You Won't Learn Hip Hop in This Man's ClassroomS

Hip hop culture is a very deserving field of study. Rap lyrics are some of the most powerful popular poetry of the past three decades. Studying rap music in a classroom is kind of a drag compared to studying rap music, say, in a car full of weed smoke, but hey, it's not the worst thing you could do in a classroom.

That said, Michael Eric Dyson is not someone who should be taken seriously.

Michael Eric Dyson (pictured, with friend) is a highly esteemed academic superstar professor and prolific author of books about African-American issues—particularly, for the sake of this discussion, books about Tupac, Nas's album Illmatic, and hip hop in general. One notable thing about Michael Eric Dyson is that although he is very good at being an academic celebrity, he doesn't know shit about hip hop. (In my opinion!) He has found an absolutely bulletproof niche, though: presiding as an expert in hip hop culture in front of groups who are in no position to challenge his jargon-laden theories about hip hop, such as a classroom full of students at an elite university. What is Michael Eric Dyson up to now? He is busily fabricating a mythology about Jay-Z, just like he fabricated a mythology about Tupac! By teaching "Sociology of Hip-Hop - Urban Theodicy of Jay-Z" at Georgetown U, where hip hop lives. From the Washington Post:

And Dyson is still trying to land a bigger classroom cameo: Jay-Z himself. He's friendly with the rapper and has been courting him to campus, often sending him raps via text message. "I spit him some rhymes on text," Dyson says. "How crazy am I?"

LOL I know bro. Here's something that Jay-Z and Tupac have in common: neither of them are one of rap's greatest lyricists. I admire Michael Eric Dyson in this sense: he has carved out a perch in which nobody in his professional orbit is in a position to point out the fact that students would be much better served by just listening to some hip hop than by reading hundreds upon hundreds of pages of Michael Eric Dyson's ponderous, unbearable, stiff academic interpretation of hip hop that was only slightly better than average to begin with. Want to ponder good hip hop lyrics? Listen to this or this or this or this or this! Want to read a book about hip hop that doesn't suck and isn't full of academic bullshit? Try this!

Hell, try anything. Write your own book. Write your own graffiti. Go be in an MC battle. But don't go looking for great hip hop insight in a Georgetown class about the most MTV-friendly rapper this side of Kanye taught by an "academic superstar." It's not there.

[Photo: Getty]