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Kendrick Lamar Gives Surprise Commencement Address at Compton College

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Kendrick Lamar surprised the class of 2024 at Compton College last week with a surprise commencement address in which he told the graduates that he believes the California city produces unmatched talent and praised their “courage to be independent thinkers.”

The winner of both a Pulitzer Prize and 17 Grammys, Lamar is a Compton native who has spoken about becoming embroiled in violent gang activity there while also finding an affinity for poetry in the city’s public schools. 

“I wanted to come out here just to tell y’all how much I appreciate y’all,” Lamar said as he greeted the crowd on Friday. “I’m proud of y’all, I’m proud of the city of Compton. I’m proud of Compton College. Most importantly, I’m proud of the graduates out here.”

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The rapper’s surprise appearance seemed to shock the graduates when it was announced by Compton College president Dr. Keith Curry 45 minutes into the ceremony. The crowd stood up and applauded, taking photos as Lamar walked to the podium as his hit song, “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” was played across the Dignity Health Sports Park Tennis Stadium. The rapper continued his praise of the graduates and the city they share as he addressed those gathered at the stadium.

“Seeing y’all out here, it is not only a representation of the world, but it’s a representation of me,” he said. “When I walk out in these cities, in these countries, I can be proud and say, ‘This is where I’m from.’”

Lamar also touched on the future that the class of 2024 can look toward and how the gathered graduates can use their intellect while facing the challenges ahead. 

“I still believe it’s time that we change the narratives. You know, some people tell us this generation don’t have what it takes… They’re wrong, though — you know why? Because not only do y’all have what it takes, but y’all have something even bigger,” he said. “Y’all have a heart. Y’all had the courage to be independent thinkers. There’s nothing more valuable than that. Y’all can go out here and tell and express your thoughts and say it with conviction and passion and stand on it and be unapologetic about it,”

Lemar then told the class of 2024 that their degrees from Compton College are “just as big as any degree,” adding, “It’s all about taking these resources, taking what you learned and applying them.” In parting, he spoke of his own daily dialogue with God and encouraged the graduates to do the same, in good times and bad. 

“I want y’all to go out here, celebrate yourself, enjoy yourself, he told the crowd. “Or keep that spirit within you, because it don’t stop. From here, it don’t stop.”

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