Missy Elliott can now officially be called doctor.
Because on Saturday she received an honorary doctor of music degree from Boston’s Berklee College of Music and addressed the graduating class with a motivational speech.
The news of Elliott receiving the honor came in March, and Berklee said it’s to recognize the rapper for her “achievement and influences in music and her enduring global impact.”
Elliott became the first female rapper in the school’s history to receive an honorary doctorate, which was presented to her by Berklee President Roger H. Brown.
“An artist as fearlessly original as Missy can’t be captured in a single word or words,” he said. “Her career has been defined by bending genres, breaking stereotypes and pushing boundaries musically, visually and stylistically.”
After a standing ovation, an emotional Elliott took the podium and encouraged the graduating class to never quit on their dreams.
“I don’t even know how I’m standing here,” she said. “I’m not going to talk y’all ear off, but there’s going to be ups and downs. Prepare for that, but don’t give up. I know you hear that all the time, but If I would’ve given up a long time ago I wouldn’t be standing here today. You have come too far to quit.”
Elliott also talked about some of the challenges she endured, like dealing with the music industry’s narrow definition of beauty and being dropped from her record label. The Virginia-born artist also discussed her fight with Graves’ disease and how her “nervous system shut down,” which made it impossible to write.
“But something in my spirit [told me to continue], the drive and the patience, because you have to have patience in this,” she told the class of 2019. “As long as you are breathing it is never too late, because people will tell you you’re too old, people will tell you it’ll never work, don’t believe that because I’m standing here today.”
Justin Timberlake also received an honorary doctorate, as did Broadway musician Alex Lacamoire.
On Sunday Elliott shared a video of herself holding the degree and dancing to the Sounds of Blackness’ “Optimistic,” and she received plenty of warm words from her followers.
“Alright girl!!!! You did the damn thang!! Congratulations,” someone wrote underneath the clip.
“🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽 Dr. Elliott my shero!” another person commented.
You can see Elliott’s full speech below.