Chance the Rapper, 24, gave the commencement speech at Dillard University in New Orleans on Saturday (May 12) at which he told the graduating class about the importance of being better than your predecessors, using Beyoncé and Michael Jackson as examples of pushing toward greatness.
“Today, I want to talk to you guys about greatness and what it means to live into your greatness without fear,” Chance began. “In order to do that, I need to talk to you guys about the greatest performance of all time, put on by the greatest performer of all time. But in order to do that, I gotta take you back. I gotta take you way back.”
He shared a story about doing a Michael Jackson performance at his preschool graduation in 1997. “They asked me to be Mike, and I delivered,” the rapper said. “Watching him taught me a lot of the lessons I try to carry with me as a performer today: Work hard, captivate your audience and above all never set any limitations on your own greatness.” Chance continued sharing what made Jackson the superb entertainer who introduced so many artists to the craft of music, including himself and Beyoncé.
“One of those little Black kids would grow up to be someone especially amazing. She would do more than just copy Mike; she would surpass him,” the rapper said. He revealed that he believed Bey’s headlining Coachella performance in April to be the greatest performance of all time. “We have to overcome that fear and be greater than our role models,” said Chance. “Beyoncé’s performance was better than any performance Michael Jackson ever did. That woman, better than Mike. Black woman, better than Mike.”
He told those students sitting before him, “I realized that all of us have a responsibility to be greater than the people who came before us. We have a responsibility to be not as good as them, or to live up to their example, but to actually surpass them, even when it seems scary.”
You can hear advice about living into your greatness at the 5:30 mark.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.