Live Blog: GZA, rapper of the Wu Tang Clan, speaks at MIT about hip hop and how it relates to civic media

Thanks for following The Tech’s live blog. Look out for a full article about the event in Friday’s issue of The Tech.

6:58 p.m. Condry gives GZA an MIT sweatshirt to end the event. A line forms for autographs at the end.

6:56 p.m. “It works your brain and your mind. I think you can apply it to a lot of things. If you don’t play it, you should learn how to play it. And if you learn how to play it, I’ll play you online one day.” – GZA, on chess.

6:54 p.m. “I love chess. It’s about strategizing and planning ahead. There are always new things to learn.” – GZA

6:53 p.m. “One thing about age, age is not something that’s measured by numbers.” GZA. “People associate hip hop with this immature thing. Half these rappers who look young. They’re 25, but they look 45. I’d rather be older and look younger and talk about rappers.”

6:50 p.m. What makes a good live performance? “A strong voice, a good sound system, a clear mic, a lot of energy, very little talking in between songs. Deliver the performance the best you can. Keep your voice strong and keep your music loud. Give it your all.” – GZA

6:47 p.m. “They don’t know the lingo, but they know the single,” GZA, speaking about if there are any differences when he performs in front of crowds whose native language is not English.

6:45 p.m. “I’m not the best freestyler. I could rap off the head right now and it’d be equivalent to half the stuff out there,” GZA, on freestyling. “Most stuff off the head doesn’t make sense.”

6:39 p.m. “I’ve seen many interesting things while being [at MIT]. I was looking at chlorococcus, plankton, and other fascinating things you can’t see without the naked eye. That’s the inspiration and the drive that makes you want to write more meaningful things.” – GZA, on if MIT is inspiring his lyrics.

6:36 p.m. “Energy is an animated force that moves things.” – GZA, about the energy behind writing lyrics and delivering them.

6:31 p.m. “I give them an assignment. So write me a story, but write it like it’s the 15th century. And then they get stuck. They say, ‘You mean, I can’t write about cars?’” – GZA on mentoring new artists.

6:28 p.m. GZA goes through part of “Queen’s Gambit” to show how he incorporated all of the NFL team names.

6:25 p.m. “One, two, buckle my shoe. Got the light over there. Whatcha gonna do?, freestyles GZA, demonstrating why he doesn’t respect “off the head rhymes” since it’s just imagination. “You can just talk about anything.”

6:22 p.m. Eugene Wu G asks the next question about how the clan first met and how they kept such a big group together for so long.
“Loyalty, trust, discipline, respect, money. Money is how you keep a big group together now. But Clan is family though.” – GZA

6:15 p.m. “Why hasn’t hip hop taken on misogyny and homophobia in a mainstream way?” – question from a Harvard Kennedy School student.
“I don’t know. You’d have to ask individual artists.” – GZA
“Let’s ask you.” – student
“I just haven’t. I’m one of those artists whose lyrics are just not like that. I just choose to speak about other things. I’m not taking a stand on it. I just think artists need to change and speak about more positive things.” – GZA

6:09 p.m. “Something will speak to you at any given moment and at any given time. Some thoughts I write down and don’t use for two or three years.” – GZA

6:08 p.m. “Sometimes I’m speaking. Sometimes I’m speaking in second or third or a higher voice. It depends on what the subject may be. One of the ways I write, I just write sentences, and I piece them together. Sometimes I don’t write straight through.” – GZA

6:07 p.m. Q&A has opened up to the audience. A graduate student starts off with a question about video games, storytelling, and point of view.

6:04 p.m. “I don’t think many Americans listen to rap outside of America. I think everything that’s outside is listening to what America is doing.” – GZA

6:03 p.m. Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center of Civic Media, asks the next question.

6:01 p.m. “When you write, you use a little bit of everything. It’s about creating real stories with believable characters. We all use our imagination, but it’s how you use it that brings about a good song or a bad song.” – GZA

6:00 p.m. “I would look at imagination like uncontrolled thought. But thought is self-directed and controlled imagination. So it’s how you direct your thought that controls imagination.” – GZA, answering a question about imagination.

5:56 p.m. “I like it here [at MIT]. The students are great, the teachers are great, the professors. Tomorrow I’ll be running around for 3–4 hours gathering knowledge and information.” – GZA

5:54 p.m. “When you start speaking about positive things, it gets attention. When you’re speaking about partying all the time, then… that gets attention also, but not the attention that changes things.” – GZA

5:52 p.m. GZA freestyles about college radio.

5:50 p.m. “The business has changed a lot. We have internet now. Back then, we had street teams.” – GZA

5:43 p.m. “The Bronx was really ahead of the times.” GZA speaking about how in the “early days,” he brought aspects of his visits to the Bronx back to Staten Island (where he grew up).

5:41 p.m. “I used to break. I tried graffiti, but I was never really good. I used to use rollers and cups to get straight lines and perfect circles. I tried DJ-ing, but I wasn’t that good at DJ-ing.” – GZA

5:40 p.m. Now to the Q&A. “I started rhyming around 10 or 11 years old.” – GZA

5:39 p.m. GZA concludes his speech with, “It’s amazing that we’re still touring even after [the digital revolution] and there aren’t many artists who can say that.”

5:38 p.m. “I’ll run into kids who tell me that their parents raised them on Wu Tang.” – GZA

5:34 p.m. A phone rings out during the middle of the talk, and it isn’t getting turned off. “Want five minutes? That’s cool with me,” jokes GZA.

5:32 p.m. “People have Wu Tang tattoos all over their body.” – GZA
He got quite the reaction from the audience when he talked about someone who had a Wu Tang logo tattooed on his face.

5:30 p.m. “Wu Tang was pre-Youtube.” – GZA

5:28 p.m. GZA talks about how hip hop has made an impact on his life and the lives of others he’s met while traveling.

5:25 p.m. “Music is intoxicating. If it intoxicates the listener, how much more does it intoxicate the ones that make it?” – GZA

5:23 p.m. “Hip hop became the voice of the youth, like rock n’ roll in the 60′s.” – GZA

5:21 p.m. “It’s an honor to lecture at this institution. I never dreamed that I would be speaking to some of the brightest minds in the world.” – GZA

5:20 p.m. “Excuse me for reading from the iPad. I’ve been doing so much recently, so I’ve had little time to work on this. I just started on this yesterday.” – GZA

5:17 p.m. GZA’s coming down to the stage. He poses for a photo for his manager, Sophia Chang. Condry gives him an introduction.

5:16 p.m. No photos allowed!

5:11 p.m. Condry is talking about what CMS at MIT is and how it’s not the same as the Media Lab.

5:10 p.m. “Welcome to GZA at MIT. You win the prize for responding to email quickly.” – Ian Condry, MIT CMS Associate Professor

5:05 p.m. There was just an awkward pause as an organizer quieted down the crowd to say that we’d be starting soon. It didn’t help that the background music also happened to reach an awkward section.

5:00 p.m. Looks like GZA uses a spiral notebook to prop up his iPad on the podium.

4:55 p.m. The doors have just opened, and people are starting to stream in. GZA is wearing a long-sleeve black polo shirt and looking over notes for his talk on his iPad.

4:50 p.m. There are about 75 people crowding around 32-123. People are getting excited to see GZA as well as get their hands on the food inside!

GZA, the Wu Tang Clan rapper, will be speaking at MIT tonight from 5–7 p.m. EST. The Tech will be live blogging the talk. Check back at 5 p.m. to tap into what’s going on!

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