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Tampa nerdcore rapper funky49 debuts Fermilab 'Particle Business' video



This is a complex story involving particles and scientists and nerds and hip-hop, but stay with us.

You might recall that a while back, the scientific community made a big fuss about the Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator at a laboratory called CERN near Geneva, Switzerland, that was planning to recreate the conditions immediately following the Big Bang, thereby explaining everything, ever. There was some fear that the experiment could create a black hole and destroy the world, but as of this typing, that hasn't happened yet.

In 2008, a viral video hit the Web: The Large Hadron Rap. It's a rap about the LHC that uses lyrics like "This dark matter interacts / only through gravity / and how do you catch a particle / there's no way to see?" To date, it's attracted more than 5.7 million views on YouTube.

Well, you know physicists -- always measuring their achievements by the popularity of their novelty hip-hop jingles. So a group of scientists at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (a.k.a Fermilab) in Batavia, Ill., decided they needed a song for their own particle collider, the Tevatron

That's where Tampa rapper Steve "funky49" Rush comes in.

Online, funky49 is a popular nerdcore figure, and he's big into science jams -- he once recorded a hip-hop tribute to the Tampa Museum of Science and Industry, Rapbassador.

A physicist and music fan at Fermilab came across Rapbassador online, and decided funky49 would be the perfect artist to write and record a hip-hop joint touting the laboratory's own research into the Higgs boson particle. The rapper even visited Fermilab to film a video and deliver a lecture on hip-hop. And after a long delay, the song and video, dubbed Particle Business, recently debuted on the Web.

Directed by Illinois filmmaker Dan Lamoureux, the video shows funky49 -- in his custom throwbacks and bling -- getting all up in Fermilab's business, hanging out around Tevatron and getting uncomfortably close to a herd of bison.

Lyrically, the song is equal, if not superior, to The Large Hadron Rap in terms of scientific jargon and attitude, and it even sneaks in a little social commentary about cutting science funding and boosting students' test scores.

"Tevatron, O.G. atom smasher / Say hello to CERN's party crasher / The new Lord of the Rings LHC hear me / This be competitive collaboration, baby," funky49 raps.

For the most part, the nerding community seems to approve. "On a technical level, the Particle Rap has, shall we say, higher production values than the LHC Rap, and the lyrics are less forced and scan a bit better," wrote Discovery News blogger Jennifer Ouellette. And even Katherine McAlpine, a.k.a. Alpinekat, who did the original LHC Rap, wrote: "I'll admit that Steve and the physicists really brought it with their tough posing. The massive bison didn't hurt either. And it's always nice to see a Geiger counter put to good use."

One gets a sneaking suspicion that the filming of this video represents a borderline security lapse at what is no doubt a highly secure government location, but someone was bound to slip past the guard bison someday. Aren't you glad it was a Tampa rapper who did it?

Head to funky49's Web site to download a free mp3 of Particle Business.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 3:18pm]


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