When Jay Z and Kanye West first met in the early 2000s, theirs was a relationship of mutual respect, with Jigga taking on the role of mentor/big brother to Yeezy. Since then, though, their relationship has continued to evolve and develop. In 2011, they formed the rap supergroup The Throne, establishing themselves as two golden gods on equal footing high above the rap fray. While they’ve remained friends, a new dynamic of their relationship arose when both released solo albums last year, with several outlets exploring their divergent marketing approaches as representing a profound bifurcation of the industry and of West beginning to eclipse his “hero”.
Next fall, their unique relationship and iconic status will be thoroughly dissected in an English class at the University of Missouri. (The course first debuted during fall 2013). Simply entitled “Jay-Z and Kanye West”, English 2169 looks at the duo’s intertwined careers from three perspectives: “(1) Where do they fit within, and how do they change, the history of hip-hop music?; (2) How is what they do similar to and different from what poets do?, and (3) How does their rise to both celebrity and corporate power alter what we understand as the American dream?” Course material includes “Jay-Z’s Decoded; histories of and critical works on rap music by Jeff Chang, Adam Bradley, and others; and one or two good studies of how poetry works.”
In an interview with CoS, instructor Andrew Hoberek explained more of the class’s overall academic aim:
I really do think that these guys are warming up to the level of major poets, and not many people think of it in those terms. Because it’s not just on a page, but it’s video art, too. So, we looked at how those complicated the questions, and how do books about poetry help us to understand rap with Jay and Kanye at the forefront. We looked at the larger history of rap as an art form. Specifically, how, especially with Blueprint 3 and Yeezus, there’s an identifiable push to get beyond what’s happening in the art form. They’re very much like painters and novelists in the 20th century, moving beyond the confines of the art form’s boundaries.”
It’s not the first time either MC has been the subject of academic analysis. In 2011, Georgetown University offered a sociology class examining all things Hov, while hip-hop academic Julius Bailey will publish his 300-page “examination of the zeitgeist known as Yeezy” later this spring.
Below, relive the men in perhaps their most happiest moment together with the video for “Otis”.