People of Duke Arts: Andre Mego ’20 Blends Pre-Med, Writing, and Hip Hop

Duke senior Andre Mego is a producer, pianist, and marketing merchandise coordinator at 9th Wonder’s label Jamla Records. Andre has also written and published two books. His latest, Reverend Duckworth, explores the connections between Kendrick Lamar’s discography and his own spiritual development.

In this interview, Mego discusses pursuing his passion for music while managing pre-med requirements at Duke. He reflects on how other students can manage their love for the arts even if it does not directly align with their course of study.

Why did you decide to major in biology, and how have you managed to simultaneously pursue music?

My dad is from Peru. He became a doctor in the States, which is why medicine is so important to my family.  He imposed the significance of medicine to upward mobility on me throughout my childhood. When you’re little, you don’t really think about it. I figured I’d be a doctor, but I always knew I didn’t want to—it was always music for me.

Rapsody, an artist who is friends with my dad, talked to him about a job offer Jamla Records wanted to provide me during my internship. So as a collective, the Jamla team and I finally convinced him. That was after I finished all my premed courses, which was funny timing, but I wanted to finish in order to have that be part of my story.

How did you start working with Jamla Records?

I’ve been a fan of 9th Wonder since I was 10—and he doesn’t know this—but when I was applying to Duke, I put him in my application essays. I took a class with him my freshman fall, and we just hit it off. In the spring he put me in his Hip Hop Cinema class. By the end of the semester another student asked if she could be an intern. I never asked. I was in the room and he was like, “Let’s make Mego an intern too.” In that moment, I became an intern. It just happened.

9th Wonder teaching Hip Hop Production in the Rubenstein Arts Center. Photo courtesy University Communications.

Have you taken other music courses at Duke? Do you have advice for students interested in the music curriculum?

Four students using maschines in a hip hop production class.
9th Wonder’s Hip Hop Production class, taught in the Rubenstein Arts Center. Photo courtesy University Communications.

I took all the 9th Wonder classes here: History of Hip Hop (co-taught with Mark Anthony Neal, Department of African and African-American Studies), Black Popular Culture, Hip Hop Production, and a class taught with Professor Francis L. Roberts (Duke Music). Students can absolutely pursue music through education here at Duke. I wish I had the opportunity to take more classes.

Can you elaborate on your experience as an author?

My first book came out in 2015, when I was a high school senior. It’s called A Wounded Lion, and it is about eight artists and their overall impact on my life. The second book is called Reverend Duckworth, and it’s about how Kendrick Lamar redefined spirituality for me. I just wanted to focus on one artist this time, one constant spirituality.  This will be my last book about hip hop. Hip hop will always be with me as my medium, but this will be the last book on the subject.

How did you find time to write this book as a student?

With this book, I really took my time and slowed down the process. I thought about a sentence for a week or two. I would write once every couple of months, or once every couple of weeks, or for three days straight instead of everyday (as I did for my first book). I only worked when inspiration truly hit me.

More about Reverend Duckworth

Do you have advice for Duke students who want to pursue their passion or get involved in the arts—even if it is not their major?

Look at the stories of your favorite artists because you’d be surprised at how much have they had to go through the same thing. They weren’t always artists from the jump. Think of Punch from Top Dawg Entertainment. He used to work at Ikea while he was the president of Top Dawg Entertainment for years. Now, Top Dawg hosts Kendrick Lamar, Sza, and Schoolboy Q.  Everyone out there always has to go through something, so I would draw inspiration from your favorite artists because they probably had to manage music with something else too.

How can students get involved with Jamla Records?

There are opportunities for students at Jamla. If you are curious about an internship opportunity, send me a resume via email along with your strengths and interests.

Discover African & African American Studies at Duke

Kennedy Ware is a senior from Tampa, FL, studying Public Policy and Visual Media Studies. As a content creator on the Creative Arts Student Team, she aims to show the diversity in how the arts are experienced within the Duke community. She believes storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to connect people and foster a greater sense of empathy towards those with experiences that we may not be able to conceptualize otherwise. Following graduation, she aims to pursue a career in entertainment with a focus on directing and media production within the music industry.