Derek Luke Teams With Columbia University Professor to Take Science Genius Rap Contest Virtual

Derek Luke - Screen shot - Courtesy of Derek Luke Publicity -H 2020
Courtesy of Derek Luke

Since 2013, actor Derek Luke has championed the Science Genius Rap B.A.T.T.L.E.S. (Bringing Attention to Transforming, Teaching, Learning and Engagement in Science) program, combining hip-hop music and culture with STEM education to change how students, and teachers, engage.

Alongside wife, actress Sophia Adella Luke, and Columbia University professor Chris Emdin, Luke has for the last six years invited students from New York, Texas, Toronto and Jamaica to write and perform science-themed raps in city-wide battles, with past judges and mentors including Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA, DJ D-Nice and Neil deGrasse Tyson. This year, the challenge takes on new life, as it will be available publicly via social media and Zoom now through mid-July. And while there’s a sole requirement that raps be written about any scientifically accurate topic, exploration of the science of COVID-19 is encouraged. 

“There has never been a shortage of information but rather a shortage of proper presentation, and COVID-19 has further exposed those weaknesses in the education system,” Luke tells The Hollywood Reporter. “When young people are able to use their own language of hip-hop to understand, interpret and put themselves into a narrative about science, their imaginations are awakened and their understanding crystallized in a transformative way,” adding that he hope, despite students having to rely on virtual learning for the past three months, “they can return to school ahead and not behind.”

Verses will be written to a beat by Grammy-winning producer Theron “Neff-U” Feemster, and can be submitted on the challenge’s website or by tagging its social media accounts (Instagram, TikTok or Twitter); a panel of judges will crown the final 2020 Science Genius this summer. 

See photos of the contests below.