Here's How Far These Rappers Got In School

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The road to fame and fortune often doesn't include a traditional path through the education system, particularly since the entertainment industry tends to be a young person's game. Actors, athletes, musicians — all sorts of celebs have juggled the pursuit of knowledge with the pursuit of their careers to varying degrees... and varying degrees. While some made it their mission to excel in the classroom, others hightailed it out of school when they reached their early teens.

The rappers on our list are proof that everyone's educational journey is different. There's Eminem, for example, who failed one grade multiple times. Though he was far from being studious, he would later go on to become one of the best-selling artists, breaking various records in the US and across the pond. And he's just one of many rappers who failed in school but aced it in his professional life. 

Let's take a closer look at how far these rappers got in school.

Jay-Z is the 'exception to the rule'

Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he attended Eli Whitney High School, according to author Dennis Abrams biography, Jay-Z (Hip-Hop Stars). After the school closed in the late 80's — due, in part, to "violence in its halls and classrooms" (per The New York Times) — Jay-Z was transferred over to George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School, where some of his classmates included a few fellow high-profile rappers, such as Busta Rhymes (who lost to Jay-Z in a high school rap battle), and the late Notorious B.I.G. Jay-Z would later enroll at Trenton Central High School in Trenton, N.J., where his school years would abruptly come to an end.

There's a reason why the rapper boastfully proclaimed, "I'm from the school of the hard knocks," in his 1998 track "Hard Knock Life." He wound up dropping out of school and took refuge in the streets before he eventually snagged a record contract, Forbes reported.

Looking back on his trajectory to superstardom and his lack of formal education, the "Empire State of Mind" artist knows just how special he really is. During a cross-country school tour (via Billboard), he stopped by Chicago's Marshall High School and warned a group of students that he's "the exception to the rule," adding, "There's not too many Jay-Z's. I'm one in a billion. That's not happening every day. You got to have something to fall back on, and try to protect yourself." 

Eminem failed the ninth grade three times

To get a better understanding about Marshall "Eminem" Mathers' feelings on education, just listen to his 2002 track, "White America," where he effortlessly rhymes: "But I could rap, so f**k school, I'm too cool to go back / Give me the mic! Show me where the f*****g studio's at!" To say the poetic lyricist hated school is an understatement. Because he moved often and changed schools up to three times per year, he told 60 Minutes that he was a victim of bullying. "I was beat up in the bathroom, beat up in hallways, shoved in the lockers — for the most part for being the new kid," he said.

Unable to connect with his peers, Eminem's grades suffered, and his academic career was marred by truancy. According to a 1999 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Eminem failed the ninth grade three times and was forced to pursue other options. "My mother was like, 'Get a f*****g job and help me with these bills, or your a** is out,'" he recalled. He would then drop out at the age of 17, CBS News reported.

It was hip-hop music that provided him with an escape. "I found something," Eminem told 60 Minutes of his early experimentation with rap. "'Yeah, this kid over here may have more chicks," he continued, "Like, he may have better clothes or whatever, but he can't [write lyrics] like me." 

Eat your hearts out, bullies!

Drake started from the bottom, but now he's a high school grad

With some help from a friend's father who just so happened to be a talent agent, Drake snagged the role of Jimmy Brooks on the Canadian television program DeGrassi: The Next Generation when he was just 15, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Sadly, heading out into the workforce as a teen meant school took a backseat. He became the breadwinner of his family, telling Complex magazine, "My mother was very sick. We were very poor, like broke. The only money I had coming in was off of Canadian TV, which isn't that much money when you break it down."

Looking back on being a high school drop-out, Drake appeared to be in his feelings, and he didn't seem content with his decision in an interview with Kentucky Sports Television (via Rolling Stone). "I never really got like a great school experience," he said. *Insert sad face emoji*

It's too bad he can't board a time machine and change the course of his life. But, in 2012, he decided to hit the books to finally make his education dreams come true. "97% on my final exam. 88% in the course. One of the greatest feelings in my entire life. As of tonight I have graduated high school!" he tweeted. We love an educated papi!

G-Eazy is a graduate of The Big Easy

Gerald "G-Eazy" Gillum wasn't exactly sold on the idea of leaving his hometown of Oakland, Calif. behind to attend Loyola University in New Orleans, but it was the school's music program that really drew him in. "John, the guy in charge of the program, told me that they designed the program at Loyola for someone like me," he told WGNO. "My mom wanted me to go to college, so I decided to, and it only took me a week to fall in love with New Orleans."

Many assume his rap moniker pays homage to The Big Easy, but that's not the case. "My nickname as a kid was G.E. because those are my initials. It just sort of turned into G-Eazy from there," he explained, but we like the idea that he named himself after one of his favorite cities better. So, let's roll with that...

With his Bachelors of Science degree in Music Industry Studies in the palm of his hand, he would go on to become one of the biggest names in the industry, with songs, such as "No Limit" and "Me, Myself & I," topping the charts.

Childish Gambino hit it big before he graduated

Donald Glover Jr., who raps under the moniker Childish Gambino, shared his experience with school-age heartache on his track, "My Girls." In it, he raps, "In the fourth grade I had a crush on Tia Smith / Sixth grade and this crush is turned to Beatrice / But they don't like me because I'm too nice / And I'm kinda fat, and not the dope type."

