When I heard about the Georgetown University course, “Sociology of Hip Hop: Jay-Z;” I thought not bad. I guess they’re thinking outside the box with the class. Then I thought, Harvard should just up the game; offer a class on the genius of Hip Hop that is, Wu-Tang Clan. In any event peep the story and get your degree in Marcyology:
Prof Dyson’s Class:
One recent lecture centered on how popular black artists reflect their culture and race to the public at large, with Dyson name-dropping LL Cool J, Diahann Carroll and Bill Cosby. The professor and one student went back and forth on whether the rapper’s lyrical depictions of his extravagant lifestyle — “Used to rock a throwback, balling on the corner/Now I rock a Teller suit, looking like an owner” is one of many examples — amounted to bragging and rubbing his taste for fine living in the faces of his listeners.
The student took the position that Jay-Z appears overly boastful, but Dyson countered that the rapper, who grew up in a Brooklyn housing project but has since become a multimillionaire, has never lost his ability to relate to the struggles of everyday people and has continued giving voice to their concerns. Though Jay-Z raps about Saint-Tropez and expensive cigars, he also talks about being nurtured by Brooklyn. And in one song, 99 Problems, he attacks racial profiling with a stark depiction of a racially motivated traffic stop: “Son, do you know why I’m stopping you for?” the officer asks. Jay-Z replies: “‘Cause I’m young and I‘m black and my hat’s real low.”
opinion piece published in Georgetown’s student newspaper The Hoya, junior Stephen Wu dismissed the class as “poppycock”:
Who honestly thinks that the productions of Carter can compare in any way, shape or form with the Homeric corpus? 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. Rap music frolics in the gutter, resplendent in vulgarity and the most crass of man’s wants.
It speaks volumes that we engage in the beat of Carter’s pseudo-music while we scrounge to find serious academic offerings on Beethoven and Liszt. We dissect the lyrics of “Big Pimpin’,” but we don’t read Spenser or Sophocles closely. Our pedagogical commitments are disordered, and I think that in our heart of hearts we know this.