The Ivy League professor explains the influences behind his second album

By Simon Vozick-Levinson
Updated August 10, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

The rap world has yielded such noted academics as Dr. Dre, but only one artist can claim to be a tenured Ivy League scholar. This week, Princeton’s Dr. Cornel West — the 54-year-old professor who penned 1993’s best-selling Race Matters — will release his second spoken-word/hip-hop CD, Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations, with assists from André 3000 and others. We asked West to school us on the album’s touchstones.

PRINCE No. 1 on West’s guest list: The usually rap-averse Purple Rain man, who sings on Never Forget‘s ”Dear Mr. Man,” a slinky number about, oh, environmental awareness. Says West, ”When he said yes, I jumped for joy!”

CURTIS MAYFIELD Tracks like ”Bushanomics” are a nod to the late soul/funk pioneer. ”He always connected the spiritual to the social, the personal to the political.”

KRS-ONE The cerebral rhymer spits righteous fury over the booming beats of ”Mr. President.” ”He’s been lecturing in my class at Princeton since ’89, so we go back.”

SNOOP DOGG, 50 CENT, LUDACRIS The tolerant message of ”Soul Sista” is aimed squarely at less enlightened lyricists. ”I love [them] as artists. But I respectfully challenge them to be responsible for what they say in regard to the degradation of women and gay brothers and lesbian sisters.”