Hip-hop hoorays and nays for Jay-Z college course
Shakespeare. Aristotle. Jay-Z?
The collected works of the New York rapper have found their way into the curriculum at prestigious Georgetown University — and that’s riling some students and critics.
Jay-Z’s boasts about being the “Mike Jordan of recording” and his riffs on both street life and luxury living are the basis of a class entitled “Sociology of Hip-Hop: Jay-Z.”
It’s taught by TV pundit Michael Eric Dyson, who is an unabashed fan of what he calls Jay-Z’s social commentary — as well as the rapper’s business acumen.
“I think he’s an icon of American excellence,” the professor told the Associated Press.
Dyson praised Jay-Z’s “lyrical prowess.” He said the rapper is exploring contemporary black culture and that his rap songs confront timely issues like racial, gender and economic inequality.
Dyson has also made Jay-Z’s book “Decoded” required reading and hit students with both a midterm and final exam in Jay-Z-ology.
While the chairman of Georgetown’s sociology department defends the class, outraged students like junior Stephen Wu have called it “poppycock” and said serious scholars should be delving into Homer not Shawn Carter (Jay-Z’s real name).
“The great bard inclines toward the divine; he brings to light much of the character of human nature and puts man in communion with higher things,” Wu sniffed in the Georgetown campus newspaper, The Hoya. “Rap music frolics in the gutter, resplendent in vulgarity and the most crass of man’s wants.”
Other critics contend Dyson is giving a pass to a rapper who made his bones with raunchy lyrics that ripped women as greedy gold diggers in songs like “Big Pimpin’.”
Jay-Z, who is now happily married to Beyonce — and expecting their first child, has said he regrets writing those words.
“I can’t believe I said that,” he told the Wall Street Journal last year. “And kept saying it. What kind of animal would say this sort of thing?”
Jay-Z is not the first star to be the subject of a serious college class. There are a number of courses devoted to the words and music of The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen and others.
Nor is Jay-Z the first artist to be dismissed as too nasty for serious study. The same was said of poet Allen Ginsberg, whose epic poem “Howl” was deemed obscene when it first appeared in the 1950s, and is now taught in English classes.