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Let Wu-Tang's GZA Teach You About the Big Bang

"Within this fireball was all of space."

Before space and time,

Thought produced a speck of light.

It was infinitely hot, so extremely bright.

Within the center of this great shining,

There was massive energy and it was expanding in great timing.

Within this fireball was all of space,

Of every special place for information it encased.

And so begins the story of the Big Bang according to GZA. The Wu-Tang cofounder shared this rhyme recently with a classroom full of delighted (and lucky) students at the University of Toronto in a lecture entitled “Consciousness, Creativity, and Music.”

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Last year, the rapper’s interest in science made headlines as he was preparing his concept album Dark Matter, a science-minded project spurred by his interest in physics and the universe. At the time, he was meeting with renowned scientists at Harvard, MIT, and Cornell, chatting with Neil deGrasse Tyson on StarTalk Radio, and collaborating with a New York City educator and the website RapGenius on methods to spark deeper interest in science among students.

However, the release date for Dark Matter seems to have been pushed off. According to The Wall Street Journal, it was initially set for fall 2012, but that didn’t happen. Updates have been few and far between, with GZA saying that he is “constantly writing.” In the meantime, the media blitz petered out, until the uploading of his lecturing skills onto YouTube this week.

I am not a physicist myself and so cannot comment on the minute technical details of his lyrics, but Maggie Koerth-Baker, science editor of BoingBoing, notes that the “level of scientific accuracy is spectacular.” Given that he also goes by the title of The Genius, it should not be shocking that GZA would seek to make his scientifically-inclined work as fact-based as possible.

Disappointingly, GZA’s interest in the scientific is sometimes painted as unusual or atypical. But GZA claims the interest was always there. At a speech at Columbia University last December, he spoke about his early forays into science as a child. "When I was around the age of six, I can remember playing with two pieces of steel or metal. One of them was magnetic and the other was not… I flipped them in opposite directions and they repelled each other, as if some force was pushing them apart. I found this fascinating."

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Additionally, as he pointed out in an interview with Rolling Stone last year, his fascination with STEM has been out in the open at least since his 2002 album Legend of the Liquid Sword, which contained lyrics about the universe, stars, and the environment. “I’ve been rhyming about this stuff,” he said. “It’s not anything new to me.”

But not everyone shares his enthusiasm. In fact, even he had trouble establishing his investment in the field as a teen. "I wish there had been a more compelling way to captivate my imagination about science when I was in school," he said in his Columbia talk.

His combination of music and physics is therefore as much an outlet of his own passion for the subject as it is an educational tool for those who may be otherwise uninterested. Along those lines, at the end of his lyrical lecture in Toronto, GZA encourages his listeners to continue along their educational trajectory. “The main thing I want you to take away from this is no matter where you start out in life or what career you choose, do not stop learning about yourself and the universe and your surroundings, whether physically or metaphysically.”

Thumbnail via Wikimedia Commons.

@heyiamlex