They say talent can’t be taught. But come next spring, Grammy-winner Lupe Fiasco is going to try to impart the art (and science) of rapping to students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The 40-year-old rapper and producer, whose real name is Wasalu Jaco, announced his upcoming stint at MIT in a tweet Friday. He told his 1.1 million followers that he had been “holding this for a while,” and would “put together something more sophisticated later that really captures the nuance and gravity” at a later time.
“MIT stands as the pinnacle of higher learning and execution for so many, including myself,” Fiasco said in an MIT press release. “I’m overjoyed to have the opportunity to be in the midst of some of the world’s greatest minds to offer my humble perspective and absorb new practices and principles.”
The 12-time Grammy nominee was appointed to the 2022-23 MLK Visiting Professors and Scholars Program at MIT, which aims to honor “the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr” by bringing outstanding scholars of color to the university. Other appointees in the fields of the arts and humanities include Skidmore College associate professor of theater Eunice S. Ferreira and documentary filmmaker and MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” winner Louis Massiah.
Fiasco’s fellowship will begin July 1.
”Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in literature, so it’s not that we can’t recognize people who are songwriters or who are engaged with music and so forth as having made those contributions,” said Nick Montfort, a professor of digital media at MIT and one of the professors who nominated Fiasco for the fellowship. “But there’s still a lot of wariness about embracing the amazing work that’s happening in rap and hip hop, and considering it alongside the verbal arts of traditional poetry.”
Fiasco’s nominators, Montfort and literature professor Mary Fuller, will be Fiasco’s hosts during his time at MIT. Fiasco previously worked with Montfort when the rapper was a visiting artist at the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology from 2020-2021, helping to lead a one-day event called Code Cypher, where teams of students completed projects combining rhythm and programming.
“We’re both very interested in oral poetics and how computing could produce a model of that,” said Montfort.
Montfort said he and Fiasco will work over the summer to devise a research project to work on for the year that Fiasco is on campus. Fiasco’s class on rap will be taught in the spring of 2023. “It will include some industry and insider perspectives,” Montfort said.
Besides preparing his syllabus, Fiasco is busy promoting his eighth studio album, “Drill Music in Zion,” which is set to be released on June 24. In addition to his teaching duties, Fiasco will “hopefully [be] doing some recording here on campus,” Montfort said. What rhymes with “Kendall Square”?
Dana Gerber can be reached at email@example.com