School Daze: Artists’ Surprising Studies Before They Were Stars
September is here, which marks the return to school for students everywhere. While some college kids look forward to hitting the books, there was one hip-hop kingpin who decided the teachers and homework wasn’t for him. In 2004, Kanye West, who was then-famous for sporting a Louis Vuitton backpack and being shadowed by a teddy bear mascot, marked his entry into the rap world with a fittingly titled album, The College Dropout.The hip-hop world was transfixed by ‘Ye’s approach — he not only wrote his lyrics but produced a majority of the effort. While embracing fans, new and old, the Chi-town native did it all in style. He dressed like the popular kids in school, donning pastels and monograms in a polished manner. And he painted a picture with his lyrics. Prior to rap induction, he was an art major, taking classes at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. Not a far cry from his current accomplishments, which include a clothing line, a film and the like.
Yeezy never got an official degree but he still applied the fundamentals of what he learned in school to his current profession. The BoomBox found that many rappers and singers can attest to the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy creator’s academic frustrations — though some stuck around for all four years of college rather than ditch class. Brandy, Redman, Chuck D and Erykah Badu are just a few of the entertainers that were set on scholastic achievement, however, their respective majors are a bit shocking.
Check out 10 stars with surprising studies to see what they’ve done with what they’ve learned.
Brandy, Pepperdine University
Studied: Psychology & Music
In 1996, Brandy Norwood enrolled at Pepperdine University with a rumored double major in psychology and music. The singer-actress was a huge star years before college, with her debut self-titled album selling millions globally. Her television show “Moesha” was incredibly popular as well, in production for most of the ’90s. By the time she started at Pepperdine, it was well-known that the teen phenom wanted to gain some life experience as a college student. It’s unknown whether or not Brandy actually graduated but between 1996 and 2000, she never stopped working. From 1997’s “Cinderella” television movie with Whitney Houston to 1998’s follow-up LP, Never Say Never, she was on the go. Currently prepping for the release of her upcoming project Two Eleven, Brandy could be using some of her learned psychology to effectively tug at listeners’ heartstrings.
Ice Cube, Phoenix Institute of Technology
Studied: Architectural Drafting
Before Cube rapped about the social ills of coming straight out of Compton, Calif., he went to school to study architectural drafting. The South Central native enrolled at the Phoenix Institute of Technology in the fall of 1987. Before he could finish two full years, N.W.A. struck gold with their groundbreaking debut and Ice Cube’s star appeal hasn’t dimmed since. In fact, his resume in entertainment has grown to include film director, producer, screenwriter and actor. He may not have designed any physical structures but the drafting of his career is unparalleled.
Destiny’s Child Michelle Williams, Illinois State University
Studied: Criminal Justice
Michelle Willams started at Illinois State University, majoring in criminal justice as a safety net in case her singing career didn’t pan out. After her sophomore year in 1999, Williams dropped school to sing background for Monica while she was on tour. Unbeknownst to the Midwestern songstress, she’d join Destiny’s Child the very next year, becoming part of this generation’s (arguably) most popular girl group. Instead of heading criminal investigations, Williams can lay claim to having the industry in handcuffs as one-third of the wildly successful DC.
Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Adelphia University
Studied: Graphic Design
Chuck D went to Long Island, N.Y.’s Adelphia University to study graphic design, although he’d been offered an architecture scholarship. While at Adelphia, the Public Enemy frontman was motivated to speak on the growing issues of the inner city. He founded PE and even designed their famed target-inspired logo. In 1989, the success of their debut LP, Fear of a Black Planet, catapulted the rap group to the forefront of hip-hop before it could be divided into “conscious” versus “everything else.” Nowadays, Chuck is designing more than logos, as an activist and board member of the TransAfrica Forum. He hopes to inspire change in societal standards involving black people everywhere.
Asher Roth, West Chester University
Studied: Elementary Education
Pennsylvania-born rapper Asher Roth attended West Chester University, majoring in elementary education. It wasn’t until his sophomore year when the Def Jam signee saw his music gain traction on the internet. A week after speaking with Scooter Braun (then SoSoDef’s VP of Marketing, now Justin Bieber’s manager), Roth dropped out of college and headed to Atlanta in pursuit of his rap career. Although he hopes to move forward from his “frat rap” beginnings, the sub-genre has taken hold and other MCs such as Mac Miller admit to having learned necessary lessons from Roth. Guess that major in education came in handy after all.
Jill Scott, Temple University
Studied: Secondary Education
Jill Scott went to Temple University not far from where she grew up in North Philadelphia. The chanteuse worked two jobs while studying secondary education, but with a single year left until graduation, and a stint as a teacher’s aide, she decided to quit school altogether. Scott was on a mission, working towards her big break in music, which didn’t come until the year 2000. Even though she moved beyond her dream of being a high school English teacher, her love for putting melodies in poetry isn’t lost on her fans, who hang onto her every word.
Ginuwine, Prince George’s Community College
Studied: Paralegal Studies
Ginuwine received his paralegal degree from Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Md., in the early 1990s. Only a few years after graduation, the singer dropped his first LP, Ginuwine… The Bachelor, which featured standout production from a little known beatsmith named Timbaland. We’d like to think the certified paralegal looked over his own record contract.
Erykah Badu, Grambling State University
Studied: Theater Arts
Miss Badu has been into theatrics long before shocking the crowd in downtown Dallas while filming her “Window Seat” video in 2010. The Texas native attended Grambling State, a historically black university in Grambling, La. She actually majored in quantum physics before changing her mind and going into theater. Good thing she did or we may have never witnessed the creativity she exudes onstage and in film.
Redman, Montclair State University
Funk Doctor Spock was enrolled at New Jersey’s Montclair State University. He hoped to pursue an engineering degree because, although he’d been into music for years in Newark, there wasn’t much motivation in the way of successful Jersey rappers at that time. So Red traveled back and forth to school while holding down multiple jobs including one as a dishwasher. Luckily, he was able to engineer the start of his rap career with the 1992 release of his Whut? Thee Album.
Ryan Leslie, Harvard University
Studied: Political Science & Macroeconomics
Ryan Leslie graduated from Harvard University at age 19. The singer-producer-songwriter majored in political science and macroeconomics, but his mind was on making beats and crafting songs the entire time. The Washington, D.C., native was placed on academic probation more than once for missing classes in order to pursue his career in music. Thankfully, he graduated on time and has been politicking his way through the industry ever since, even helping to jumpstart singer Cassie’s career.