What do you get when you cross MIT student and alumni raps with other community members’ electronic dance music, rhythmic riddles, and heartfelt love songs? You get MITverses, a new spoken-word musical collaboration sponsored by the MIT Music Production Collaborative.
Community members from across the Institute were invited to record their singing, vocal loops, and other spoken word music to the project, which was recently published as a compilation on SoundCloud and Spotify.
“Usually projects are just for the students or just for the faculty, so it feels nice to cut across some of those invisible boundaries,” says organizer Angela Chang ’97, SM ’02, PhD ’11, an affiliate researcher with MIT Trope Tank.
The project builds on a similar effort over Independent Activities Period (IAP) last year, in which students were encouraged to contribute to a musical collaboration. Chang wanted to expand on that, partially inspired by her experience sitting in on a course taught by Grammy Award-winning rapper and MLK Visiting Scholar Wasalu “Lupe Fiasco” Jaco.
“MIT is a place of collaboration on all fronts — individual moments of creative force and potential combine to produce mass effect,” Jaco says in a textual intro to the album. “The MITverses projects calls together those independent forces operating in and around MIT into combination. Multidimensional and analytical with heart and soul looking into the past and future through the lenses of imagination attenuated by infinite corridors of possibility.”
Chang received help from a number of community members to organize the submissions. The project also included several workshops over the summer in which drafts were shared and artists were given feedback.
“I was excited about it because I see the potential within MIT,” senior Andoni Chiu says. “I see a lot of people excited about trying these sorts of things, some really funny and talented people with a lot to bring to the table.”
The final result is an eclectic, wide-ranging compilation of music, including an electronic dance track from Moises Trejo ’22, a pair of love songs from Paul Schindler ’74, a Pi-themed drill song from Thomas Hafer ’70, and raps from PhD candidate Alex Brinson, Chiu, and Curtis Northcutt SM ’17, PhD ’21, who has previously called for more college students to rap about their schools and was another inspiration for the MITverses project.
Other participants included Indi Williams from MIT Open Learning, who helped with infrastructure, and friends of MIT students who also consider themselves members of the MIT community, including music producer Gabriel Luansing, aka Mr. Master.
Each member of the project contributed for their own reasons.
“I would love to have a proper hip hop scene at MIT,” says Brinson, whose nuclear physics raps have gone viral. “I’d like more people to bounce really esoteric, niche bars around with. I know people who know STEM but don’t make music, and I know people who make music but the physics concepts are lost on them. It would be nice to have more people who appreciate both.”
Others talked about strengthening connections across campus and making STEM topics more fun and accessible.
“It’s surprising this hasn’t already happened,” Chiu said before the final product was released. “It gives people an outlet and a way of expressing themselves through music. It’s a place to say things and be heard. I hope something ridiculous and totally unforeseen comes from this.”
Chang was thrilled with the response from the community and would like to do something similar again soon.
“As I learned more about the people who wanted to collaborate, what I found is they want to give back to the community,” Chang says. “People are giving back in the way that makes the most sense to them. It’s interesting and heartwarming.”