You hear a lot about famous musicians’ pasts, but their college endeavors aren’t usually part of the story. Compared to the tales of drug dealing, jail time, drugs, groupies, and rebellion, college backgrounds aren’t very exciting. But it is interesting to get a feel for what some of your favorite musicians were up to before they made it in music. Sex, drugs, rock & roll, and college—here are the educational backgrounds you might not have expected from your favorite rappers and rockers.
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Claire Boucher attended McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. Spending her efforts studying first Russian literature, then neuroscience, she realized that she wanted to concentrate on her music, leading her to miss all of her classes and only taking exams. She was eventually expelled.
Last year, Grimes told Pitchfork, “I was actually expelled for missing almost a year of class. It’s their policy, but I wasn’t aware of it because I was skipping at the time. [laughs] So I no longer attend McGill, which kind of sucks because I wish I had a degree after spending that much money and time working on something. But actually, no, it doesn’t suck. I was done. Now, I’m working on music all the time. It’s not like I really need a job, because everything is super cheap in Montreal.”
Dexter Holland (of The Offspring)
Dexter Holland is quite the scholar. After earning his BSc in Biology and a master’s degree in Molecular Biology, he pursued even further education and became a PhD candidate in Molecular Biology at the University of South Carolina. Holland never did receive his doctorate’s, as he eventually concentrated his efforts in music with The Offspring.
Before putting all his eggs in one basket with rap, Ice Cube left Los Angeles to study architectural drafting at the Phoenix Institute of Technology in the fall of 1987. Unlike many of the other artists, Ice Cube actually graduated the year-long program. So if his acting and rapping career haven’t filled his bank accounts with enough dough, he could always build some shit.
Watch Cube drop some knowledge about design:
Apparently prior to starting The White Stripes, Jack White was a man of devoted faith. White had enrolled and was accepted into a seminary in Wisconsin in order to become a priest.
“I’d got accepted to a seminary in Wisconsin, and I was gonna become a priest, but at the last second I thought, ‘I’ll just go to public school. I had just gotten a new amplifier in my bedroom, and I didn’t think I was allowed to take it with me,” White explained to CBS.
Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey began her “musical experience” during her time at Fordham University while studying metaphysics, which ultimately led her to drop out in order to further pursue her musical career. It was not until two years after that she had decided to go all in, drop out, and move into a trailer park.
“I didn’t live at school,” Lana explained to GQ. “I lived where I could and studied what I enjoyed studying. I took what I wanted from that education but was making my first record at the same time. I don’t know anyone from school. I was just leading a different life. I was really interested in writing and other things.”
Talk about an unexpected craft under Chuck D’s sleeve. Prior to forming rap supergroup Public Enemy, Carlton Douglas Ridenhour studied graphic design at Adelphi University. Adelphi is pretty proud to have had Chuck D, even mentioning him on the “did you know” page of their website.
Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. studied at Florida A&M University to learn a degree in business administration before assuming his moniker, Common Sense (and later, Common). He had attended the school two years under a scholarship, but dropped out after getting signed with Relativity Records.
Christopher Brian Bridges apparently had the foresight to study something that would directly help him with his musical career, as Luda studied music management at Georgia State University in ’98. Having said that, his education at Georgia State didn’t last long, as he dropped out a year later.
Before studying psychology through online courses at the University of Phoenix, Lil Wayne had also studied at University of Houston. He dropped out because of his demanding schedule, but he insists that he had very good grades while he was there. We believe him because rappers never lie.
Donald Glover had attended New York University and graduated with a degree in dramatic writing in 2006. Clearly, this directly aided his career, from writing scripts for 30 Rock as Donald Glover, to his witty one-liners as Childish Gambino. As you can see from the below video of a young Donald freestyling in an NYU basement, rap has been an interest of his for a while.