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A Scientist Rapper's Delight

The Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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Freshman year of college is a dynamic time: in these first few months of transition into the “real world,” I’ve discovered a lot of new ways to bridge my science and my secret life.

It all started when I asked myself the question: for what kind of scientific pursuit would a love for rap and hip-hop come in handy? The answer came to me as sociology, and in particular urban ethnography. This semester I’ve begun the process of conducting research in New Haven to write a book about New Haven rappers. I’ll be staying in the Elm City over the summer to continue doing interviews.

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Rap promoter, Cuzin Twiz.

The process of interviewing New Haven rappers has been incredibly exhilarating. I’ve had the fortune to be invited by rappers to come into their neighborhoods and explore parts of New Haven most Yalies never see. It’s not always an easy task: one time, while waiting on a street corner to meet a rap promoter who was running a few minutes late, an older man approached me and escorted me out of the neighborhood, informing me that if I remained on the corner, I would surely be robbed.

More amazing than my own experiences in the research process, however, are the stories those involved in the hip-hop community tell me about their own lives. One rapper told me about the three deaths he witnessed in his childhood, one being his father, and how these events influenced him as an artist. One rap promoter told me about his experiences as a crack cocaine dealer and how he once escaped a shootout by using tactics he had learned playing high school football.

It remains to be seen whether I am more suited for research on the street or research in the lab.