Forget the books. This semester, Georgetown students might need to bring woofers and turntables to class instead. According to USA Today, the university is offering a sociology class focusing on the career of one of rap music’s biggest stars:
WASHINGTON – Michael Eric Dyson parses Jay-Z’s lyrics as if analyzing fine literature. The rapper’s riffs on luxury cars and tailored clothes and boasts of being the “Mike Jordan of recording” may make for catchy rhymes, but to Dyson, they also reflect incisive social commentary.
Dyson, a professor, author, radio host and television personality, has offered at Georgetown University this semester a popular — if unusual — class dedicated to Jay-Z and his career. The course, “Sociology of Hip-Hop: Jay-Z,” may seem an unlikely offering at a Jesuit, majority-white school that counts former President Bill Clinton among its alumni. But Dyson insists that his class confronts topics present in any sociology course: racial and gender identity, sexuality, capitalism and economic inequality.
“It just happens to have an interesting object of engagement in Jay-Z — and what better way to meet people where they are?” Dyson said. “It’s like Jesus talking to the woman at the well. You ask for a drink of water, then you get into some theological discussions…”
Some, however, lack faith in the course’s value. Georgetown junior Stephen Wu criticized the class in an article in The Hoya, arguing that hip-hop street cred does not necessarily translate into academic credibility:
The fundamental reason why we ostensibly study Jay-Z is because of his “important cultural impact,” replete with an ordered hierarchy of discipline, politics and excellence. Now, his conception of excellence may or may not accord with Ciceronian virtus, but even this can be bemusedly contemplated until the claim is uttered that he is in some way an inheritor of the great Homeric tradition.
“Were he alive during the period of ancient Greece,” the course professor charges, Carter “would be regarded as a god in terms of literary and poetic expression.” This is poppycock…