College professor teaching course on "genius" of Kanye West

Dr. Jeffrey McCune discusses "The Politics of Kanye West", a Washington University course.

Kanye West isn't crazy, he just "can't be contained".

At least that's what Washington University professor, Dr. Jeffrey McCune, says about the controversial hip-hop artist.

Kanye West has stayed out of the headlines recently, but last year the controversial rapper created a lot of buzz during his Saint Pablo Tour.

He abruptly stopped his Sacramento show in November after arriving late and performing only three songs. The rapper burst out in numerous bizarre rants and was the center of media chatter after walking off the stage, leaving many fans confused and angry.

Shortly after the Sacramento show, Kanye canceled the remaining tour dates and was hospitalized for unspecified reasons.

The incident left many wondering if Kanye was struggling with a mental illness, or if it was all part of a genius publicity stunt.

McCune uses Kanye's art form and public persona as a means to educate students on deeper issues.

The Politics of Kanye West course was created to have a discussion about hip-hop culture and it's impact on American society. McCune uses the dynamic rapper as a case study into topics such as manhood in the black community and hip-hop's contribution to the world.

"I really wanted to tap in on how Kanye contributes to fashion, to music, to all types of aesthetics and that was the purpose of the course." said McCune. "The same way I think about Shakespeare, or Picasso, or any of those other folks we claim as geniuses"

McCune is holding his course over three different lectures.

"The first lecture was introducing the community to the idea of genius as something that can actually belong to black folks and particularly think about Kanye West somewhat as a genius but also think about hip-hop as a genius art." he said.

Hip-hop comes out of conditions that are "largely disenfranchised" and from communities where many think nothing can come out of, McCune explained. 

The second lecture discusses the concept of hip-hop as "mumbo-jumbo", which is a term used to describe hip-hop as an art form people can't understand. Kanye West embraces hip-hop as "mumbo-jumbo" and puts out sound and ideas you're not supposed understand, but still has the ability to impact the culture, according to McCune.

"Part of what I think Kanye does very interestingly is he takes "crazy", or the idea of some diagnosis, some type of public diagnosis, what I call a 'pop diagnosis' and he turns it into something that is popular and that is available to everybody." said McCune. "And in doing that he challenges the very idea that he himself is crazy."

While Kanye's mental health isn't known for sure and there is no verified diagnosis, McCune believes Kanye simply can't "be contained" and American society labels that behavior as "crazy".

Kanye's behavior at his Sacramento show generated a lot of speculation over what was actually happening with the rapper. His admittance into a hospital created even more talk. But seeking therapy or help shouldn't have a negative connotation, according to McCune.

"It's actually a signal of being human." said McCune.

"What I think happened in Sacramento is we saw Kanye actually have a moment publicly, that most of us have privately." said McCune.

The professor also suggested, society's pressure to stay in a box may be driving Kanye's peculiar behavior. 

"I think one of the things that we see is, the pressure for Kanye to be contained actually creates some kind of emotional instability." said McCune.

In other words, when a person like Kanye tries to express themselves in different ways and is held back or "contained" by society, it creates an inner dilemma.

McCune believes this is an issue for many individuals in the black and brown communities who are instead labeled as "crazy".

He said the intent of his course is to expand knowledge and offer new ways of seeing the world.

"Hopefully, as people walk away from this lecture and the other lectures, they begin to see not only Kanye West differently, but hip-hop culture and black popular culture as well." McCune explained.

He hopes this will push people to think about these artists contribution to society.

"We take them for granted and we write these folks off, particularly folks like Kanye, Beyonce, other folks, as just products that we consume when in fact they're actually complex layered subjects, complex layered people, and living individuals who have actual lives and actual emotions and actual intellectual labor that is attached to the music and the art that they create." said McCune.

The final lecture on Kanye West is Wed. April 12 and is free to the public.

© 2017 KXTV-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment