Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Washington University Starts Course on 'Cultural Icon' Kanye West

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Washington University Starts Course on 'Cultural Icon' Kanye West

Article excerpt

Washington University students can take a deeper dive into the world of Kanye West with a course that began this week: "Politics of Kanye West: Black Genius and Sonic Aesthetics."

Seventy-five students are registered for the course on the controversy magnet, and there was a waiting list to get in.

Georgia State University offered a course on West in 2015, and one at the University of Missouri in 2014 focused on West and Jay-Z. Dr. Jeffrey McCune, an associate professor in the African and African-American Studies and the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies departments, helms this course on the rapper, producer and fashion designer.

McCune promises the course isn't an excuse to fawn over West's music, nor will it be a weekly exercise in West bashing. Highlights from the artist's life last year include a lauded album, "The Life of Pablo," and a public breakdown followed by a stint in rehab.

McCune sees the course as a "good way to get students to connect issues of politics, race, gender, sexuality and culture."

He's had the concept in his head for a long time.

"I always wanted to teach a course looking at black genius and the impossibility of black genius for the American public," he says. "We're always thought of as maybe being articulate or smart but not really genius."

McCune says West, via hip-hop, helped give African-Americans platforms on which they could become all sorts of geniuses literary, musical and more.

"Hip-hop is a way to show our creative genius," he says. "Kanye really uses hip-hop as a vehicle to display all of his talents, albeit some better than others."

McCune thought now was the right time to start the course. "Many people spend a lot of time talking about Kanye as a controversial and somewhat hot-headed figure," he says. "They're very interested in Kanye West as a source of personality. Throughout his career, he has always interested me his sense of black excellence, his belief that we have within us the capacity for greatness. I know for Kanye that has translated as narcissism and arrogance."

But, he adds, there's also "a healthy dose of confidence and investment in black excellence that translates to so many people, and young people in particular. …

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