Thinning the Herd in Michael Eric Dyson’s Jay-Z Seminar

Recently, news outlets including The Nation reported that eminent African-American scholar Michael Eric Dyson has been teaching a seminar on Jay-Z’s “art and craft” at Georgetown University.

Unsurprisingly, the class is a huge hit, with over 140 students enrolled.

While this number is cited by Dyson as evidence of the seminar’s success, it raises the question of how effective this class really is for the students taking it, as opposed to an occasion for Dyson to hear himself talk while TAs handle all the actual discussion groups…

Wouldn’t it be a more successful undertaking for everyone involved if the class size was pared down to the point that each student could expect to interact with the brilliant Dyson, and to work out their ideas in freewheeling discussions? That’s kind of tough to pull off with a group that’s four times larger than the average Georgetown class.

Dyson’s fellow Georgetown scholar, Kelley Wickham-Crowley, faced a similar quandary when she taught a class on “The Lord of the Rings” several years ago. (It was actually a sneaky way to get people to sign up for a medieval literature course with a side dish of Tolkien, but that was forgivable because it was a really GOOD medieval literature course.) Needless to say, students perusing the course catalog jumped when they saw a course based on such a compelling pop-cultural topic and the signups were off the charts. But to avoid holding the class in a cavernous lecture hall, Wickham-Crowley greeted the class on Day One with a test to ensure they had read and remembered “The Lord of the Rings.” Everyone who failed the test was kicked out. Brilliant!

Since Michael Eric Dyson is a busy guy, ROTI created this test to help him out. It’s a simple 15-question examination; get fewer than 10 questions right and you’re outta there! Administering this bad boy would separate the true Jay-Z scholars-in-training from the dumb-asses who just wanted to get 3 credits for a class about a rapper.

Let’s begin! Answers are at the bottom of this post.

1. According to the song “December 4th,” Jay-Z was concieved when his parents, Gloria Carter and Adnes Reeves, made sweet love under what kind of tree?
a) Weeping Willow
b) Oak
c) Sycamore
d) Dollar Tree

2. Jay-Z is fond of relating his experiences selling drugs in his youth. What drug did he primarily sell?
a) Marijuana
b) Ludes
c) Country Time Lemonade spiked with roofies
d) Crack cocaine

3. One of Shawn Carter’s early mentors in the rap game was also the inspiration for his rap name. This rapper was:
a) Jaydee
b) Jaz-O
c) Jay-A
d) Jonathan Safran Foer

4. Jay-Z’s first album is considered a classic of the “mafioso rap” genre. The name of this album is:
a) Reasonable Doubt
b) Treasonable Trout
c) Squeezably Stout
d) LeGarrette Blount

5. What does the lyric “Fo shizzle my nizzle used to dribble down in VA”  mean?
a) In all seriousness, homie, I used to sell drugs in Virginia.
b) It is a true fact that my nephew played basketball for the University of Virginia.
c) Believe it or not, I invented an IV drip known as a “nizzle” that was utilized in many Veterans Administration hospitals.
d) Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?

6. What terrible rapper got a huge career break when he was featured on Jay-Z’s “Can I Get A…”? Some of us are still having trouble forgiving Jay for helping make this person popular.
a) Will Smith
b) Chet Haze
c) Sean “Puffy” Combs
d) Ja Rule

7. Jay-Z was indicted by a grand jury in 2000 for a violent crime against record executive Lance “Un” Rivera, an incident he addressed at length in his book Decoded. What was the crime and why did Jay perpetrate it?
a) He shot Un with a sniper rifle from a helicopter hovering overhead, later explaining that “Man is the most dangerous game.”
b) He stabbed Un with a knife in a crowded nightclub for bootlegging his records.
c) He kicked Un in the nuts with extreme prejudice because Un refused to pay up on a bet.
d) He strangled Un half to death because Un made fun of Foxy Brown’s hearing loss.

8. Unlike many MCs, Jay-Z steadfastly refuses to compose his rhymes with pen and paper. What technique does Jay-Z use to create his verses?
a) He has himself mesmerized by Hypnotist to the Stars Kevin Stone and creates the rhymes from his subconscious.
b) He sparks a blunt in the studio and lets the genius flow naturally.
c) He creates verses in his mind and memorizes them without writing them down.
d) All of his lyrics are actually ghostwritten by Asher Roth.

