Professor McCune is famous for using Kanye as a case study in his class “The Politics of Kanye West: Black Genius and Sonic Aesthetics.”
About two months ago, I wrote an article about a certain college professor — Jeffrey McCune — at Washington University that offers a college course on Kanye West. The course is named “Politics of Kanye West: Black Genius and Sonic Aesthetics” and helps students “connect politics, race, gender, sexuality and culture,” according to the New York Post.
On April 12th, McCune gave his third and final lecture for the course, titling it “Name One Genius That Ain’t Crazy: Kanye West and the Politics of Self-Diagnosis.” The lecture was centered around the idea that Kanye acts so ‘out of the box’ because critics are constantly trying to keep him ‘inside the box.’
The title of the lecture stemmed from a line in Kanye West’s ‘Feedback’ on his newest album The Life of Pablo — which has already gone Platinum. Here’s the lyric:
I can’t let these people play me
Name one genius that ain’t crazy
Follow our father
You borrow our motto
I’m a Chicago south sider
I’m a Chicago south sider
Recently, Professor McCune sat down with Uproxx.com for an interview where he talked about his college course and Kanye West.
Here are some of the highlights from the interview.
When asked why he became fascinated in Kanye, McCune credited it to his ties to Chicago:
I grew up in Chicago. So I remember the premiere of his video, “Through the Wire,” where there were so many Chicago-rooted images and artifacts. His remixing of Chaka Khan and his use of Chicago imagery, as well as the political message of making it “through the wire” — as a philosophy of black life — was fascinating.
He also elaborated on one of his previous comments when he said that Kanye is constantly contained inside this box that we don’t allow him to go out of.
I think at a certain level of iconography, people become products; and thus, we want to keep our products doing what we want them to do. The idea of containing Kanye is about keeping him under control, keeping him a safe popular figure. Often, this translates to quiet and docile; a silence around issues that pertain to race, systemic inequality, or anything beyond music. Kanye refuses to abide by ‘safe’ rules and becomes a sort of fugitive in public, who defies all conventions of both proper public behavior and message.
Professor McCune also touched base on why he thinks Kanye is constantly looked at as ‘crazy’:
No, I am not saying Kanye popularizes mental illness. In my book On Kanye, I take this on. What I believe is that in Kanye’s being uncontainable, he opens up a conversation about not being respectable as a ‘sign of crazy.’ This definition of ‘crazy’ is problematic and is a part of what I call pop diagnosis; the public determines mental health rooted in an idea of celebrities not acting according to their expectations.
When asked about some of Kanye’s biggest moments acting up:
We all know that what folks rap about does not always align with how they live. In addition, the behaviors that folks call ‘crazy’ or mark as signs of mental illness, are often not verifiably as a part of mental diagnosis. For example, Kanye’s disruption of Taylor Swift, while either rude or abrasive to some, does not constitute ‘personality disorder.’ My point is that as Kanye makes particular moves that are unpopular or not aligned with popular respectability and it often gets called ‘crazy.’ Because of the dismissal of his heightened performances, often we miss the significance and meaning of some really valuable statements and proclamations made by Mr. West. But, I am always concerned with popular ascriptions of ‘crazy’ for black folks, as that is often the way in which non-dominant performance are dismissed and treated as insignificant.
Also, what McCune makes of Kanye’s public statements over the years:
I definitely believe that one of the best lessons Kanye imparts is that you can’t fear your own greatness; you must not only embrace it, but speak it out loud. For those who live at the margins, specifically, we don’t have folks who give us the ‘benefit of the doubt.’ Therefore, we must secure our place in the annals of greatness, through continuing in creative excellence while also being bold and brave in speaking it aloud.
The interview ended with Professor McCune telling Uproxx.com that Kanye’s best album to date is My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, naming it the most “comprehensively creative, political and a compilation of his greatest skills.”
I would agree with him on that.
Peep the full interview here.
What do you think of Professor McCune’s comments on Kanye West? Leave your thoughts below!