Four years after Kanye West shouted “I am Shakespeare!” live on radio, the prestigious Oxford University has hosted an academic debate officially arguing whether Kanye is more relevant than Shakespeare today. The entire debate is now available to watch, and the results are interesting to say the least.
First off, it’s hilarious to see people wearing bow ties and formal suits debating the relevance, meaning and importance of the man who rapped, “Have you ever had sex with a pharaoh?/ Put the pussy in a sarcophagus”.
Second, it’s amazing to see such a diverse scope of experts and critics seriously debate the topic. Though novel, it’s a remarkably poignant and accurate reflection on entertainment, language and influence in the 2010s. The debate officially explained that today, “pop culture influences far more people than the words of a long-dead playwright. But is it right to say that Shakespeare’s moving soliloquies are less valuable to us than they were to contemporary audiences – do we not still grapple with the same problems of justice, mortality, and love?
“On the other hand, the Kanye’s lyrically sophisticated raps directly speaks to a world where social media and mass production reign supreme. This debate forces us to question if we should be content to forget past cultural treasures in favour of the latest stars.”
The debate included experts and students on both sides: defending Shakespeare is first year student Daniel Wilkinson, acclaimed hip-hop journo Justin Hunte, drama professor Elizabeth Schafer and author Anthony Anaxagorou. Claiming Kanye’s superior relevance is student Matt Cook, art critic Ossian Ward, podcaster Jensen Karp, and rapper Big Narstie.
Watch the full debate below, split into eight equally amazing parts. As for the final conclusion? You’ll have to watch and find out.
It’s not the first time Oxford University has professed its love of hip-hop; Lil Jon and Kanye himself are among those who’ve spoken at the renowned institution, and back in 2015, a poetry professor announced that he was going to use hip-hop lyrics to demonstrate the meaning of poetry in modern times.