Justin Timberlake and Missy Elliott were honored with doctorate degrees from the Berklee College of Music on Saturday. Composer and musical director Alex Lacamoire also received an honorary degree for his work in Hamilton, In The Heights and Dear Evan Hansen.
“This year’s honorary doctorate recipients are being recognized for their achievements and influences in music, and for their enduring global impact,” the school said in a statement.
The pop star and rap queen – who’s the first hip-hop artist to receive the honor from Berklee – enjoyed a celebratory weekend with Berklee’s staff and students, which culminated at commencement when they were handed their honorary doctorates in music. During the event, the graduating students paid tribute to the two musicians by performing some of the biggest songs from over the years.
During the event, Justin spoke out about music, inspiration and collaborations. “I’m in love with songs and the feel of music. I dare to suck when I’m writing them, though I try to make it look easy when I’m onstage. It always comes down to a really great song,” he said. Timberlake cracked a few jokes during his speech and riffed on his newly minted doctor status: “I was saying earlier, I don’t do surgeries, but I could probably work out some prescriptions!” he joked. He also doled out some advice,: “You’re defined by what you define failure as. It’s not a thing if it leads you to your success. It’s all part of the journey.”
Elliott broke down in tears before offering words of wisdom to Berklee’s graduating class upon receiving her degree. “I don’t even know how I’m standing here, but I thank y’all, I thank God,” she said. “I just want y’all to know, there will be ups and downs. Prepare for that, but don’t give up. I know you may hear that all the time, but if I had given up long ago, I wouldn’t be standing here today. You have come too far to quit.”
She went on to talk about the various trials and tribulations she’s weathered throughout her career, from dealing with archaic beauty standards on the come-up to losing out on awards and coping with Graves disease, which she was diagnosed with in 2011.
In closing, she joked around that she’ll be wearing her cap and gown again, and frequently: “in the shower, in all my next videos, everywhere I go!”