Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard University in the 1970s to begin working on the computer company that would eventually become Microsoft. Mark Zuckerberg left during his sophomore year to care for an infantile Facebook. Lil Pump, meanwhile, dropped out of Harvard in his imagination, and now he’s perhaps the biggest rapper tied to the prestigious school.
Since announcing that he voluntarily exited the university to “save the rap game” in 2017 when he first came into mainstream prominence, Lil Pump has made college the pinnacle of his 18-year-old existence. He released the video for “Gucci Gang” that year which focused on a young adult’s education (with tigers, double-cupped Slurpees, and other new-age rap hijinks). By January 2018, he was outlining the idea behind an album called Harverd Dropout — yes, with an “e.”
As his star power grew through songs like “Esskeetit” and “I Love It” with Kanye West, people began to wonder: Did this rambunctious, color-dreaded rapper who admitted he could “barely read” really abandon an Ivy-League education? Then came the memes. A photoshopped or simply fake Harvard student I.D. even popped up.
With graduation season quickly approaching, a rumor began circulating that Lil Pump was giving the school’s 2019 commencement speech. (Sources potentially pointed to a press release from his label, Warner Bros.) It didn’t take long for the school to issue a statement saying no, Pump would not be speaking — but German Chancellor Angela Merkel would be. Nevertheless, Pump still gave an “unofficial” version of his address last week to the school’s WHRB radio station. Close enough.
Now that the jokes have subsided (and with 12 weeks until graduation), how do actual Harvard students feel about this whole thing? We asked two current students, Dianelis Lopez and Sebastian Rojas (both class of 2022), and two alumni, Joshua Scott (class of 2015) and Brionna Atkins (class of 2016). Here’s what they said.
MTV News: How familiar are you with Lil Pump?
Dianelis Lopez: I don’t know much about him as a person or his background, but I have heard that he is a SoundCloud rapper and the only song that comes to mind is “Gucci Gang.”
Sebastian Rojas: I’m not super familiar, like I know he’s a rapper from South Florida and I’ve heard “Gucci Gang,” but that’s about it.
Brionna Atkins: I’m not a fan of his music. I only really know of two songs. I had heard about the title of his album and seen the artwork but I didn’t think much of it. His music just isn’t my vibe, no disrespect or anything.
Joshua Scott: I have heard of Lil Pump, but do not wish to feign familiarity with his body of musical work.
MTV News: What did you think when rumors started to circulate that he would be giving the commencement speech this year?
Lopez: I genuinely thought that it was a joke by the Harvard Lampoon. Although the “fake news” appeared to be real, I was never convinced that Harvard would invite a rapper like Lil Pump to give the speech. Especially since the commencement is often done by people like Mark Zuckerberg or J.K. Rowling. However, I did wonder if maybe he had done some type of movement such as Logic did related to suicide.
Rojas: If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t really hear a lot of people talk about it on campus. Like, most of the people I’ve talked to didn’t know about it until after it went viral and after the university said that it was false. So basically most of us heard it after the fact.
Atkins: I just knew it was fake because Angela Merkel was already the confirmed speaker months ago, and it is just too comical to be true. If I thought it was true, I think I would have been surprised because it would be totally unexpected but essentially indifferent. Spielberg spoke at the afternoon exercises of my commencement in 2016 and I didn’t even go to that part because I was just apathetic at that point. Harvard has three days of speeches and exercises so by the time you get to the last speech of the day on the third day, you can just be checked out like I was.
MTV News: How would you feel if he would have given the commencement speech at your graduation?
Lopez: I don’t think he has the image that Harvard would want to portray. He is not a representation of Harvard or the student body, and it would be controversial to have someone like him speaking at the commencement. It would put under question the things that Harvard values. Harvard has already made some questionable decisions in how they deal with racism, diversity, and sexism, so having Lil Pump would not help their image.
Rojas: I would’ve found it really funny that he, out of all people, would be giving the speech. Like, if you compare him to previous speakers such as Mark Zuckerberg, Steven Spielberg, and Oprah Winfrey, it seems almost comical to have someone like Lil Pump be our commencement speaker.
Scott: Had Lil Pump been selected to speak, I would have listened to hear what he had to share. Everyone has something to contribute – in some way, shape, or form – based on their life experiences, their personal trials and tribulations, and the platform they have built for themselves.
MTV News: Who would you have preferred instead of Lil Pump?
Atkins: There isn’t a specific person I could say I would prefer but I can say I would expect someone who has just lived life a little longer as a baseline. I would also expect the speaker to be exceptional in some capacity. There will be something that clearly demonstrates said person is a consistent positive outlier in their respective field. A commencement speech is a privileged opportunity to share wisdom and experiences as well as energize a graduating class. I think there is tremendous value in framing such an event as a theoretical endowment of responsibility onto a new generation to “change the world.” That is not to say someone who is young cannot be wise or have valuable insight worth sharing, but that may be better suited to another event.
Scott: If we are sticking within the confines of hip hop artists, J. Cole is the first name that comes to mind. His deliberately conscientious and contemplative approach to the art form creates the nuance and depth necessary to spark meaningful and stimulating dialogue – a keystone for any institution of higher learning.