Dancehall megastar Shaggy was not only conferred with his honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Brown University today, but also put on a mini Reggae/Dancehall show to huge cheers from excited students and academic staff, during the institution’s Undergraduate Class of 2020 Commencement Ceremony.
The Boombastic singer was one of nine persons who received honorary doctorates from Brown, which is one of the leading Ivy League research universities in the United States.
Shaggy was met with resounding cheers from students as he approached the podium for his degree and citation which read in part: “Your style, your voice and your influence on Reggae and the genre’s growth in American pop culture, cannot be overstated. You are recognised world over for your success as a musician, your leadership and philanthropy…”
In his address, Shaggy outlined the Reggae icons who inspired him, among them Yellowman and Bob Marley. He also outlined his military exploits in the US Marines which he had joined primarily to access tertiary education, as well as his accomplishments in music including his Diamond-selling album Hot Shot, which was released at a time when the airing of Caribbean music was few and far between on US radio.
“You see, I realised early on, that nothing showcases culture like stars and nothing shifts culture like superstars. Because the odds were against me as a Caribbean artiste doing Dancehall and Reggae music, I had to become not just a star, but a superstar; a star with superhero-like talent, personality, charisma, work ethic and presence,” he said.
“I knew record labels weren’t going to invest money into a Caribbean act unless they produce numbers, sales. So I had to go 10 times harder in music; 10 times better and more infectious than any other genre while getting 10 times less sleep. All this to have even a fighting chance or a seat at the table. We sold huge numbers and opened the doors for the genre and gave the industry confidence in investing in Caribbean acts such as Sean Paul, Wayne Wonder, Elephant Man to name a few,” the Rae Town native added.
Shaggy, also emphasized the point that the ultimate aim of everyone being put on the earth by God, is to be of service to others and not to chase material things.
Upon completing his address he dropped his first gold-selling hit song Bombastic, then Angel and It Wasn’t Me from his Hot Shot album, which turned the ceremony into a mini-concert to the delight of the attendees.
The ceremony Undergraduate Class of 2020 Commencement Ceremony, was staged for students who missed their in-person Commencement experience due to the pandemic, during the institution’s Commencement and Reunion Weekend.
Brown University has, since 1769, five years after it was established, bestowed honorary degrees upon people it describes as “individuals of distinction and accomplishment, recognizing their leadership and contribution to society in many fields and disciplines”.
The university, which is located in Providence, Rhode Island, also describes its honorary degree candidates as being selected for “both their renown and the reflection in their life and in their work of the values and mission of Brown as an academic community”.
Watch Shaggy’s address and performance above.