Creating Technology for Social Change

Photos of our visit from Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA/The Genius

It was our great pleasure last Friday to host GZA/The Genius of seminal hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan.

How it came about was serendipitous. A past Knight Science Journalism Fellow became GZA’s science liaison. So she looked for labs at Harvard and MIT that he might be interested in, and came upon us at the Media Lab.

He visited the Media Lab’s Opera of the Future first. Then GZA sat with us at the Center for Civic Media for an hour-plus of demos of our work. Enjoy the pictures above — they’re from Opera of the Future, our Center, and a quick trip to Tangible Media.

As the point person for his visit, I wanted to offer a few things of note, if just to mess with stereotypes of music stars:

  • GZA and his manager are two of the most disarmingly nice people we’ve ever met
  • Moreover, GZA is genuinely endearing. For example, at a lecture at Harvard on Thursday night, his hands shook with nerves as he spoke of his childhood on Staten Island and the other NYC boroughs, of how Wu-Tang and its predecessors got their start, yet…
  • Two or three times in the lecture, when he couldn’t quite find the right words, he broke into improvised rhymes that not only lasted minutes but were scientifically precise. Cellular life. Planetary physics. Every topic.

It was humbling to watch. Speaking from his notes, he couldn’t quite describe what he’d seen. But in rhyme, he was The Genius.

Our sincere thanks also to Mary Beth Riley of MIT Campus Police, who helped juggle a quiet visit from GZA with an even quieter visit from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.