Why teach Kanye West?

Jeffrey McCune on artistry, hip-hop and the philosophy of black genius

Kanye West is one of the most popular and critically acclaimed artists working today. And his music offers an important lens through which to study the intersections of race and class, gender and power, celebrity and mental health.

So says Jeffrey McCune, associate professor of women, gender and sexuality studies and African and African-American studies in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. In recent months, McCune has made headlines for teaching “The Politics of Kanye West: Black Genius and Sonic Aesthetics.” The course survey’s West impact on music, fashion, politics and other fields, as well as the controversies surrounding his public personae.

In this video, McCune discusses the course, the importance of hip-hop culture and the ways West’s work helps us to examine the most pressing issues of our day.

“The question isn’t ‘Why teach Kanye West,’ ” McCune said. “The question is, ‘What does Kanye teach us?’”

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 8, McCune will present a free public lecture titled “Mumbo Jumbo: The (in)Audibility of Kanye West.” The talk is presented as part of Washington University’s Assembly Series. For more information, visit assemblyseries.wustl.edu.