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Harvard University professor Cornel West is venturing into music with "Sketches of My Culture," a CD that features 10 songs ranging from rhythm-and-blues to jazz to rap.

"It's another medium. And I'm excited to be part of the black-music tradition," said West, 48, whose fields are African-American studies and philosophy.

The author of "Race Matters" describes hip-hop as "fusing linguistic virtuosity with rhythmic velocity." But does he listen to it?

"Some, brother, some," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer in Sunday's editions. "But time is short. If I have to choose between (Russian dramatist and writer Anton) Chekhov and most hip-hop, I'll go with Chekhov."

He thinks learning about the history of black suffering could help the nation deal with the new psychic climate following the Sept. 11 attacks.

"The experience of feeling unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence and hated is new to most Americans. But for black people between 1619 and about 1965, that's what it meant to be (black). . . . We can gain great insight from a blues people. Especially now, as a whole country has the blues."

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