Wes Matthews

Wolf Humanities Center Undergraduate Fellow

20222023 Forum on Heritage

Wes Matthews


CAS, 2023

Wes Matthews is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences studying cultural anthropology and religion, hailing from Detroit. His research interests primarily encompass music, popular American culture, and religious considerations of the human condition. He was the recipient of the 2022 W.E.B. Du Bois Prize in Africana Studies for his research on nihilism in Detroit hip hop. A poet and essayist, Wes was the recipient of the 2020 College Alumni Society Prize for his poetry and the 2020 Lillian and Benjamin Levy Award for his music criticism. He is currently teaching himself to play guitar. 

Architecture Of Disillusion: A Qualitative Study of Nihilism Among Black Men in Hip Hop Performance

My research objective is to investigate the relationship between nihilism among young black men of the inner-city and their creative impulse towards the creation of hip hop music. I will use ethnographic methods to interrogate the origins of passive nihilistic values among black male rappers in the city of Detroit, specifically focusing on the structural and environmental factors that give rise to a pathological rejection of the intrinsic value of human life. I will seek to address the effects of nihilism in the social spheres of the black inner-city, taking on the concept of music as a vessel whereby these values consolidate and get passed on.