How Mickey Factz Made The First-Ever Hip-Hop Academy

As a professor, Method Man isn’t calling attendance, he doesn’t care who shows up late, and he damn sure isn’t going through bullet points on a syllabus. Wearing glasses, a baby blue Versace t-shirt and a navy baseball cap with the rim to the back, Meth is sitting down, carefully but effortlessly rolling a blunt as he prepares to address the student body.

No, this isn’t some scene from How High. This is real life, and Method Man is the instructor tonight on a class held via Zoom called “Rhymecology.”

“The anxiety in the studio bruh, because Doc is incredible,” Meth says, giving props to his How High co-star and longtime friend Redman, when questioned by a student about collaborating. “I give credit where credit is due. That dude, he is music… The reason I said ‘anxiety’ is because you want to be at your best…. This n—a is going in the booth spitting straight ether every f—in’ day. And you gotta keep up, son. Even outside the studio, onstage. He helped my creative process so much. Big bruh molded me into the MC I am today.”

Throughout the night, Meth shares revelations, advice, tutelage and insights on everything from the genius of rap battle MCs (“The most brilliant rappers in the world — these muthaf—-s is driving the culture right now”), to being “miserable” for eight straight years making music, to constructing hooks, to his goal for his legendary hip-hop family, Wu-Tang Clan. And that is the Wu making it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“I want that for my crew,” Meth declares. “We have a very strong stake in that.”

Rhymecology, dedicated to the mental health aspect in hip-hop, is just one of the courses laid out as part of the curriculum at the virtual school, Pendulum Ink Academy. At Pen Ink, one of the prime goals is “nurturing creativity through lyricism.”

Pendulum was conceived, developed and co-cultivated by Bronx wordsmith Mickey Factz, who ascended in rap during the rise of the blog era in the mid 2000s. He quickly became adept at multimedia marketing skills (Mickey’s marketing firm and indie label GFC New York had Nipsey Hussle on their roster of clients looking for help with branding), and showcased his wordplay through his freestyles, mixtapes and song collaborations, which helped him landed on the cover of XXL’s coveted Freshman Issue in 2009.

Along with his cover stars Wale, Kid Cudi, and Curren$y, Mickey was tapped to be a leader of the new school. Fast forward to 2019: Mickey was 10 years removed from being up next, and contemplating what was going to be next in his life.

“It was an epiphany moment,” Factz, sitting in his Atlanta high rise office, recalls. After a decade in the game, he felt he has reached his ceiling. “I was like, ‘I kind of feel like this a dead-end job for me right now. I’m working album to album. This doesn’t make sense to me. What am I gonna do when it’s time to retire?’ I started thinking about retirement a lot. So I was like, ‘You know what? I need to retire into teaching.’”

Mickey began researching how he could actually teach without a degree, and came to the conclusion that, sans the credentials, it was almost impossible. The rapper (born Mark Williams) had attended NYU and was a paralegal at a law firm before dropping out of school and quitting his job to focus solely on his rap career in 2007. Even if he had graduated NYU and became a lawyer like he was tracking to do, Mickey says there weren’t too many schools willing to make hip-hop an actual course in 2019 anyway.

Then the pandemic hit, and while so many of us were sequestered at home, Mickey locked his focus on MasterClass. Hip-hop icons such as Nas and Timbaland were lecturing virtually for a fee. Factz felt he found his pathway to rap retirement.

“I DMed them, ‘Yo, I would love to work with you guys,’” Factz recalls. “They hit me back a couple hours later like, ‘Yo man, don’t call us. We’ll call you.’ That was January 2021.

“I’m from the Bronx, man,” Mickey continues with a light chuckle, before revealing his found extra motivation in the wake of MasterClass’ rejection. “I said, ‘Aight. I’m gonna make my own MasterClass.’”

On Dec. 1, 2021, Mickey lectured an online class of 10 people — he was hired for $250 to speak for an hour. Factz realized that not only could he teach students, but he knew his dream could grow. “You can’t do a MasterClass of hip-hop in one class,” he explained. “It’s impossible in terms of writing.”

