USA Today

John Legend, Common Among Hip Hop and R&B's Smartest Smarty Pants

By: Kyle McCann

March 14, 2017

For all of you out there that paid a little more attention in high school than I did, March 14th is more than just a date on the calendar. It's what some folks call Pi Day. Pi, of course, is a mathematical constant. It's the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, or 3.14159... but we'll just say 3.14. And because this day carries a little bit of significance for people much smarter than me, I decided to share my list of the hip hop and R&B stars who are most definitely more big-brained than I am.

Lil Wayne

Don't be fooled by the gold-and-diamond teeth and eyelid tattoos, Weezy's brain is on another level. Not only is the rapper a published author, but he also studied psychology through the University of Phoenix after his busy schedule forced him to drop out of the University of Houston. Of course, this all came as a result of Lil' Wayne getting his GED years after dropping out at 14 to pursue a music career.




It really shouldn't be much of a surprise that a guy who graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Music Management would become a platinum selling artist. The rapper-slash-actor-slash-businessman even applied that education when he started his own record label in 2000. Luda's now 15-year-old Ludacris Foundation remains a non-profit focused on inspiring youth through education.


Lauryn Hill

Perhaps the ex-Fugees' 1998 album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was a veiled reference to the singer's short stint at Columbia University. Or, probably not. Hill actually left the Ivy League school after seeing sales of the Fugees' The Score surpass six figures. Also, for what it's worth, the album's title is a reference to a Carter G. Woodson book -- further proof she's super smart, because I had to Google that.  


J. Cole

This hip hop superstar is so smart that when he was a kid he taught himself to play the piano. J. Cole not only went on to attend a good school in St. Johns University, but he also graduated magna cum laude in 2007. And here's the best of J. Cole's academic story - he actually didn't receive his diploma until 2015 at a homecoming concert he performed, saying an overdue library book caused the university to hold onto that piece of paper.



The soulful Chicago native has made his mark in music, film, and television by being smart, poetic, witty, and pretty easy on the eyes. All that said, Common actually left the Windy City to attend Florida A&M on a scholarship, where he majored in Business Administration. Common would leave school after his music career began to take off. The award-winning rapper and poet remains a fairly active writer and activist.


John Legend

While nearly all of the artists on this list are connected both musically and by their academic prowess, only one can call themselves the graduate of an Ivy League school. John Legend graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999 and almost immediately began writing, producing, and recording his own music. But his dreams weren't coming true. So, Legend took a job working as a management consultant around the time he met an up-and-coming rapper you may have heard of, named Kanye West... and, well, the rest is history.