Missy Elliot made history on Saturday. The pioneering producer, songwriter, singer, and rapper became the first hip-hop artist to receive an honorary degree from Berklee College of Music, the nation’s elite music conservatory. In her remarks accepting the honor, Elliot spoke of some of the trials and tribulations she’s faced navigating the music industry throughout the years. However, she left the graduating students with a message of hope. “There will be ups and downs — prepare for that, but don’t give up,” she said. “As long as you are breathing, it is never too late. Don’t forget that. You have come too far to quit.”
In their remarks honoring Elliot, Berklee heralded the five-time Grammy Award-winner, whose U.S. record sales have surpassed 30 million units, for “bending genres, breaking stereotypes, and pushing musical, visual, and stylistic boundaries.” Other recipients of the prestigious distinction included 10-time Grammy Award-winner Justin Timberlake and the musical director of Hamilton, Alex Lacamoire.
Timberlake also had some inspiring words to share with students in the audience: “I hope that in the years to come, two things will happen: One, I will represent you in the way that you most hope for. And two, I look around and see this graduating class. Meet me at the studio. I want to see y’all!’
Elliot is expected to release her first album in over a decade this year.