July 20, 2013 12:14 pm

This Sunday: There’s More to Hip Hop (and GZA) than Meets the Eye

GZA and Neil deGrasse Tyson – Credit: Jeffrey Simons

This Sunday’s episode is Part 1 of The Science of Hip Hop with GZA. Whether or not you’re a fan of the rapper GZA, from the Wu-Tang Clan, I recommend listening to this episode for two reasons.

And the first has nothing to do with GZA.

For this show, Neil deGrasse Tyson not only had guest host Chuck Nice in the studio, but also Dr. Christopher Emdin, Chris is the Assistant Professor of Science Education at Columbia University and the Director of Secondary School Initiatives in the Urban Science Education Center. In other words, Chris is the guy who teaches teachers how to connect with inner city youth. He’s also an expert on Hip Hop culture, which makes him the perfect guide to understanding what’s going on in rap, hip hop, and with kids today.

As I’ve mentioned before, I worked for Marvel Comics back in the 1990s. One of the more common stories I heard was from people who learned to read using comics, and teachers who learned to use comics to reach and motivate students that were otherwise unreachable.

There is a parallel here, and Dr. Emdin talks about it. He explains how Kanye West’s use of bullet sounds in a song can be used to teach kids the physics of the Doppler Effect, or how you can teach a kid about water by getting him to rap about it, because to be a good MC you need to have a deep understanding of your subject. He talks about finding and using the everyday world around us to make connections with kids about science.

Which brings us to the second reason you should listen to the show, and that has everything to do with GZA… and inspiration.

GZA, aka The Genius, tells Neil about how science inspires his writing and his music. And while they talk a little about the violence in rap music and that GZA saw around him growing up, and how the people GZA knew were killed because that was the path they chose to take, what I came away with after listening to them was a sense of hope, not despair, of inspiration, not exploitation.

Oh yeah, and then Neil and GZA “spit a verse” together.

This is just Part 1, and there’s much more to this interview, and this episode, in Part 2 next week.

By the way, some of you may have seen the video version of this episode on The Nerdist Channel. The video has content from both Part 1 and Part 2, although not everything that’s in the podcasts made it into the video. But, if you’re into videos, then you may want to watch it on our YouTube channel here.

Part 1 of The Science of Hip Hop with GZA will be available on iTunes and our website this Sunday at 7:00 pm ET. It is also available on Stitcher and Soundcloud, but give it until about 7:15 to be sure. Sometimes there’s a short delay.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
-Jeffrey Simons

Get the most out of StarTalk!

Ad-Free Audio Downloads
Ad-Free Video Episodes
Stickers & Mugs
Live Streams with Neil
Priority Cosmic Queries
Early-Access Videos
Learn the Meaning of Life
...and much more