More than 20 years after Wu-Tang Clan released their 1993 critically acclaimed debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang, one of Rolling Stones' 500 greatest albums of all time, founding member GZA has returned to the public eye — not only as an artist, but also a science evangelist.
Wu-Tang was formed on Staten Island in the early '90s by three cousins: RZA, GZA, and Ol' Dirty Bastard. The group's premiere single, "Protect Ya Neck," first gained steam on Columbia University's student-run station WKCR, and the rest is hip-hop history.
After five Wu-Tang albums and six solo records, GZA, née Gary Grice, has found his geek groove at 46 years old, with a cosmos-inspired album called Dark Matter on the way and a new project called Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S., an educational reform program that stands for Bring Attention to Transforming Teaching, Learning and Engagement in Science.
The "G" in GZA is pronounced like "Genius," which was the rapper's alias before joining the Wu-Tang Clan. While the infatuation with quantum theory and cosmology is new, the Brooklyn-based wordsmith has always incorporated intellectual pursuits in his rhymes.
In GZA's 2005 single "General Principles," the track begins with a chess sample, "The black takes C4, then white could play E4 . . ." and features lines like "I stick to college radios, mix shows / Historic university, to freestyle sick flows / Might give a lecture about your rap texture" and "Ich lebe fur hip hop, you can ask the Germans" (which means "Hip Hop, it's what I live for). Listen on SoundCloud:
The 10th-grade-dropout-turned-hip-hop-legend has veered more into the hard sciences as of late, and we've collected the rapper's more recent ambitions, including a preview of material from his new album Dark Matter and a peek into the classrooms testing his experimental science education program. Click on on for a little multimedia introduction to GZA's geekiest hits.
The Science of Hip Hop
In this second installment of a two-part series, Neil deGrasse Tyson dissects how hip hop translates science concepts. GZA explains "The Five Percenters," a phenomenon that sparked his interest in the universe. GZA's interview begins at 4:50.
GZA Surprises a Bronx Compass Science Class
This THNKR documentary focuses on Science Genius, a pilot project that uses rap as a tool for teaching science concepts. GZA cofounded the program, which launched in 10 New York City high schools, along with Dr. Christopher Emdin, an assistant professor at Columbia University's Teachers College. The two connected after meeting on the above episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson's StarTalk Radio. Every week, students craft rhymes on a particular topic and in this video, the subject at hand is Darwin and evolution.
The best Science Genius students battled at Teachers College for a full day with GZA in the recording studio and a tour of the Museum of Natural History. The finalist's lyrics were posted on Rap Genius.
Rapping and Rhyming With Neil deGrasse Tyson
Sneak Peek of Dark Matter
GZA offers PBSNewshour a preview from one of the songs off of his upcoming albums Dark Matter. He rhymes about massive energy, the Big Bang, and the beginning of the cosmic clock.
GZA at the 2012 Crunchies
We were surprised — even though we shouldn't have been — to see GZA preform in front of the world's startup and tech elite at this year's Crunchies Awards.