When you invite irreverent and outspoken rapper Lupe Fiasco to be your school’s commencement speaker, you never know what you’re going to get. After all, this was the man who called President Obama “the biggest terrorist” in 2011 and who was kicked off-stage in January at an inauguration-related event after leveling another anti-Obama attack.
When he stood in front of 150 graduates at an event called the Mass Black Male Graduation and Transition to Manhood ceremony, Fiasco didn’t hold back in his message to the Chicago high school grads.
“Congratulations, you have graduated from one of the most terrible, substandard school systems in the entire world. You have just spent the last . . . 12 years receiving one of the worst educations on earth. You are at least four, five steps behind people in other countries that are younger than you,” Fiasco said according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Fiasco is himself a graduate of the Chicago public schools, where statistics indicate only about 63 percent of black teens graduate—it was closer to 44 percent when Fiasco was in the system—and where the school board recently voted to close 49 schools to help close a $1 billion shortfall.
After his dose of reality, Fiasco tried to give the group some inspiration.
“Transition to manhood is the most important thing that’s going on right now,” he said. “The caps and the gowns and your tassels and your honorary blah blah blahs don’t mean nothing. That’s just dress. That’s just some clothes. Meaningless clothes, too, because they have no real purpose in life. They don’t keep you warm. What do they do? They just represent to someone else that you’ve achieved something. But then when you look back at it, what have you achieved?”
Sharon Hunley, who was there to see her 17-year-old son in his cap and gown, said Fiasco’s speech was “candid.”
“They needed to hear that,” she said.