Shawn Carter, better known today as the rapper and business mogul Jay-Z, came of age in Brooklyn’s underprivileged Marcy Projects housing complex. And yet, within the walls of neighborhood public school I.S. 318, Carter flourished, finding refuge in words.
He has talked throughout the years about his connection with a beloved sixth-grade teacher who inspired him, i interviews with Teen People, Forbes and most recently in an appearance on David Letterman’s Netflix show “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.”
That teacher, Renee Rosenblum-Lowden, is Jewish.
On the episode of Letterman’s show that debuted in April, Carter detailed the critical role Rosenblum-Lowden played in his formative years.
“I had a sixth-grade teacher. Her name was Ms. Lowden, and I just loved the class so much,” Carter told the former “Late Show” host. “Like reading the dictionary, and my love of words — I just connected with her.”
In 1980, Rosenblum-Lowden — who is now 77 and lives in Maryland — taught sixth grade at I.S. 318. In a recent interview with The Washington Post, sh remembered “Shawn,” as he continues to call him, as smart and linguistically capable beyond his years.
“The thing I remember about Shawn is he took the reading test and he scored 12th grade in the sixth grade,” Rosenblum-Lowden said.
In an interview with Teen People in 1999, Carter fondly recalled a time whe she took his class to her house in Brooklyn, as a kind of “field trip.”
“You know many teachers who’d take a bunch of black kids to their house?” he said.
He told Forbes in 2010 that the trip opened his eyes to a different world he could aspire to.
“My neighborhood had been my world,” he said. “It’s the only thing I had seen. I saw a whole different world that day, and my imagination grew from there. I wanted that. I aspired to have that. The small things. She had an ice thing on her refrigerator. You know, you push it and the ice and the water comes down. I wa really amazed by that. I was like, I want one of those.