University Offers Course on Kanye West and Jay Z

(Photo: Pieter Jannick-Dijkstra)

Kanye West and Jay Z are American hip hop and rap performers. They've worked together extensively for over a decade and are close friends and collaborators. Now the University of Missouri is offering a course on their work. Dr. Andrew Hobreck teaches English 2169, which is entitled simply "Jay Z and Kanye West." Here's the official course description:

This course looks at the career and work of Jay-Z and Kanye West from three perspectives: (1) Where do they fit within, and how do they change, the history of hip-hop music? (2) How is what they do similar to and different from what poets do?, and (3) How does their rise to both celebrity and corporate power alter what we understand as the American dream?  In addition to listening to music and watching videos, we will also read Jay-Z's Decoded; histories of and critical works on rap music by Jeff Chang, Adam Bradley, and others; and one or two good studies of how poetry works.

In an interview with Consequence of Sound, Dr. Hobreck argued that these two men should be taken seriously as emerging poets:

I really do think that these guys are warming up to the level of major poets, and not many people think of it in those terms. Because it’s not just on a page, but it’s video art, too. So, we looked at how those complicated the questions, and how do books about poetry help us to understand rap with Jay and Kanye at the forefront. We looked at the larger history of rap as an art form. Specifically, how, especially with Blueprint 3 and Yeezus, there’s an identifiable push to get beyond what’s happening in the art form. They’re very much like painters and novelists in the 20th century, moving beyond the confines of the art form’s boundaries.”

I have not listened to either gentleman, so I have no opinion on the subject. Do you agree with Dr. Hobreck?

-via American Digest

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Yes, I do think its worth examining the work of major rap artists, like Kanye and Jay-Z - and for that matter, the work of Missy Elliott and Queen Latifah. A lot of white people dismiss rap and hip hop as 'gangster crap' and sure, some of it is...but you can say the same about pop music, hipster folk blah blah etc. If you don't understand rap, try using because it will give you a great deal of insight into what songs are about - even some that you think you know. There are layers within some apparently simple phrases which may not be apparent at first glance. (For the record, Im a white woman in her mid-40s. Open your minds, people.)
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