9. Jay-Z was famously involved in a feud with Nas, which led to the song “Ether,” a takedown of Jay-Z sometimes considered the greatest dis track ever recorded. Which of the following insults did Nas NOT lob at Jay?
a) “You a fan, a phony, a fake, a pussy, a Stan; I’ll still whip your ass, you’re 36 in a karate class?! You Tae-Bo ho!”
b) “You went from gangsta, to Islam, to the dick of Das EFX!”
c) “Eminem murdered you on your own shit!”
d) “How much of Biggie’s rhymes goin’ to come out your fat lips?”

10. The Jay-Z/Nas beef was finally squashed for what reason?
a) Jay-Z relented after Nas had his feelings hurt real bad when Jay revealed to the world that he had sex with Nas’ baby mama, stating in a song that “I skeeted in your Jeep…left condoms on your baby seat.”
b) Jay-Z had Nas killed, and the person who now claims to be Nas is actually a clone created in a lab by Jay-Z.
c) Jay-Z’s mom heard one of Jay-Z’s Nas-disses on the radio and was so ashamed of her son that she called him up, gave him a stinging lecture, and forced him to apologize to Nas.
d) Beyonce begged Jay-Z to stop fighting, lest Nas’ alleged claim that she has bad breath make its way into rhyme.

11. According to the new album Watch the Throne, what is Jay-Z’s complaint about the MOMA?
a) $20 for admission is outrageous.
b) Insufficient representation of black women.
c) Les Demoiselles d’Avignon are ugly.
d) His video for “99 Problems” has been neglected by the Department of Film.

12. Jay-Z is now well-known as a mogul, with a variety of high-profile investments. Which of the following does Jay-Z NOT own a stake in?
a) The upscale sports bar 40-40 Club
b) Rocawear clothing line
c) The New Jersey Nets
d) Qream, the liqueur for women

13. Jay-Z has drawn some ire from rap purists by repeatedly calling himself “best rapper alive,” when they feel he is merely the most successful, and name others the best. What did Jay have to say to these curmudgeons on the Kanye West posse cut “So Appalled”?
a) “But when I say I’m the best, I don’t say it out my ass. I say that with all my stats.”
b) “We can talk, but money talks, so talk more bucks.”
c) “Niggas fantasize about the shit that I do daily. Like these rappers rap about the shit I do really.”
d) “Moral victories is for minor league coaches.”

14. What producer merged Jay-Z’s Black Album and the Beatles’ White Album to create the Grey Album — both a great record and a flashpoint for copyright issues in the Internet age?
a) Dr. Luke
b) Danger Mouse
c) Phil Spector
d) Kanye West

15. It has been asserted that Jay-Z is either in a Satanic cult, or at the very least has actively propagated Masonic/cult symbology through his actions, videos, and clothing lines. Is there anything to this rumor? TRUE or FALSE.

Answer Key (10 correct answers or more represents a passing grade)

1. C – Doubtful this is literally true, just an occasion to flip sycamore into “more sicker.”
2. D – “Somehow the rap game remind me of the crack game.”
3. B – This Jaz-O video is so embarrassing, it took Jay-Z years to live his participation down.
4. A – Reasonable Doubt is a classic. Worth a listen!
5. A – Or as BIG put it, “They heard about the pounds you got down in Georgetown, and they heard you got half of Virginia locked down.”
6. D – Ja Rule was bad enough to begin with, then he decided to sing his own hooks…
7. B – I accuse Jay-Z with the Knife in the Nightclub.
8. C – Writing verses in your head takes serious skill. I can’t even write a blog post in my head.
9. B – That line is from “The Bitch In You,” a classic Ice Cube dis by Common.
10. C – Apparently, Jay-Z’s mom is a tough old lady!
11. B – “Put some colored girls in the MOMA.” (“That’s My Bitch”)
12. D – More on Qream, Pharrell’s nasty beverage, here.
13. D – “I went from the favorite, to the most hated, but would you rather be underpaid or overrated? Moral victories is for minor league coaches. And Ye already told you, we major, you cockroaches!”
14. B – More to come on the genius of Danger Mouse in the next month or so…
15. True.

About Alpine McGregor
Just like you, man. I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase. All in the game, though, right?

One Response to Thinning the Herd in Michael Eric Dyson’s Jay-Z Seminar

  1. Anonymous says:

    This has been the highlight of my entire life! Thanks for the laugh and give them that damn test!!!!!

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