David Needleman for Billboard

Prior to the release of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ latest album, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, the rapper and producer decided to clean up their thoughts and opinions on race relations. In a new Billboard cover story, the duo reveals that they took “what was essentially a college seminar on race” in between their breakout debut LP The Heist and their latest full-length.

The catalyst for the seminar was the 2014 death of Michael Brown and the protests in Ferguson, Mo. following officer Darren Wilson’s non-indictment. “The night of the nonindictment was the biggest one in terms of realizing I had been silent [about racism] out of fear,” Macklemore says. “I had been silent out of not wanting to mess up, out of a fear of saying the wrong thing. If I said the wrong thing, that would be a bigger story than me supporting it.”

So, he and Lewis called up Lewis’ adviser at the University of Washington, Georgia Roberts, and met with the professor to discuss visionaries like W.E.B. Du Bois and James Baldwin. They met every week for three hours over six months.

“Georgia really schooled us,” says Lewis. School yourself on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ GRAMMY win and the other biggest upsets in GRAMMY history.