Rhyme, Rhythm & Reason-Rouser ... !

Concepts kids can ‘rap’ their heads around …

Or, The Sound of ‘Science-dropping’! *

Setting my bags down in NYC after living years upon years in France, where kids swirl and sip science like a good Bordeaux, I was eager, upon arrival, to do a kind of local taste-tour myself.

Street art of a rapping rat by Bansky

Rap Rat by street artist Bansky

Overseas rumors about the state of the States’ literacy levels were not good. So, coming from a place where the legacy of the enlightenment lingers and science, a non-issue, rolls naturally off even the youngest of tongues, I quickly cupped my ears to listen for the sound of science here…

And there were street-beats in the boroughs!

The Hip-hop Hypothesis

The source of these vibrations emanating from NYC schools?

Well, it’s the Science Genius project, brainchild of the public intellectual and tireless urban education advocate, Dr. Chris Emdin, who has found a way to bring the energy and creativity of a rap cypher to science.  For me, ‘rhyme, rhythm, and reason rouser’ that I am, the strong interconnectedness of these two apparently disparate endeavors couldn’t be more apparent.  Whether juggling complex scientific concepts or working with the tight lyricism of rap, the same kind of mindset is at play: one that is curious, diligent, cultured in metaphor and pattern, prolific at drawing connections.

Enriching the project is the lyrically dexterous and influential GZA, who has recently collaborated with Nasa to spark interest in the space program!

Rapping for ‘Reason’

And the beat goes on… from South Wales with science communicator/rapper Jonathan Chase, also commissioned by Nasa, to the West Coast with Tom McFadden, both riveting rhyme to reason for rousing scientific inquiry. After all, the world is intriguingly complex and… “Everybody’s got questions”! [With cameos from 76 scientists, engineers, educators, these rhyming couplets will be stuck in your head all day!]

And to answer everybody’s questions… about the correlation between mass and energy or the skeletal system, integers or even PI, are the carefully tailored creations of Rhyme ‘n Learn’s Joe Ocando.  Sit back… get ready for some serious brain-and-foot tapping going on here!

Isaac Newton once brought an archaic Latin metaphor to light by writing: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Leave it to Rapstract to put his own spin on 2000 years of scientific ‘shoulder-standing’ in his ‘rap’sodic brief history of science.

Kids take the ‘raps’ off science!

It’s impossible to ‘rap this up’ without watching the kids at the heart of this movement. Their creations are the result of incredible interdisciplinarity:  writing, reflection, poetry, critical thinking, performance arts… and all with amazing S.T.E.A.M !


*Dropping Science: Urban slang for rapping about something of substance, or educating.

For a fascinating TedTalk (for even the most ‘rap-resistant’ among us!) on the intricacies and literary innovations of this musical genre: A Brief History of Rhyme by Baba Brinkman.

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One Comment

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