Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune
Kanye West is a college dropout no more. On Monday, the rapper, fashion designer and infamous stage crasher, received an honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The choice to honor West was a highly controversial one, and many students, faculty and alumni let it be known they were not supportive of the school's decision. West has notoriously always been quite a polarizing figure. However SAIC stood firm with their decision to recognize West who they refer to as “an interdisciplinary artist whose work provokes cultural discourse by reflecting a realism of the street.”
West's commencement speech was short, funny and surprisingly humble.
"I felt my nerves a bit, and I don’t feel that feeling a lot," West admitted to the crowd. "The nerves of humility and modesty when being honored, a humanization of a reality of being recognized."
Although West's words were brief at the ceremony, he had much more to say at a lecture held for SAIC students the previous night. During the hour-long talk, students asked West questions about topics that ranged from his artistic process to artistic responsibility to if he wanted to build a snowman. West's answers were thoughtful, honest and even humorous.
However the answer that got the most applause wasn't an answer at all. A SAIC student who has been affected by the tragic violence happening in Chicago asked West for some guidance.
"I’m from the West Side of Chicago—this is gonna get a little emotional - I’ve lost two of my friends to violence," the student said. "They got shot and killed. I made all the right decisions - never did drugs, never did anything, but… I’m scared. I’m scared I’m next. My family and I, we live on a corner street, and we’re scared for bullets to come through the window and hit my sister, but like… I’m the last hope. I’m the first one to ever make it, and I’m so hungry, and I need something now. Just hoping you give some guidance, to all of us… We need something to keep on in this city… because I don’t know if somebody else is gonna end my life or… if I’ll never get out."
West was momentarily speechless from the emotional question.
"I don’t have the answer to that. I can only just listen to you and feel and understand what we’re dealing with here," said West. "And I can’t say that anything that I do or say will be the end-all be-all difference. I mean, we could just try. Yeah, I’m not even gonna try to give any politically correct answer that makes it seem like, after I say it, it’s all good - ‘cause it’s not all good; it’s f*cked up out here."
It was a perfect and appropriate response from the rapper who's known for freely voicing his strong opinions. The rest of West's lecture covered much lighter topics, and West revealed much about his inspiration as a designer, and his somewhat surprising desire to work with Disney when an audience member asked if he wanted to build a snowman.
"So when I say I wanna build a snowman, I want Bob Iger, the head of Disney, to invest in my ideas - not one idea, not a good idea, even a bad idea, a series of them, but just in my ideas. One of my ideas is that as I go to Art Basel and Biennale and all these things… I love Walt Disney. I love what he was able to do. I love Howard Hughes, David Stern, Steve Jobs," West revealed.
If you're interested in hearing all of West's lecture, Complex has the full audio and transcript of the event.