December 18, 2012 6:01 pm

Watching Neil deGrasse Tyson connect with rapper GZA

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson meets rapper GZA

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson meets rapper GZA, founding member of Wu-Tang Clan
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Simons

Have you seen the episode of StarTalk on the Nerdist Channel where Neil interviews GZA from the Wu-Tang Clan? If not, you can watch it below.

I was lucky enough to be at the taping of that interview, and I wanted to share something with you that may not come out in the episode.

In case you didn’t know it, Neil is not a Hip Hop fan. No, Neil is into the Blues, in a big way. And so he didn’t know much about GZA going into the interview. I watched as our producer and a Hip Hop aficionado (who also happened to be a postdoctoral researcher in physics at MIT) briefed Neil on “The Genius.”

Then GZA came in to the studio, and I watched him and Neil get to know each other. On paper, the two don’t appear to have much in common, and at the start of the afternoon, it wasn’t certain that they’d end up that way, either.

But then they got into the studio and the interview began. Slowly, GZA got comfortable with Neil, and they started to connect. And it turns out that they both have one very powerful thing in common: the universe is their muse.

Listening to two people who have influence over others – who inspire those they touch to learn, to explore, to question – who are so very different in some ways, watching them come to understand and respect each other was a powerful experience, and I think it comes across in the video. I know everyone in the studio felt it that day.

At one point Neil asks GZA how science factors into his creativity and what scientific idea is most intriguing. And GZA answers, “How everything is connected.”

Clearly, one of the things that connects Neil and GZA is their love and awe for science. But there is something else that connects them, something that GZA puts best in the interview:

“That’s one of the unique things about being an artist. That you have a voice that people hear and listen to, so it’s important to say something that’s important.”

That’s it for now. Watch the episode. And Keep Looking Up!
–Jeffrey Simons