Factz reached out to his friend, battle rapper Chilla Jones, for help. Jones began to contact some of his associates, and soon a five-man team was formed. Together they came up with an eight-month curriculum, and Pendulum Ink Academy was created. 

Along with the core brain trust of the Academy (all of whom teach classes), Pendulum boasts certified college professors on their staff, and courses like Rap Theory, where the students learn cadence and how to rhyme on beat. Rap Theory is taught by jazz musician Comikbook Cam. Meanwhile, Chilla teaches Advanced Technique: Pendulum Ink has 35 rap techniques copyrighted, and put names to skills that MCs have been displaying their entire careers.

“Some of these courses were rejected at universities,” Factz says. “Criminology in Hip-Hop was rejected by three universities. So I said to our professor Ahmariah Jackson, ’Listen, come here. I’ll pay you. Teach it once a month.’” 

Pendum Ink launched last February, and Factz recalls not knowing exactly what to expect. “February 24th, we had our first person sign up,” he says. “They paid the full tuition, $2,000. Then every day after the 24th, for about 45 days, people were paying. I was like, ‘Alright, we got something here.’ And mind you, this is the beta [stage], just six courses: Rap Theory, Advanced Rap Techniques, Rhymecology, Mickey Money Class, Battle Rap, Content Creation Class.”

Soon after, Mickey signed up some of his close friends and peers to be guest teachers for these classes. “I told them I had a school and then I walked them through it, and then I asked them if they want to teach or give a lecture,” he remembers. “They said ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Good, because I pay.’ I find it easier for them to do this than to do a record.”

Phonte from Little Brother, Masta Ace and Cory Gunz were all among his first phone calls. Fittingly, Inspectah Deck was Pendulum’s very first guest lecturer: Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) was the first album Mickey bought with his own money as a kid. “Its essential to bring back the art form, and Pendulum Ink does that,” Deck says. 

“It’s a gift to receive instruction from a living legend,” says Pendulum student, Al Billups. He signed up and participated in the recent Rhymecology class with Method Man. “The opportunity to peel back the layers of a composition with the actual creator is a treat for any fan of the culture. Participating in a Pendulum Ink session exposed me to an incredible instructional ecosystem that is designed to help MC’s gain a better understanding around the nuances of lyricism.”

Pendulum Ink’s graduation is set for February 26, 2023; Bun B is confirmed as commencement speaker. Veteran hip-hop journalist Sway has also been tapped to participate in the ceremony along with Big K.R.I.T., Stalley and Skyzoo.

Pendulum Ink also just started a nonprofit organization called Pen Pals, where kids from 7 to 17 can learn how to MC. Pen Pals will also serve as space for known MCs to learn how to teach. Factz says his hope is that some of those MCs could be professors at universities one day.

“I want them to have a crash course in our lexicon,” he notes. “You can do it your own way, but structure is very important.”

One of Pen Ink’s students has been hired at Fredrick Pilot Middle School in Boston, and is teaching some of the Academy’s programs to kids ranging from 11 to 14 years old. Meanwhile, Factz himself has accepted an offer to teach at the University of Hawaii, and will teach one month at a time for the whole of March, July and November.

Pendulum Ink has also delved into the actual ink game with their very own textbook coming next year, featuring a foreword written by Big Daddy Kane. The roster of new professors coming to teach in year two of the academy is shaping up to be impressive: Big Boi, Pharoahe Monch, Rah Digga, K.R.I.T., Lord Finesse, AZ and DMC are all locked in to give lectures, while Black Thought has agreed to be the 2024 commencement speaker at the graduation.

“Ten years from now, I’ll be 50,” says Factz, “and God willing, I’ll have three [physical] schools across the country. I’ll have one in the Bronx by 2027, then one here in Atlanta and one in L.A.” The former Freshman still performs shows and puts out his music independently, but says, “I want to have schools for hip-hop and lyricism. I want to be able to create jobs and opportunities for younger students and older people to be able to make money from. It’s important that the culture remains within with us. Because let me tell you something, if I didn’t do this, somebody else not of the culture would’ve done it.”

Carl Lamarre