A CT middle school behavior specialist by day and hip-hop producer by night goes viral by helping kids through beatmaking

Marquan Shumpert-Reid, a professional hip-hop producer who’s worked with the likes of Lil Wayne, Joyner Lucas and Lady London, has been spending his afternoons instructing kids at Pulaski Middle School in New Britain in the fine art of beatmaking.

The program has been around for over a year, but the rest of the world caught on to it — and Shumpert-Reid’s warm and natural teaching style — when some videos of the class he posted on social media went viral.

One of the first and most popular of the posts can be found on Shumpert-Reid’s TikTok account at tiktok.com/@chillshump. It shows him standing behind a child who’s just sat down in front of a computer screen, prepared to program a beat. Shumpert-Reid, also known by Chill Shump, invites him to “Zig on the beat, have a seat!,” then leads the student through the process, offering authoritative tips such as “Anywhere from 146 to 153, any kind of sturdy beats, drill beats, that’s kind of where you want your BPM at for real.”

When the middle schooler downplays his own work, saying “It’s all right,” Shumpert-Reid interjects “Don’t be a hater” and directs him through several more steps. In the end, the kid is beaming at his completed project. The video, which lasts about three minutes, has been seen over six million times.

“I call it the producer’s chair,” says Shumpert-Reid of the coveted seat in front of the computer where the students can push all the buttons that make the beats appear. The beats are created using the popular FL Studio virtual studio technology software. “They sit down and go from start to finish. Sometimes I don’t know if it’s them connecting well or me teaching them.”

His day job as a behavior specialist at the school is what led Shumpert-Reid to create the after-school program. “As a behavior specialist, I check in on students day to day. I redirect them and guide them,” Shumpert-Reid says. “These kids could be having a hard time, so they ask to see me.

“I’m a music producer outside of the job. For the most part, I’m producing. When I got this job I didn’t boast that. I didn’t speak upon it. The kids spoke on it. Within one day, one of the kids came up to me: ‘Mister, you do beats?’”

Shumpert-Reid realized he could boost the kids’ confidence and enhance their interest in school by teaching them the basics of music production. “I thought, ‘We should come up with an after-school program.’ I applied for it, and it got approved. We started small, with seven kids. They were chill. They’d been in school all day. I just asked, ‘What type of beats do you want to make?’ I’ve been a producer for the last 15 years. There’s not much I don’t know: trap beat, boom bap ... I’ll teach you step by step. You could see the interest, them being intrigued. That was a year ago now.”

Pulaski Middle School is fully supportive of the after-school program, he says, as is the Consolidated School District of New Britain (CSDNB).

The beatmaking program now has 12 or 13 students. “We don’t want more than that,” Shumpert-Reid says, but plans are underway to create similar programs at other schools.

He continues to post videos of the class, assuring that the kids in the videos and their parents have signed waivers allowing them to appear on social media. “I put the camera up, just my phone, and directed them through the process, from beginning to end, probably 40 minutes. Then I edited them down. On Christmas break, I said to myself, ‘Shump, you haven’t posted on TikTok in a while.’ At the time, my TikTok had no more than 350 followers. After I posted, it went through the roof. The biggest three of the videos are hitting close to nine million hits [among them].

“The beauty of me teaching these kids is that I have a good experience with their parents. The first kid [in the series of posts], I’ve known his parents for years.”

The success of the videos has led to unexpected attention and high enthusiasm from around the country and the world.

“A lot of things have grown from this,” Shumpert-Reid says. “A lot of praise. People reaching out, wanting to help. A tech company reached out, helping out with equipment. They’re shining a crazy light on what I’m doing with the kids.”

A number of national talk shows have reached out to Shumpert-Reid, including the Kelly Clarkson and Sherri Shepherd shows.

Yet the music, those essential beats, are still at the center of it all. “This can lead to records, not with beats from me but with beats from the kids,” Shumpert-Reid says.

“I plan to bring this to other schools. I’ve been invited to schools in Canada, Miami and Houston to teach. We’ve developed a non-profit for kids who want to produce music or do videography or coding. Why not help develop the next big producer?”

Shumpert-Reid’s music manager, Cortez Neal, who is also from New Britain, says the program “has never been taught in the communities so that it’s accessible.” He notes that the beatmaking is “an incentive program — you have to be doing well in the school to get into the program.”

He and Shumpert-Reid will be opening up their own recording studio in New Britain, where Shumpert-Reid can work on his own recordings as well as teach. “We’re trying to change the community through music technology,” Neal says.

“I just want to do things that help other people,” adds Shumpert-Reid. “I’m 31 years old. I’ve been making beats since I was 15. It took me years to learn. I didn’t have anyone to teach me. One thing I’m showing them is confidence. Another is that anything is possible.”

Reach reporter Christopher Arnott at carnott@courant.com.