Kanye vs Ye: Genius by design: All about Concordia’s Kanye West fine arts class

Taught by professor and Iraqi rapper Yassin “Narcy” Alsalman, the class stirs debate among students

The Concardia class will be the first in Canada that is dedicated to West. Graphic Joey Bruce

Concordia’s new fine arts class, Kanye vs Ye: Genius by design, is causing division among students.

While the 200 seat class filled up within days, some students have their reservations about the intentions behind the class.

The professor, Yassin “Narcy” Alsalman, has been teaching fine arts classes at Concordia since 2013, while pursuing a career as a rapper simultaneously.

As a professor, he said his responsibilities to his students include having classes be memorable as well as teachable moments for them.

The Kanye West class isn’t the first class the professor has dedicated to a hip-hop artist. Previous classes taught by Alsalman at Concordia included one on Lauryn Hill and another on A Tribe Called Quest. He explained that he believes in the importance of studying living artists.

“Most [of] the time, we tend to study artists who have died because it absolves the professor of a flowing growing story. I believe it’s important to celebrate people while they are here,” said Alsalman.

He added teaching evolves in parallel with the internet and professors should be adapting the way they address topics accordingly.

“I just want to think outside the box,” he said about his teaching style.

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Eldad Tsabary, the area head of the interdisciplinary studies in fine arts, explained FFAR classes are interdisciplinary and mandatory for all fine arts students, in addition to being open to all non-fine arts students.

He added the faculty seeks to explore relevant, timely, and accessible topics within culture and fine arts. “Every year, we invite proposals for new topics from our professors to keep the course offerings fresh and relevant,” Tsabary said.

“I just want to think outside the box.” — Yassin “Narcy” Alsalman

Third-year marketing student Michelle Hossari said she enrolled in the class before it went viral. She admitted she wouldn’t have registered for it had the feud between Kanye, Kim Kardashian, and Pete Davidson not been happening. Since she was already avidly reading about this feud for entertainment purposes, she thought she might as well take a class on it.

“I’m already sort of studying him, his character, [and] his brand. I might as well get credits out of it,” Hossari said. 

As someone who works in public relations as a publicist, she added that “Kanye is a prime example of a PR crisis that needs management.” She considers him to be a case study that can help her with her career in terms of understanding why celebrities act the way they do.

“Kanye, to me, is a fine example of a celebrity losing himself to fame and glory, and to study why this happens is relevant and timely,” Hossari said. 

She elaborated that people hating on Kanye are those “who probably need to be taking this class the most. [They] forget that celebrities are people just like us, and the fame and stress of success has ruined so many of their lives.”

“I think Concordia is doing something that other universities need to learn—staying timely and relevant to the new generation of students,” she said.

In addition to being entertaining, Hossari said this class differs from the traditional courses at Concordia in a positive way, since it is something she can discuss with friends. 

“That, to me, is when I feel the most educated—when I can add insights to relevant topics during conversations with friends and family,” Hossari concluded.

However, not everyone is excited about having this course offered at Concordia. Jacob Wade, a second-year sociology student, believes that having a course aimed at studying an artist’s content isn’t a bad idea, however, “to proclaim them as [being] genius […] puts them on a pedestal.”

According to him, West has exhibited a clear pattern of misogynistic behaviour throughout his career, and he worries this behaviour will not be critically analyzed in the fine arts course’s curriculum. 

“I think a class analyzing [toxic celebrity and toxic masculine behaviour] would be very interesting, and I would probably take it,” he said. “But this class just looks to build his ego from the sound of it.”

The class Kanye vs Ye: Genius by design, offered only in the Fall 2022 semester, will be the first class in Canada that is dedicated to West. But, as Alsalman wrote on Instagram: “This class isn’t only about Kanye. It’s about community, creativity, responsibility, accountability, fame, and mental health, dreams and nightmares—and more importantly, self-actualisation.”