Michael Eric Dyson On Jay-Z Georgetown University Course


By Dionne Buxton

Noted educator and author, Michael Eric Dyson, has taken a new spin on generic education. He is now teaching a class at the prominent Georgetown University, based solely on Jay Z. The course, “Sociology of Hip-Hop: Jay-Z” is a 3 credit course offered this semester.

RapFix caught up with Dr. Dyson at Jigga’s carnival fundraiser for his “Shawn Carter Foundation” in Manhattan on September 29 where he spoke candidly about the importance of the rapper. “Well obviously Jay-Z is one of the greatest entertainers of the world today,” he said. “Not only is he a remarkable rhetorical genius, he’s also a man of deep sympathy and empathy for those who are lost and vulnerable, but especially under-educated youth of all cultures and stripes.”

While some speak negatively about hip-hop’s vulgarity and rawness, Dyson sees no point in going against this phenomenon and clearly supports including rap in the cannon of education. “Speaking out against rap music is useless, and it’s futile. The reality is there’s criticism for everything, but Jay-Z is one of the most remarkable artists of our time of any genre, and as a hip-hop artist he carries the weight of that art form with such splendor and grace and genius,” he said. “I admire the way in which he carries himself and the incredible craft that he displays every time he steps up to the microphone.”

The course covers Jay-Z’s book “Decoded,” Adam Bradley’s “Book of Rhymes,” Zack O'Malley Greenburg’s “Empire State of Mind,” as well as other articles and films about hip-hop in general. “We look at his incredible body of work, we look at his own understanding of his work, we look at others who reflect upon him, and then we ask the students to engage in critical analysis of Jay-Z himself,” Dyson explained.

Dr. Dyson reiterated that hip-hop is an important subject that people should take seriously and learn about, and the interest level at Georgetown is very high. “Well you know if you have an average size class of 30-40, and then you got 140 students signed up that tells you right there there’s an extraordinary interest,” he said, “I think that’s why it’s important for young people to see that the rhetorical invention of African American culture needs to be taken seriously with one of its greatest artist.”