Published: Friday, January 17, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 17, 2014 01:01
Although Tate Tucker (COL ’14) no longer studies in the School of Foreign Service, that hasn’t stopped him from making a global impact. A California native, Tucker has been rapping since high school, and his talent has scored him millions of views on YouTube, huge performance opportunities and international recognition.
Long before “Harlem Shake” clips had gone viral, Tucker recorded his own version of the song, which ended up being a massive milestone for him.
“At the time it was the craziest thing ever,” Tucker said. “We shot the video like three months before the whole craze happened. My manager at the time was all about the future. ‘We’re going to be ahead of everything’; that’s how he approached me at one of my shows when we met. He was like, ‘In three months, this will be the thing.’”
And his manager was right. Tucker’s video has been viewed over six million times. “It was still pretty surprising,” Tucker said. “He obviously didn’t think it was going to be to that extent.”
Considering Tucker’s success, it’s shocking to think he considered quitting rap upon being accepted to Georgetown.
“I got into rapping just as a hobby in high school because it got me into parties, and it was a cool thing to do. And as soon as I got into Georgetown, I wanted nothing to do with it,” Tucker said. He had his mind set on success, which he believed he would find in the SFS.
“I was on my fast track to becoming something or someone. I didn’t quite know what, but I knew it was going to be something political and powerful. So, the School of Foreign Service was my passion at the time,” Tucker said.
When he arrived on campus, however, his plans changed after performing for one of rap music’s biggest stars.
“My friend invited me to go to his ‘Sociology of Hip Hop’ class with Professor Michael Eric Dyson, and I rapped for him. I was a big fan of him before the class, so it was awesome that he said he liked it,” Tucker said. “We bumped into him at Wisey’s, and he said that he was going to have Lupe Fiasco come into class the next week. He wanted me to come in and rap for him.”
Following his performance for Fiasco, which received positive reception on numerous blogs and Facebook pages, opportunities opened for Tucker as a rapper.
“That was the start. A lot of different people reached out to me,” he said. “That was when I first realized that this is something that people like more than just an entrance to a party. It’s not a party trick anymore.”
Beyond Tucker’s YouTube success, his music has been played frequently on France’s top hip-hop radio station and has been featured on “Access Hollywood.” While he was amazed by those achievements, nothing has been quite as surprising to him as his popularity in Papua New Guinea.
“My friend is like a hitchhiking farmer, and he took a little soul-searching trip to Papua New Guinea,” Tucker said. “At several different bars, he would just hear my music playing on the radio.”
Now a senior, Tucker expresses how much of his artistic growth he owes to his education at Georgetown. Although it has sometimes been difficult for him to balance his music and schoolwork, he believes that he benefited from his studies as an English major.
“I took classes that were really conducive to developing my writing, my prose. I’ve really improved in terms of my critical thinking and my ability to articulate my thoughts,” Tucker said. “I kind of got obsessed with random literature classes like ‘The 18th Century Novel.’ It was more about reading text that I was unfamiliar with to work on my mechanics, and I think that’s added subtle influence to my music and my outlook.”
After Georgetown, Tucker will begin working for Teach for America, but he still has plans to pursue a music career. When he considers his post-graduation path, however, he hopes to retool the themes of his music to make more of a social impact.
“I just think the things I’ve been rapping about the last couple of years have been petty in comparison to the things that I’m going to be confronting and the things I’m going to be fighting for,” Tucker said. “Just with the thoughts of social inequality and literacy disparities, I want to start gearing toward music that is able to inspire and uplift. It’s kind of failing other people if I try to be ignorant when I’m not.”
As part of his new musical focus, Tucker will soon release two new tracks, which he calls some of his strongest work ever.
“The best is yet to come,” Tucker said. “It’s going to surprise people.” And when it arrives, it’s sure to be a hit, from Georgetown all the way to Papua New Guinea.