On Monday, 37-year-old rapper Kanye West, whose debut album was titled The College Dropout – received an honorary doctoral degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, at its annual commencement.
Kanye couldn’t hid his joy as he took to the podium at the university – known as one of the most prestigious schools for art in the country – but hilariously wiped the smile off his face when he posed backstage.
The moment clearly meant a great deal to Kanye, whose late mother Dr. Donda West was a Professor of English at Clark Atlanta University, later becoming the Chair of the English Department at Chicago State University.
Now officially known as Dr. West, Kanye began his speech by saying: ‘I am a pop artist, so my medium is public opinion, and the world is my canvas,’
He then made the audience laugh as he poked fun at his unapologetic behavior (that has seen him storm the stage at two different award ceremonies, defending the singer Beyoncé over the years).
KANYE WEST’S SPEECH IN FULL
‘I am a pop artist. So my medium is public opinion and the world is my canvas. ‘I’m sorry’ is something that you can use a lot, it gives you the opportunity to give your opinion, apologize for it, and give you opinion again (laughs). You should not be sorry for your opinions!’
‘George Bush (pauses as the audience laugh) has some very cool self-portraits. I didn’t know he was an artist.’
‘I felt my nerves a bit and I don’t feel that feeling a lot. The nerves of humility and modesty when being honoured, a humanization, a reality, of being recognized, and all I thought as I sit here kinda shaking a little bit, is, I need to get rid of that feeling! I need to not be nervous.’
‘This honor is gonna make your lives easier. Two reasons; you don’t have to defend me as much (laughs) and, I’m gonna make all of our lives easier. And it’s these Floyd Mayweather belts that are needed to prove what I’ve been saying my entire life. Where there’s the co-sign of Paul McCartney grabbing me, and saying ‘It’s OK, he doesn’t bite white people’ or The New York Times cover, or the Time most influential cover. And now a doctorate at The Art institute of Chicago. When I was giving a lecture at Oxford, I brought up this school because when I went on that mission to create in other spaces, apparel, film, performance, it would have been easier if I could have said that I had a degree at the Art Institute of Chicago. Thank you.’
‘”I’m sorry” is something that you can use a lot. It gives you the opportunity to give your opinion, apologize for it, and give your opinion again,’ adding: ‘You should not be sorry for your opinions!’
Kanye was not accompanied by his wife Kim Kardashian, 34, for the event, who had flown to Brazil to promote her new book, Selfish.
Kanye – who infamously criticized George W. Bush during a Hurricane Katrina telethon in 2005 – made the audience laugh as he told them the former President has some ‘very cool self-portraits’ adding ‘I didn’t know he was an artist.’
The university told Complex that the honorary doctorate given to Kanye is for ‘influential individuals’ who earned ‘this distinguished award through their work, which is always imaginative and aesthetically rich, and sometimes also provocative and controversial, shifting the cultural landscape in significant ways.’
Previous honorary doctorates at the institution include Patti Smith, Jeff Koons, David Sedaris and Chicago artist Theaster Gates.