Kanye West picked up an honorary degree on Monday from the Art Institute of Chicago. It’s a watershed moment of sorts for the man who rapped on his debut album, The College Dropout, that there “ain’t no tuition for having no ambition.”
He addressed the graduating class with a warm speech and thanked the school personally for choosing to honor him. “When I was giving a lecture at Oxford,” he said, “I brought up this school, because when I went on a mission to create in other spaces—apparel, film, performance—it would have been easier to have just said I had a degree at the Art Institute of Chicago! Thank you.”
The typically glum Kanye was all smiles at a Q&A after the ceremony. While he launched his career by extolling the virtues of not finishing his schooling, the last couple of years have brought about a more learned Kanye. Now that he’s found his home in the university setting, here are five of the best quotes about scholarship, education, and knowledge from the newly minted Dr. West.
On the Benefits of Finishing School:
In December, 2005:
“It is true you can be successful without [college], but this is a hard world, a real world, and you want every advantage you can have. I would suggest to people to do all that you can. When I dropped out of school, I had worked in the music industry and had checks cut in my name from record labels and had a record deal on the table, and when I wasn’t successful and Columbia said, ’We’ll call you,’ I had to go back and work a telemarketing job, go back to the real world, and that’s how life is. Life is hard. Take advantage of your opportunities.”
On Learning From Disappointment:
In August, 2007:
“For me to not be on the Vanity Fair best-dressed list, it’s good,” he said. “It’s motivation. Some people are gifted at specific things, but I had to develop a certain taste level. The thing I’m most talented at is the ability to learn.”
On Getting Knowledge Outside the Classroom:
In May, 2009:
“I am a proud non-reader of books. I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life.”
On Perfecting His Craft:
In March, 2015:
“I simply love clothes and I’m trying my best to learn. You know, making clothes is an extremely difficult exercise and you have to be very experienced and very knowledgeable to do something that’s worth people actually buying. It’s a long journey and I just wanted to come here and bow to a true master [Ralph Lauren]. And hopefully one day I can make one garment that can be mentioned in the same breath as his.”
On Shooting for the Stars:
In March, 2015:
“Today was the first time I realized, If I could have done it again I would have gone to the Art Institute over the American Academy of Art, I would have researched where I could have got the best and the strongest education. And I’m sure this will end up online, so I don’t want to diss anyone at the American Academy, I’m sure it’s equal to the Art Institute of Chicago by now, but at the time I was going I would look around at the work of the class and not feel inspired by the teachers, and I kinda, the idea of being a fine artist, that’s a really difficult profession to get into, to be respected in, to make money at. Maybe the goal for some of the people was just to work at an advertising agency or at a record label. My goal, if I was going to do art, fine art, would have been to become Picasso or greater.”
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