Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA Helps Bring Hip-Hip into the Classroom

GZAAs a founding member of one of hip-hop’s most eclectic groups, the Wu-Tang Clan, rapper Gary Grice (aka GZA, or The Genius) has made a career out of pushing at the boundaries of modern music, and of challenging audiences’ preconceived notions about what is to be expected from the work of an urban artist. However, one of GZA’s latest ventures might even throw some hardcore hip-hop fans for an unexpected loop.

During a December interview with popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on Tyson’s radio show StarTalk, GZA expressed a strong interest in science and even impressed Tyson by possessing a very strong scientific vocabulary that was founded on a working knowledge of biology, physics and other subjects. Additionally, during the conversation between the two men GZA mentioned how such knowledge could be used to teach as well as entertain. And as it turns out, the rap icon wasn’t boasting.

Joining forces with Columbia University Teachers College professor Christopher Emdin, who also appeared on the aforementioned episode of StarTalk, GZA has helped create an experiment called Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. (Bring Attention to Transforming Teaching, Learning and Engagement in Science), which will focus on select New York City students’ creation of “battle raps” that must not only rhyme, but also be founded on solid scientific research. At the end of the semester, finalists in the experiment will be judged by GZA and have the opportunity to see their work published by RapGenius.com.

Watch GZA and Christopher Emdin’s appearance on StarTalk hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson here:

GZA is also putting such theories to practice in his own work. Verses on the rapper’s upcoming album Dark Matter, the title of which is inspired by the scientific phrase for matter that is hypothesized to account for a large part of the mass of the universe, refer frequently to such topics as the Big Bang Theory and feature repeated mentions of the stars, the sun, and the moon.

Whether such topics will be part of the show during GZA’s performance tonight at the Pearl Street Nightclub in Northampton is anyone’s guess. But as a hip-hop ambassador for education through rap, lucky students can rest easy knowing that The Genius is on their side.

GZA performs with openers Ratking, The Professors, and Roc Foxx, March 27, 9 p.m., $20-23, Pearl Street Nightclub, 10 Pearl St., Northampton, (413) 584 – 7771, http://www.iheg.com/pearl_street_main.asp.

For more information on GZA please visit https://www.facebook.com/theGZA.

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