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Students clamour to join this U.S. university’s course on ‘cultural icon’ Kanye West

(File) Kanye West accepts the Video Vanguard Award at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

It can’t be denied that Kanye West is a force to be reckoned with, thanks to his wide influence in music and fashion.

To see the extent of his influence, you don’t need to look any further than Washington University in St. Louis – there’s a waiting list to join its latest undergraduate course, which focuses on the rapper-turned-mogul.

The class, called “Politics of Kanye West: Black Genius and Sonic Aesthetics”, already has 75 students signed up.

Dr Jeffrey McCune, who runs the course, explained that he chose to focus on the rapper, producer, and fashion designer as he thought it would be a “good way to get students to connect issues of politics, race, gender, sexuality, and culture”.

According to McCune, an associate professor at the university’s African and African-American Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies departments, the course will neither fawn over West’s music nor be a weekly exercise in bashing him.

Speaking to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, McCune said: “I always wanted to teach a course looking at black genius and the impossibility of black genius for the American public.”

“We’re always thought of as maybe being articulate or smart but not really genius.”

He went on to say that West used hip-hop as a vehicle to display his genius, showing African-Americans that there are many platforms for them to show their talents.

He noted that “many people spend a lot of time talking about Kanye as a controversial and somewhat hot-headed figure”.

“They’re very interested in Kanye West as a source of personality. Throughout his career, he has always interested me – his sense of black excellence, his belief that we have within us the capacity for greatness. I know for Kanye that has translated as narcissism and arrogance,” said McCune, who is a Chicago-native, same as West.

He added that he noticed his students constantly referring to West, which inspired him to come up with this course.

“They’re always referencing his music and performances and videos and fashion. What better time than now to take Kanye West seriously as a cultural icon? I’m always interested in how he’s pushing whatever boundaries.”

The 14-week course will cover topics such as:

  • “Who is Kanye West and Why Is He in the Flashing Lights?”
  • “Touch the Sky, When the Aspirant Turns Genius”
  • “Father Stretch My Hands, or How Hip-Hop Takes Us to Church”
  • “Love Lock Down, or Hip-Hop’s Queer Love Languages”
  • “I Love Kanye, or How Critique Slips Into Hate”

However, this course isn’t the first of its kind: Georgia State University had previously offered a course on West in 2015, while the University of Missouri had a course that focused on West and Jay-Z in 2014.

Additional reporting by Associated Press.

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