If you’re having girl problems we feel bad for you son, we’ve got 99 problems and a credible degree is certainly one. That should be the mantra for a group of students at Georgetown University in the US, the same university that former US President Bill Clinton attended, who have decided to start a course focused on the life of rapper and businessman Jay-Z.
The course is officially titled Sociology of Hip Hop: Jay-Z according to Fox News, and is being taught by Professor Michael Eric Dyson who is also an author, radio host and television personality.
The new course offering is just the latest in a string of modern courses popping up at universities around the world focusing on non-traditional subject matters. Professor Dyson himself has previously taught classes on Tupac Shakur and Marvin Gaye at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dyson justifies the course saying Jay-Z is worth of being studied due to his musical success as well as his business success. Jay-Z counts amongst his business empire a clothing company and the basketball team the New Jersey Nets. Dyson also says that due to Jay-Z’s cross-cultural appea; and ‘lyrical prowess’ he is the perfect subject to study contemporary black America and culture.
“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. I think he’s an icon of American excellence.”
But not everyone agrees with the professor. Kris Marsh, an assistant sociology professor at the University of Maryland who specialises in the black middle class says there is danger in using his narrative alone to reflect black America. “Sometimes these artists use poetic license,” she said. “We’re not sure if it’s fiction or real life. It can be almost indistinguishable sometimes in hip-hop.”
The student newspaper agrees with Marsh, recently publishing a scathing attack on the college for offering the course. “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,” wrote the paper’s editor. “We dissect the lyrics of “Big Pimpin’,” but we don’t read Spenser or Sophocles closely.”
However the chairman of Georgetown’s sociology department, Timothy Wickham-Crowley, supports the professor, and though hardly as tough as some other subjects offered the course does have midterm and final examinations. It even has a book list of required readings which, you guess it, has amongst it Jay-Z’s book ‘Decoded’.