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Kanye West
Kanye WestPhotography Matt Holyoak

What do you actually learn on a Kanye West college course?

Rapper and university lecturer Narcy tells Dazed what to expect from his new class on Ye

At one point or another, all of us have wondered WTF is going on with Kanye West – from the social media rants that earned him his latest Instagram ban, to the business deals that helped him build his Yeezy empire, to the undeniable impact of his music. Now, we might be one step closer to getting some answers.

Over the weekend, the rapper and university lecturer Yassin Alsalman, AKA Narcy, announced that he’s set to teach a university-level class on Kanye West at Montreal’s Concordia University. Titled Kanye Vs. Ye: Genius by Design, the course will dissect the rapper’s “art, design, music, celebrity, and cultural impact in the age of information”. The official description also notes that students will explore “Kanyetive Dissonance”, a concept that Alsalman has already discussed at length on his YouTube channel.

Alsalman has taught at Concordia since 2013, alongside his own rap career (his latest single as Narcy, “Iraqafella”, arrives on March 18). He has previously led classes on other hip hop legends such as A Tribe Called Quest and Lauryn Hill, and intends to bring in well-known Kanye collaborators such as Mike Dean and A-Trak for Kanye Vs. Ye – although, he tells Dazed, “We haven’t locked anyone in yet.”

Feel like you’ve got a bright future as a Kanye West scholar? Well first you’ll have to land a place on the selective course. Despite significant demand, the class will be limited to 200 Concordia students.

Of course, similar celebrity college courses have been around for some time. Since 2014, Beyoncé has inspired dedicated classes at several prestigious universities, while UC Berkeley has included Frank Ocean on its English curriculum, and UCLA academics have unpacked Jordan Peele’s Get Out. This isn’t even the first Kanye class on offer (though it is the only class of its kind in Canada).

Below, Dazed talks to Alsalman to find out what you actually learn in a college class on Kanye West, and why the artist’s career is worthy of academic study in the first place.

Can you give away any details about the Kanye Vs. Ye: Genius by Design syllabus?

Yassin Alsalman: I have to keep the syllabus close but what I can tell you is, Ye is transcendent over so many facets of art and design that it’s hard to squeeze it all into 13 weeks. I will be focusing not only on him, but the community around him – the people in his life and the creative cycles he has taken us through as listeners/consumers/fans. Here are a few topics I can share with you at the moment:

The College Dropout: Alternative methods to education, success and self-actualization.

Donda: On transcendence, public grief and matriarchs. 

Graduation: Undoing America, oppression, and creative heights.

You Ain’t Got The Answers: Questioning power dynamics, industry, and “Kanyetive Dissonance”.

Reading wise, we are taking from The Autobiography of Malcolm X, readings by Homi K. Bhabha, Message to the Blackman in America by Elijah Muhammad, Jay-Z’s Decoded, Talib Kweli’s Vibrate Higher, and the MBDTF book by Kirk Walker Graves.

What elements of Kanye's career will the course focus on? His music, business, art, personal life...?

Yassin Alsalman: Listen, nothing is off the table, since he’s the table. I see his work in totality. There is a through-line we will be studying that you saw clearly in Coodie and Chike’s films [Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy]. Maybe we will find the answers but we don’t have them right now (no pun intended). I think it’s important to block out the noise and study the artistic direction we witness in our lifetime, before people leave earth. And Ye’s story is comprised of so many greats, from Black Star, to Chappelle, to 88-Keys and Consequence. We are going to try to piece it all together in real-time. 

What makes Kanye West a worthy subject for an entire university course?

Yassin Alsalman: I think there are many artists that deserve a university course, from Ms. Hill, to Kendrick, André 3000, to Tyler. Hip hop is an incredible, undeniable force and culture. It should, and will, have its own departments in universities across the world when all’s said and done. It is the ultimate culture – it has saved so many of us and also speaks directly to every generation of youth after the other. Kanye is one example – and I’ve been teaching for seven years now. We dissected so many records and everytime we do that, I realise how rich the culture and the artistry is. We got a lot of work ahead of us.

What can a university course offer that mere Kanye fandom can’t?

Yassin Alsalman: Fandom is consumption. It is not reciprocal. I think a better question is how can [academic] study teach lessons – what can study do for understanding, empathy, and culture building. The importance here is for students to leave my class with these things: an open mind, inspiration, and excitement for knowledge. In an information age where knowledge is fleeting, we want to find ways to engage students in new, fresh, and informative ways. The danger of our society is that we consume and information dump, we hardly retain any more. We forget what came before today – and if that happens, we won’t know where we are going.