Kanye West Or Shakespeare: Who Is More Relevant Right Now? (Video)

One made Hamlet, and one made “H•A•M.” William Shakespeare and Kanye West may appear to be very different kinds of artists. However, both creators (one an author and playwright, the other an MC, producer, and designer) greatly shaped the popular culture of their times. Across centuries, mediums, and more, both men explored the notions of power, lust, faith, and mourning, among many other overlapping themes.

The Oxford Union (dubbed “the world’s most prestigious debating society”) recently hosted a debate to effectively decide who has greater relevance today, a writer who’s been dead 400 years, or a current face of popular culture with seven consecutive #1 albums. Matthew Cook, Assistant to President of the Union, organized the debate. He contends that Yeezy is more relevant than Billy. The debate welcomed veteran music journalist and host Justin Hunte to Oxford, in favor of the opposite. In the first episode of his TBD video series, Hunte clarifies the over-arching question, “What means relevance and what means influence? Relevance is connected to time: the present. Influence is affect on behavior or character or something else. Kanye West is definitely more viral than William Shakespeare. Most people know more about ‘Ye than Shakes’.”

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Additionally, Hunte—who has quite favorably reviewed the last two West albums, explains his personal assessment ahead of researching his position before the Oxford Union. “How relevant is anyone if most people don’t know what they did? Those were my general instincts before I started researching… Before I got into this project, I didn’t realize that Shakespeare had been translated into 100 languages, including Klingon–which is really weird but absolutely true. I didn’t know that Shakespeare had written 37 plays, 154 sonnets, four poems. I didn’t realize that he’s credited with creating over 1,600 words and that one in 10 commonly used phrases came from William Shakespeare. Who knew?”

Hunte (who also goes by “The Company Man”) then points out that ‘Ye song titles including “Addiction” and “Champion” are created by Billy Shakes’, while “swagger” and “luggage” are also words formed by the Warwickshire, England native.

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Looking at recent events, Hunte links the words, phrases, and story archetypes of William Shakespeare. In multiple US Presidential elections, current news stories, one can trace the 16th and 17th century writer’s impact. Justin then seeks the same in West. From “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people,” to “no one man should have all that power,” West’s impact on contemporary vernacular is clearly also there. However, like both of those examples, that effect tends to be older than five years. Hunte analyzes West’s messages of late, phrases, expressions, and themes. Footage from the debate is shown in the video.

What made William Shakespeare’s art transcendent of class, race, religion, and language may not be so true of West’s latest discourse. Thus, in his thesis, the creator of Othello stands more relevant than that of The Life Of Pablo. “There is no way that Kanye West is more relevant than Shakespeare. I think the real question is: is Kanye West as relevant as Kanye used to be?” The attendees exited to show their favor, and Hunte’s point won: Shakepeare is more relevant than Kanye.

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What’s your take: who is more relevant today: William Shakespeare or Kanye West?