Studying Jay-Z: Rapper is source material for Georgetown course

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Professor, author and radio host Michael Eric Dyson has long been an ardent proponent of hip-hop, and now he’s teaching a course on one of the genre’s biggest purveyors: Jay-Z.

The course, “Sociology of Hip-Hop: Jay-Z,” is a three-credit, twice-weekly lecture in session at Georgetown University, where Dyson has been a professor since 2007.

“I’d written a book on Nas, one rhetorical genius, and I wanted to focus on another,” Dyson said. “I wanted my students to understand that when you’re dealing with an artist like Jay-Z you’re dealing with a genius — a crafter of words, an all-time literary great. [Jay] gives us such powerful poetic passion. I wanted my students to understand that.”

This isn’t the first time Dyson has brought out the academia of a rapper. He previously offered a course on Tupac at the University of Pennsylvania and penned an acclaimed book on the slain emcee. Picking Jay-Z as his next focus was easy, he said.


“He’s a guy from the Marcy Projects that’s now worth half a billion dollars, married to arguably the best entertainer out there behind Michael Jackson. I wanted to probe all of these dimensions of Jay-Z as one of the most gifted and talented musicians of our time,” Dyson said.

Students are required to read Jay’s book “Decoded,” Adam Bradley’s “Book of Rhymes” and Zack O’Malley Greenburg’s “Empire State of Mind.” Dyson also has students examine his lyrics, and they watch “Fade to Black,” his 2004 concert documentary.

Dyson’s course attracted 140 students, nearly four times the size of an average course at Georgetown he said. He hopes to tackle Nas, Lauryn Hill and the Roots for future courses. ALSO:

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— Gerrick D. Kennedy / gerrickkennedy