Whose bright idea was it to have jailbird Meek Mill give an inspirational talk Thursday to the students at Boys Latin of Philadelphia Charter School?
Yes, Meek Mill - the filthy-mouthed, super-famous North Philly rapper who faces a hearing Friday for yet more probation violations: He skipped town without permission from his parole officer and is alleged to have submitted a cup of cold water instead of urine when he was drug-tested.
A video posted by Bryant Leach (@leach_the_legend) on Feb 4, 2016 at 7:55am PST
And, yes, Boys Latin - the wholesome, button-down, college-prep public school for city boys. Its code of conduct "promotes self-respect for others." It sets "high standards for achievement, character development, and emotional intelligence." And, by nurturing young men to value their "moral potential," it seeks to counter the pull of dangerous streets and craven culture.
It's a really, really good place.
When Daily News columnists Jenice Armstrong and Ronnie Polaneczky got wind of Mill's visit to Boys Latin, their jaws dropped.
Ronnie: OK, this will sound uncharitable, Jen, but I think the kids at Boys Latin deserved better. Mill is no role model. His behavior is the antithesis of what's promoted at Boys Latin.
Jenice: I saw a clip of him on Instagram pacing back and forth before the students, wearing a sweat suit with a stripe down the side. The students, mind you, were wearing navy-blue blazers and neckties. Some had on V-neck sweaters with neckties. And there was Mill looking like he was heading to a basketball court.
The kids loved it, of course. Mill's a superstar whose beefs with Drake are infamous. He also dates rap goddess Nicki Minaj. But what kind of message did his being there send?
Ronnie: I think the "message" he hoped to send had nothing to do with the kids and everything to do with his piggybacking onto the wholesomeness of Boys Latin as a way to curry favor with Common Pleas Court Judge Genece Brinkley. Mill is on probation for 2009 gun and drug charges. He spent five months in prison in 2014 for violating the probation. And in December he was found guilty of violating it again.
Brinkley said in December: "I bent over backward so he can have free range to grow his career . . . It didn't work out." Those are not the words of a judge who's in a forgiving mood. They're the words of a judge who's fed up.
Jenice: Mill just isn't an appropriate guest speaker. Latin Charter CEO Dave Hardy has a whole different spin on Mill's appearance, though. He told me that the rapper from North Philly, who was born Robert Rihmeek Williams, brought a valuable perspective on life to the seniors and eighth graders at the assembly.
"He talked about the mistakes he made - he dropped out of school in the 10th grade," Hardy said. "He wasn't glamorizing it. That's the kind of honesty these kids need to hear and I'm glad he was courageous enough to do that. He was very gracious. He spoke from the heart."
Ronnie: But so do a lot of people . . .
Jenice: That's my thought, as well. But Hardy believes that kids can take their inspiration from many places. He said that Mill talked a lot about how he worked hard to be successful - and say what you want about Mill's personal life, he's still a professional success. And he was able to make hard work sound "cool."
Hardy said, "We could get black men with MBAs and Ph.D.s to come in and tell the kids to work hard. They may listen or they may not." But if Mill "comes in and says it's 'cool,' then it automatically is cool."
Ronnie: God, that's depressing. And I'm still stuck on the fact that Mill violated his parole four times. That's arrogance - because, at 28, he's too old to play the "I was young and stupid" card. If this PR stunt lets him avoid the legal consequences of his arrogance, it'll tell the Boys Latin kids that fame and money trump maturity and responsibility every time.
Jenice: And can we talk about his song lyrics? Google the words to "I Be on That," which Mill performs with Minaj, Fabolous, and French Montana. I would print them here but they're pure garbage. Hardy seems like a really nice guy, but he didn't do his homework.
"I don't know his music," Hardy admitted about Mill's songs. "I'm 64. I like jazz. I like one or two rap songs . . . It's not my kind of music."
Ronnie: But there's good rap and awful rap. Mill's stuff is obscene, it promotes the degradation of women, and it glorifies the street life that Mill purportedly sought to escape.
Look, it's a free country; Mill is entitled to free speech and people are entitled to listen to it if they choose. But, man, if I were a parent and Mill was brought in to talk to my kids, I'd be livid.
Jenice: Oh, and get this: Mill's visit reportedly was instigated by his attorney, Frank DeSimone. How dare he parade his client around the kids? It's infuriating.
Ronnie: Whoa - didn't know that. DeSimone was once a mock-trial coach at the school, wasn't he? Talk about cynically exploiting a connection for questionable gain, on the backs of kids. Nice.
You know what, Jen? Let's stop talking about this.
I feel nauseous.
On Twitter: @RonniePhilly
On: Twitter: @JeniceArmstrong