Course Kanye West: Why US University Students Are Studying The Rapper

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Rapper Kanye West is being studied as the embodiment of black genius at Washington University.

About 75 students are registered for the course entitled “Politics of Kanye West: Black Genius and Sonic Aesthetics,” which began this week and is being taught by Professor Jeffrey McCune.

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Dr. Jeffrey McCune, an associate professor at the university’s African and African-American Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies departments who runs the course, explained that he chose to focus on the rapper, producer, and fashion designer as he thought it would be a “good way to get students to connect issues of politics, race, gender, sexuality, and culture”.

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 McCune added that the course will neither fawn over West’s music nor be a weekly exercise in bashing him. Speaking to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, McCune said he was inspired to come up with the course after he noticed his students were constantly referring to West. “They’re always referencing his music and performances and videos and fashion. What better time than now to take Kanye West seriously as a cultural icon? I’m always interested in how he’s pushing whatever boundaries.”

“I’m always interested in how he’s pushing whatever boundaries. I always wanted to teach a course looking at black genius and the impossibility of black genius for the American public.”

“We’re always thought of as maybe being articulate or smart but not really genius,” he added.

He went on to say that West used hip-hop as a vehicle to display his genius, showing African-Americans that there are many platforms for them to show their talents.
The 14-week course will cover topics such as:

  • “Who is Kanye West and Why Is He in the Flashing Lights?”
  • “Touch the Sky, When the Aspirant Turns Genius”
  • “Father Stretch My Hands, or How Hip-Hop Takes Us to Church”
  • “Love Lock Down, or Hip-Hop’s Queer Love Languages”
  • “I Love Kanye, or How Critique Slips Into Hate”

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Similarly, Georgia State University had previously offered a course on West in 2015, while the University of Missouri had a course that focused on West and Jay-Z in 2014.