A fascinating article in The Times of London on the 30 December 2012 revealed that GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan is hooking up (as de yoot dey say) with a Columbia University Professor, Christopher Emdin to teach science via the medium of rap Hip Hop Star GZA Leads The Way Through Dark Matter
Fascinating because Wu-Tang are some of the most militant and in yo’ face (and your mum’s) rappers of recent times. I won’t exhaustively catalogue sweary lyrics or ghetto cliche incidents here but another member of the loose association of artists, ODB (not to be confused with the hairdressers in Headingley, Leeds people!) died after collapsing in 2004; his police record included multiple drugs and arms offences. Other members of the Clan are no strangers to controversy either and collaborations and subsequent fights are well documented and involve artists like Sean Combs and The Notorious BIG (killed in a drive by in 1997)
The Times link doesn’t give the full story as you have to be subscribed to the paper to access it but the New York Times is nicer and gives the full story for free at A Hip Hop Experiment and if you check the date, a month earlier!
I find this story fascinating not because of GZA’s turn around from bad boy to establishment figure; that story is a common one. What I find wonderful about this is the further evidence of the range of GZA’s involvements. The original early adopter, he was rapping in 1976 and has been cited in several places as one of the best at his art. Wu-Tang are connected with clothing projects, feature films, multiple albums and other business enterprises. You hear the examples of teachers giving up on students all the time and telling them they won’t amount to much. GZA is a remarkable talent and if this idea succeeds in taking science to inner city students and inspiring them then even more credit to him. Inspirational.