Hey young world

Known for his hip-hop videos rapping to Marshalltown High School students about social distancing and wearing masks dubbing himself the ‘hip-hop administrator,’ Associate Principal William Terry said hip-hop can be an effective form of delivering uplifting messages and advocating for equality.

One of Terry’s missions has been helping students adjust to the turbulent present.

“One of my goals has been to get students comfortable with this new world we’re living in with coronavirus, getting acclimated to wearing masks,” he said.

Another goal for Terry has been opening up the atmosphere at Marshalltown High School to be a place to discuss important social issues.

“My goal is for students to have a voice. I’m just working here but it’s really their school,” he said.

Terry chose hip-hop as a direct and relatable way of reaching students, hip-hop being an art form many students appreciate.

“It’s their language. It’s one of the biggest formats worldwide, so I think when you can use that especially to reach young people it’s positive,” Terry said.

Terry said work has been challenging, but is learning a lot about the school district and curriculum.

“I think the biggest thing that I bring personally is the ability to rapport with students, to meet them where they’re at,” Terry said. “I kind of like to blur the lines. I don’t like to be looked at as traditional or what people may think of as a principal. That helps me build rapport with students, where they can just have a regular conversation with me and they know I’m just a guy here trying to help them out be successful in their careers.”

A lot of Terry’s day to day work includes making himself visible during passing times and by visiting classrooms, frequently checking in on behavior disorder and significant disability classrooms. He meets with a group of students in his office for quick sessions discussing their mental health and challenges.

Unlike his students, Terry witnessed the origins of hip-hop firsthand while for the younger generation it’s always been around. He said many thought hip-hop would be a fad like disco music in the 1970s, but the longevity of hip-hop has been proven given its worldwide popularity today.

When hip-hop began to rise in the 1980s and 1990s, Terry said a lot of negative stereotypes surrounding hip-hop became the focus from outsiders to the music genre.

“Hip-hop started off as a vehicle or avenue for those in inner cities to have a shared experience, sort of like creating something out of nothing,” Terry said. “I think once hip-hop hit the mainstream a lot of the not so positive messages and tropes within hip-hop rose to the top and people associated that as the totality of hip-hop.”

Terry said he’s been rapping since his youth, growing up listening to hip-hop acts such as Public Enemy, N.W.A. and KRS-One.

Uplifting and social justice messages within hip-hop was what got Terry interested in performing himself.

“A lot of their music was political, conscious music,” Terry said. “I’ve always gravitated toward having some type of message whenever I rap.”

The first time Terry rapped for students was when he was working at Woodward Academy as an introduction to a class.

“I just put on an instrumental in front of class one day and tried something different and they liked it, and I haven’t looked back,” Terry said.

He said he’s been given kudos by students and administrators alike for his creative messaging.

“From superintendent on down have supported me putting out rap videos and using that as a vehicle,” Terry said.


Contact Trevor Babcock

at 641-753-6611 or



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