Did you enjoy Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city? There’s now a class for that. Multiple colleges are offering hip-hop-focused classes this fall. From courses on Jay Z to Tupac, these pop-culture classes are proving that rap is worthy of hefty academic study:
1. “Good Kids, Mad Cities” at Georgia Regents University
This fall, students at Georgia Regents University will be able to take a class on Kendrick Lamar’s breakthrough album, good kid, m.A.A.d city. Professor Adam Diehl has said he chose to create the class because the album was “worthy of university status. … I decided to center the class on good kid, m.A.A.d city because I think Kendrick Lamar is the James Joyce of hip-hop—i.e., in the complexity of his storytelling, in his knowledge of the canon and in his continuing focus on the city of his upbringing, Compton," Diehl told HipHopDX.
2. “Politicizing Beyoncé” at Rutgers University
Stating that few take Beyoncé seriously as a political figure, the course description says that students will study Beyoncé’s contributions to discussions of race and sexuality. Those enrolled in the class will examine Beyoncé’s music and read black feminist texts from Alice Walker to Sojourner Truth. Professor Kevin Allred hopes that by the end of the course, students will be able to answer the question: “Can Beyoncé’s music be seen as a blueprint for progressive social change?”
3. “Topics: Sean Combs & Urban Culture” at New York University
Students at New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music will have the chance to examine Sean Combs’ impact on the music industry. Professor Jayson Jackson will guide students as they explore the “social, cultural and political changes of the 1990s,” and the era’s impact on Combs’ rise to fame. “Though sometimes not treated with the seriousness he deserves, Combs has had a profound effect on global culture of the last 20 years,” states the course description. Through audio and texts, students will walk away with a better sense of how Combs’ success has had a lasting impacting on the music industry.
4. “Sociology of Hip-Hop—Urban Theodicy of Jay Z” at Georgetown University
Professor and author Michael Eric Dyson created this sociology course at Georgetown University. “We’re dealing with everything that’s important in a sociology class: race, gender, ethnicity, class, economic inequality, social injustice. … His body of work has proved to be powerful, effective and influential. And it’s time to wrestle with it,” Dyson told the Washington Post.
5. “The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur” at University of Washington
University of Washington students taking this course, created by professor Georgia M. Roberts, will study the “philosophical, historical and literary influences of the late rapper and activist Tupac Shakur,” according to the course description.
6. “English 2169: Jay Z and Kanye West” at University of Missouri
Professor Andrew Hoberek told the Huffington Post he was inspired to create this class after listening to a lot of Kanye West and Jay Z while attempting to create his course topics for 2013. He heard of rap-focused, pop-culture classes being offered at other universities and decided to create a class on West and Jay. Students will explore questions like, “How does their rise to both celebrity and corporate power alter what we understand as the American dream,” while listening to selected audio and reading texts, including Jay Z’s Decoded.
Editor’s note: This piece has been updated to correct the name of the Georgia Regents University course to “Good Kids, Mad Cities.”
Diamond Sharp is an editorial fellow at The Root. Follow her on Twitter. Nicole L. Cvetnic is The Root’s multimedia editor and producer.
Nicole L. Cvetnic is The Root’s multimedia editor and producer.