His days of striking out with the ladies are long over. And, as lucky as he has been in the romance department, he has been even luckier in his ascension to fame. It all started after he obtained his high school diploma. He left Stone Mountain, Ga. in the dust and enrolled at New York University in 2002, "majoring in dramatic writing with a minor in psychology," his alma mater's alumni magazine revealed. He and fellow NYU students launched a popular sketch-comedy YouTube channel, and during the sometimes-actor, sometimes-rapper's senior year of college, he was hired as a writer for 30 Rock 

Though he did graduate college, Glover's life immediately became meticulously balanced between his various entertainment trades, starting with the release of Childish Gambino's 2010 EP I Am Just a Rapper, which dropped at the same time he starred on NBC's Community, Complex reported.

Kendrick Lamar knows the importance of education

With an insane amount of Grammy awards to his name, it's clear Kendrick Lamar's way with words has music lovers under a trance. And the gifted rapper didn't need to spend years at a post-secondary institution to perfect his flow either. He became the first in his family to graduate from high school when he earned his diploma from Centennial High School, Rap-up reported. With a 4.0 grade point average, Lamar clearly wasn't slacking on his studies, either, and he had his teachers to thank for that.

He was invited to play principal for the day at Mount Pleasant High School in Providence, R.I. back in 2013, and he shared a very important message to nearly 1,000 students: "Without education you don't have anything." The "Poetic Justice" artist went on to credit his rap career to his "middle school English teacher." Of his mentor, Lamar said, "He used to encourage me to write poetry and would challenge me, which helped me improve my vocabulary and made me enjoy writing."

Nicki Minaj is proud of her school, but is the feeling mutual?

New York's Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School specializes in visual and performing arts, and some if its famous alumni include Jennifer Aniston, Liza Minnelli, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and — yes, you guessed it — Nicki Minaj. Enrolling in the legendary institution was a dream come true for the "Anaconda" rapper. "It was the first time I felt like I really fit in," she told Teen Vogue. "Everyone there was creative. For once, I didn't feel like there was something weird about me."

After graduating in 2000, Minaj attempted to return to the campus she loved so much, but her plans were crushed. "I wanted to go back to my HS and speak to the students but the new principal declined. No need for me to inspire them, I guess. Smh," she tweeted. According to Showbiz 411, Minaj was rejected because she wanted to bring a television crew along with her, and the NYC Department of Education declined in order to protect the privacy of its students.

Welp, that's one way to ruin a "Moment 4 Life."

Cardi B's personality got her into a ton of trouble

Speaking with The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Cardi B recalled being "very disruptive" during her school years, constantly cracking jokes and ending up in the principal's office on various occasions. The eccentric personality she displays in interviews was just as robust during her teen years, she admitted. "I was always the funny kid," she told DeGeneres.

However, school wasn't all just fun and games for the "I Like It" rapper. She made sure to add that she was "really good in history" and other subjects she "liked." Though she was always getting "kicked out of class," the "Bodak Yellow" MC said all of her teachers were upset when her school years came to an end. "I made teachers cry when I left," she said. "But the smartest person, the teachers wasn't crying for them."

Immediately following high school, she graduated ... straight to the strip club! According to the bio page on her official website, Cardi B used the money from working the pole "to escape poverty and domestic violence, having been in an abusive relationship at the time." She also put some of those hard-earned dollars towards a college education, which she ultimately abandoned after becoming a social media sensation. 

Ludacris is still a panther at heart

Many of Christopher "Ludacris" Bridges' die-hard fans are aware he graduated from Benjamin Banneker High School in Fulton County, Ga. The rapper even shared an adorbs throwback picture from his high school days on his Instagram account back in 2014. Aww. He has since returned to his high school campus numerous times throughout the years to share some inspiring words, including during a 2009 visit (via the AJC), when he told students: "It's not about the hand you're dealt, it's how you play it," before adding, "I'm living proof."

Following his 1996 high school graduation, he enrolled at Georgia State University where he "studied music management" for just one year, the AJC also reported. Since leaving the classroom behind, he's still a very proud GSU alumnus. In a video entitled "A Special Message from Ludacris," the "Rollout" rapper gave a shout out to his alma mater ahead of an intense football matchup.

Gooooo Panthers!

Lil Wayne's mom encouraged him to drop out

Lil Wayne experienced fame at a young age when his raspy voice was featured on Cash Money Records hits, like Juvenile's "Back That A*z Up." But can you imagine being 14-years-old, having one of the hottest songs on the radio and still showing up to public school every day? In some places, it would be business as usual. However, growing up in the gritty Hollygrove neighborhood in New Orleans, Weezy carried a gun for protection whenever he stepped foot on his high school campus.

He told Katie Couric (via HipHopDX) that when his mom saw him put a gun in his backpack one morning, she encouraged him to bring the firearm to school. Then, she made an announcement. "She walked back to my room, she said, 'You don't go to school no more. You gettin' a GED,' and I was like, 'Okay,'" the rapper recalled. "She was like, 'If that's the way you gotta go to school, you on TV right now, tell [Birdman] and them, get you your GED.' So I went and got a GED, and I went to college."

Even though he probably already had "Amili" or more to his name by the time 2002 rolled around, Lil Wayne enrolled at the University of Houston with a major in political science, according to Free Press Houston. And later, he would enroll at the University of Phoenix to take advantage of their online psychology courses, The Guardian shared.