Will.i.am: 'Education is the core to all of our problems'
13 January 2021
will.i.am joins Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1 for an in-depth conversation about his new $5 million GoFundMe fundraising initiative to benefit his i.am Angel Foundation, and debuts new song “American Dream”.
Funds raised will be used to expand delivery of STEM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education programmes for college-bound students in underserved communities.
will.i.am Tells Apple Music About The Lyrical Content of “American Dream”... What I was thinking when I wrote the lyrics, "They're talking opportunity, but they don't mean it for people like me. They be talking equality, but they don't mean it for people like me. They say opportunity, but I don't see none in my streets. Statistically, I'll be in a penitentiary. So I'm going to get on that College Track and go to an Ivy League," I was just thinking about progress and contribution to society and, if I was 16 years old, 15 years old and music wasn't the path, what would I be reaching for? There's a lot of kids that maybe they don't want to do music, maybe they don't want to play sports. And they love technology, they love gaming, but they don't have anybody that looks like them. So let me go down this College Track path, let me apply myself in these sciences. I was thinking about that, the simple method to contribute.
And then I see people storming the Capitol. And then I'm like, wow, now when I say the American Dream and there's an American nightmare happening right now, how are people going to take that sentiment? Are they going to take it ... because everyone's sensitive. Everyone's emotions are on edge. I hope they see the beauty in togetherness. I hope they see the beauty in open-mindedness. I hope people see the beauty of tolerance. I hope they see the beauty of collaboration.
will.i.am Tells Apple Music About What The Idea of The American Dream Means To Him The American Dream is like, you work hard, you apply yourself, and you can make all your dreams come true. You work hard, you apply yourself, and you could get up out of that nightmare. Those people that have come from Poland in the past, Ireland in the past, Iran in the past, Armenia in the past and even currently, and they were refugees of war torn countries. And they come to America and they tell that tall tale of like, "My dad came to America with nothing." And you see those people and you're like, "Wow, how you living like?" That's the American Dream. But then there's people that are living in war torn countries, like in ghettos in America and it's hard for them to escape that the way those immigrants have come to America. And they're awesome, the folks that have contributed and built businesses. But the same doesn't apply for folks in the inner city, right? For some reason, there's like this force field that keeps folks from the inner cities achieving that same American Dream that many immigrants have reached.
will.i.am Tells Apple Music About The Importance of STEM Education… You got to give them these skill sets right now. And there's so many jobs that are unfilled. If you don't believe me, ask Google, Facebook, ask General Motors, ask Johnson and Johnson, Microsoft, and a lot of those jobs, they would like to be filled by Americans. Ask the Department of Defense and Lockheed & Martin. All right, it's a national defense urgency that we have Americans filling DoD jobs. How would you get Americans, especially from the inner city to fill a Department of Defense jobs? They need to learn robotics. Why? Because autonomy and robotics is probably the way that we're going to protect our nation in the future, if not already now. So to have a computer science degree, to have a biology degree, bioscience degree, these kids need that in the inner city. And as technology gets more advanced and more advanced and more advanced, the people that are going to be left out of that equation, well, you know it's going to be inner city kids.
The hood in 2040 is worse than a hood right now. The hood in 2050 is far worse than the hood right now. And if you're not learning technology right now then your five-year-old, when that five-year-old is 45, 35, 55 years old, struggling. Why do you want that? And how can you fast track them to not be struggling, but to be providing and influencing and creating a better tomorrow? You teach them these simple skill sets that might seem hard right now. You encourage them right now to be the best scientists and engineers and mathematicians. It's super important.
will.i.am Tells Apple Music About The Importance of Empowering Children Through Education… Imagine a disaster like a hurricane or a tornado or earthquake, but those things you can't control that. You could do your best to try to prepare for that and to prepare for that, you need education on how to build, so engineering skills to make sure you have buildings that could withstand earthquakes or tornadoes or tsunamis, typhoons and things like that. So even combating mother nature, you need engineering skills, science skills. If you want to solve the environmental problems, you need to be educated. If you want to solve health problems, you need education. For every single problem that you have, and like the 20, 30 millennial goals, for every one of them, the core to solving all of them is education. Conflict with other nations, you need political knowledge, foreign policy, you need education. Education is the core to all of our problems.
will.i.am Tells Apple Music About The i.am College Track… I started off with 65 kids. I remember sitting down with Laurene Powell Jobs where she was like... So first I asked her if she could bring College Track to my neighbourhood because I watched this documentary called, Waiting for Superman. It was about the worst schools in America and how America is failing in education. And one of the schools that they highlighted was the school that my mum went to, Roosevelt High School. That was a school that I should have went to, but she sent me out to Palisades in Brentwood. So when I asked Laurene, "Hey, this movie's called Waiting for Superman, and it's a really messed up title because it's waiting for a fictitious character to solve real problems, but your programme is pretty heroic and you're Superwoman. Can I take your programme to my neighbourhood?" She was like, "Well, if you're serious about this, Will, this is like a $10 million commitment and 10 years at least. Because once you start with a kid, you have to see that kid all the way through. So, if you're in, this is what the commitment is. This is not like, this is how you feel this year and who knows how you feel next year, because it's not fair to the kids." So I was like, "Let's do it." And at that time, when I started the program in 2008, I didn't have money like that to commit to $10 million and 10 years of my life. That was a scary moment. That was scarier than my mum saying, "How are you going to pay for this mortgage?" But because I realized that I could go up the mountain with the family on my back and do it, that one didn't scare me. I just like, "Let's do it. Let's go, I'll figure it out." And we figured it out to the point where that site is one of the highest performing College Track sites. My i.am College Track site is the highest performing site with the most kids that graduate. We have kids going to Brown. We have kids going to Dartmouth, USC, UCLA, MIT, and Carnegie Mellon is what we're reaching for next.
will.i.am Tells Apple Music About Stacey Abrams and Last Week’s Events At The Capitol… There's just so much going on right now. We've lost the compass on the American dream. And there's so many people fighting for that American dream, like Stacey Abrams, the American dream right there. And how Georgia came through to push for progress, equality of the American dream. But then what just happened right now in the Capitol building, that's the opposite of the American dream and not to take away their passion because they obviously have something they're passionate about. That's just the wrong way to go about handling your home. We're Americans, we're supposed to come together and find that bridge, so we're all, all right, everyone, black, white, brown, rich, poor. And I don't understand how they can do that to our home.