 7-years old. We teach them phonics, multiplication, and the alphabets and much more,” Cates said.
The entrepreneur created the app for smartphone, and tablets due to “the app accessing your camera, and when you aim the camera at the book, the book comes to life on your phone or tablet.”
The app also comes with an augmented reality feature, with characters possessing the ability to hop on a desk in front of students.
“It’s cutting edge and never been done,” Cates said.
As a huge advocate for the youth, Cates is determined to continue to find new ways to marry his musical talents with his passion for helping kids. It’s essentially a labor of love for him.
“I love the youth. You can have tons of plaques on the walls and accolades, but those things fade away,” he said. “People forget, but if you have significant than your legacy lives on.”