Graduation ceremonies are a big deal in our society, and for good reason. After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of your life pursuing higher learning, it’s nice to have some tangible celebration of that aside from a spiffy new piece of paper.
I’m a high school dropout myself (G.E.D. life, baby), but I’ve been to and seen enough graduation ceremonies to know that while the concept is touching and symbolic, the ceremonies themselves are more boring than listening to J. Cole rap about folding clothes. They almost feel like one final test, measuring the soon-to-be graduates' ability to power through an incredibly tedious procession. And a big part of that comes down to the guest speaker.
Not every school is illustrious enough to book alumni like Charlie Day or Will Ferrell, but I’m of the opinion that graduation ceremonies would greatly benefit from ditching the alumni speeches altogether and shooting for speakers with a little more... showmanship.
If you want to get a crowd engaged, call a rapper. Emcees were literally created to entertain crowds, so it stands to reason that they could easily cut through the monotony of a graduation ceremony with insight, swagger and a natural ability to make people get off their asses. And they have, too—from Common to Drake to Diddy, hip-hop is no stranger to delivering a commencement address.
With that in mind, we've handpicked five rappers who we believe would deliver an amazing graduation speech. Some were picked for their knowledge and wisdom, others just because we know deep down they would shake things up. After all, the point is to inject some fun into these stale-ass cap-and-gown affairs.
Big Sean is a no-brainer. On the mic, he's a constant source of motivation. Even his most ignorant club bangers contain moments of Tony Robbins-esque brilliance, and many of his projects are rooted in the pursuit of not just material success but personal growth and spiritual wealth as well.
Sean Don would be a perfect segue way into the idea of rappers doing graduation speeches. Provided you’re willing to look past some not-at-all public-friendly language, most of his music contains great messaging.
Can you imagine just how lit this would be? I’m not talking about having Quavo or Offset come in and say a few words. I’m talking hiring all three Migi (shout out to Nathan S.) to deliver a graduation speech in essentially the same way they deliver their bars, ad libs and all. Just imagine hearing something along these lines in triplet flow over the PA:
“Knowing yourself is important (IMPORTANT!), growing yourself is important (MOMMA!)”
I’m hyped just imagining this in my head and I’m not even part of my own imaginary graduating class. People usually dread attending a graduation no matter how much they love the person graduating. With Migos at the helm, there’d be a $20 cover.
For as hit-and-miss as his music has been with me so far, whenever I start to feel like I could do without Lil Boat, I see an interview that reminds me he’s one of the most interesting characters in hip-hop right now. Yachty lives outside the box, and it’s that exact eschewing of conventional behavior that would set a perfect example for that “be whatever you want” attitude that universities love to flaunt.
The dude is hyper-relatable to young folk, he’s positive to an impossible degree, and his voice has this nasally, froggy and oddly soothing presence that somehow makes him like the Morgan Freeman of millennials. Yachty might be a tough sell for some of the more conservative universities, but I think somewhere like UCLA should jump on this idea ASAP. I won’t even charge a finder’s fee.
As inspiring as it can be to have someone come up and speak about all the boundless possibilities of post-college adulthood, it’s often just as entertaining and sometimes more practical to have someone knock your high hopes flat on their ass. In that case, Vince would be my top pick because no matter who is watching or how much they paid him, he will keep it 1,000,000% with the graduating class.
This wouldn’t be some feel-good, law of attraction fluff, either. This would be Vince Staples telling you that you’re most likely fucked unless you start thinking about all the things you want to do and start doing the shit you need to do. He’d be hilarious, yet unflinchingly blunt, and that’s exactly what someone needs to hear after four years of beer pong and dorm-bred social arrogance.
If you’ve never seen an interview with Killer Mike, I suggest you get to Googling because this man is a legitimate fountain of wisdom on seemingly all matters. Politics, entrepreneurialism, sex, race relations—Michael Render is capable of blowing minds and shifting perspectives within the length of a four-minute song; imagine what he could do with a graduation speech.
Mike is compassionate, level-headed and has an understanding of freedom that surpasses a good 95% of our current political representatives. He’s also funny as hell and constantly challenges our ideas of how wisdom or opinions should be presented. Mike will walk up in that auditorium with a joint in his mouth and leave to a standing ovation of Run The Jewels hand signs.