On May 11, Kanye West t transitioned from College Dropout to Dr. Kanye West with an honorary doctorate of fine arts, given to him by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). This was days before his Billboard Music Award performance, but West during his “graduation” speech, spoke about the importance of having an opinion and the value of a degree.
While Yeezy was upset about his Billboard Music Award 2015 performance being “grossly over-censored,” according to his representatives today, he has always been a firm believer of free-speech and having an opinion. This was visible when during the SAIC graduation ceremony, Kanye told the audience that it was always important to have an opinion and having a degree made it easier to be taken seriously. West had received a scholarship to attend the American Academy of Art in Chicago in 1997, but things did not work out and he dropped out of college when he was 20.
The SAIC bestowed upon him the honorary doctorate for his “transformative, genre defining work” in all of his ventures, be it music, performance, film or fashion design. They called him a visionary and a creative spirit. In his 11-year music career, West has maintained his influential position as a leader of the hip-hop industry.
When West, now officially Dr. West, took the microphone and removed several plastic water bottles lying on the podium to the backstage area. “I’m sorry, that was just my opinion,” he explained while the audiences laughed and applauded. The artist then went on to give a speech which did not require any censorship or editing, unlike his Billboard Music Award performance.
He called himself a pop artist and very poetically said that public opinion is his medium, while the world is his canvas. He said that the words “I’m sorry” can be used a lot by different people and that it lets you apologize while giving an opinion and then continue giving it. He told the students to never be sorry about their opinions. He even referenced his comments about George Bush, following Hurricane Katarina, where he had called the then-president out on not caring about Black people. As soon as he said George Bush, people started laughing, while he finished the sentence with “has some very cool self-portraits.” He commented that he did not know that Bush was an artist.
He said that he was honored at being recognized, but nervous at the same time. He told the students that the degree would make their lives easier because they would not have to defend him as much and also it would prove what he had said his entire life. He said that it would have been easier for him when he started working, to say that he had a degree at SAIC.
The outspoken artist has had issues previously when he has tried to express his opinion and either it has not been taken seriously or it has landed him in hot water. West’s doctorate speech comes to mind when he apologized to the television viewing audience of the Billboard Music Awards who were unable to enjoy his performance because of the ABC censorship. He never once said that he was sorry for having orchestrated his performance in the manner that it was shown.
By Anugya Chitransh
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Photo Courtesy of Marcus Linder’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License