Rapper Chipmunk: Girls Like The Smart Guys
Chipmunk is better known for his rapping talents and duets with R'n'B superstars such as Chris Brown and Keri Hilson than as a figurehead for education campaigns.
So the 20-year-old, who cites Tinie Tempah among his friends and can boast of two Mobo music awards, seemed an unlikely candidate to back an O2-funded initiative to establish homework clubs for young people.
There will no doubt be some of you wondering how on earth interviewing one third of furry trio the Chipmunks (indeed, a colleague politely enquired "which one?") could be relevant to education. Well rest assured this rapper is neither Alvin, Simon nor Theodore - his real name is Jahmaal Noel Fyffe and he is in fact, an incredibly successful young artist, wielding huge influence over the youth of today.
Surprisingly, Chipmunk is genuinely passionate about education and keen to use his influence beneficially.
"There needs to be more of an understanding about how to connect directly to young people with the right message. If there’s anyone these young people will listen to it’s us. Musicians, footballers - people in glamourised professions."
The platinum album-producing young man has his head screwed on and feet firmly on the ground when it comes to being a role model.
"I would advise people to go as far in education as possible, but do it for yourself. At quite a young age I realised it was important to educate yourself for yourself because education is priceless. It’s timeless.
"There’s certain life skills that come from being educated and we’re fortunate enough to be given the opportunity. Some people in third world countries would pray to have school, or a pen, or a ruler."
Armed with this unexpectedly mature attitude, Chipmunk makes the perfect partner for Marie Perryman Goins, a London youth worker, who is the brains behind the homework club initiative.
The inspiration behind the campaign, she tells Huffington Post UK, was simple.
"Lots of the young people I work with were telling me they were getting into trouble at school and home for not doing homework. So I lent them my computer, and provided them with the right equipment and it’s just grown from there."
Rather than overcomplicating the programme with aims, targets and strategies, Marie sets up shop and youths just turn up. It helps the 25-year-old is in tune with what makes young people tick.
"They'd much rather be out having fun than doing homework. The purpose is not to separate the two, but mix them together. It's all about encouraging young people to take responsibility for themselves and learn to manage their time accordingly."
But Marie admits it's not all fun and games. "Unfortunately there's only so many ways I can split myself. I can only run one club at a time. That's why I started the campaign - to encourage others to follow my lead."
The youth worker has created a checklist video so young people can identify the need for a homework club in their community and set one up themselves. Marie is hoping to expand from her club currently running in Kennington but will need more funding to do so.
The homework club campaign has been sponsored by O2's Think Big youth programme, which gives young people who do want to make a difference the chance to do so. Marie's campaign launched as research commissioned by O2 revealed almost two thirds of 11 to 18 year-olds admit to needing to do two hours more homework in order to succeed at school.
Almost half cited 'hectic lifestyles' as the reason for not doing enough homework.
Chipmunk, whose school days are not far behind him, sympathised with the difficulties of balancing social life and schoolwork.
"As soon as I got home everyone was out playing football so it was hard to motivate yourself. I found it incredibly hard to balance music with studies, especially as I signed my record deal when I was still at college. Sometimes I’d come into school with Tesco bags under my eyes but my teachers helped me sort out a work schedule around my shows."
“Where I grew up the girls liked the smart guys. Mr Popular wasn’t dumb. It might have been the case before my generation, but for my age, having a degree is standard. The whole perception that being educated is not cool is out the window. It’s finding the balance of educating yourself, keeping your options open. Being educated in life, it’s a good thing.”
The rapper wants to drum home the importance of being educated - whatever your profession.
"It would be so good one day to be a footballer or a hairdresser – if that’s what you’re good at – but also have something else to be proud of. Don’t spend 11 years in school and come out with nothing."
But, just as he starts to sound wise beyond his years, he slips back into being a young rapper with 'street cred' to protect by adding:
"It's a waste man ting."
Huffington Post UK senses the interview is over and thanks him for his time.
"Sweet", he replies. "Now I can get back to ma Blackberry."