SANTA MONICA, California — The man who named his debut album The College Dropout made a special high school appearance Monday to praise the value of a higher education.
Kanye — who is in fact a college dropout — performed a concert for Santa Monica High School students, but not before talking up college and announcing a tuition giveaway.
"It is true you can be successful without [college], but this is a hard world, a real world, and you want every advantage you can have," West said backstage. "I would suggest to people to do all that you can. When I dropped out of school I had worked in the music industry and had checks cut in my name from record labels and had a record deal on the table, and when I wasn't successful and Columbia said, 'We'll call you,' I had to go back and work a telemarketing job, go back to the real world, and that's how life is. Life is hard. Take advantage of your opportunities."
The Kanye West Foundation is teaming with Musicland for the contest, called the Free U. College Giveaway, which next month will give one winner $150,000 toward college. (Students can enter at Musicland stores.)
"I think it's just dope to help kids with money and school," the rapper said. "That's the main problem. When I was a college student I was broke, and I really like clothes. When I was in college it would have been better if I could have afforded more clothes!"
West's foundation is sponsoring the contest, but the nonprofit's biggest priority is its own Loop Dreams project, which puts music-production equipment in schools.
"My mother was coming up with ideas but everything was so specific — 'We'll take the top three from the southern part of this city,' " West said. "I like simple ideas. I thought, 'Why did I go to school?' I didn't go for math class, I went for gym, for lunch, for art. Back then people used to love to play basketball, everybody had hoop dreams. Nowadays the average student wants to be a rapper or video director or producer or something like that more than playing basketball. So why not start a curriculum that teaches music production? Come on, get with the times. People are so behind. There's poetry classes, but why aren't there rap curriculums? It takes people like myself to stand up and say this is part of our culture, why not use it to educate."
West did just that a few minutes later, taking the school's amphitheater stage for a concert that included hits like "Heard 'Em Say," "Jesus Walks" and "Gold Digger," as well as a question-and-answer session with the students.
"I got A's and B's," West said with a grin when asked about his high school grades. "And I'm not even frontin'."
The school won the concert through a voting contest organized by Power 106's "Big Boy in the Morning" show.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.