Wasalu Jaco – the Grammy Award-winning rapper, entrepreneur, and community advocate better known as Lupe Fiasco – is joining MIT this coming academic year as part of MIT’s MLK Visiting Professors and Scholars Program.
Jaco, whose new album Drill Music in Zion will drop on June 24, is going to make Cambridge his home base as he engages with the campus community through class visits and by teaching a special subjects course on rap in spring 2023. His appointment is hosted by Comparative Media Studies/Writing professor Nick Montfort and Literature professor Mary Fuller.
Jaco’s fellowship, officially starting July 1, builds on successful collaborations with MIT last year. In 2021, he was a visiting artist with MIT’s Center for Art, Science & Technology, when he presented his work with the Society of Spoken Art, and later with Montfort ran a one-day student competition called “Code Cypher”.
“MIT stands as the pinnacle of higher learning and execution for so many, including myself,” Jaco said. “I’m overjoyed to have the opportunity to be in the midst of some of the world’s greatest minds to offer my humble perspective and absorb new practices and principles.”
As Lupe Fiasco, the Chicago-born Jaco is a multiple-time Grammy nominee and a Grammy winner for his 2006 single “Daydreamin’”, with soul singer Jill Scott. He is a respected activist and philanthropist, having become known for alternative models of nurturing young rappers; the Society of Spoken Art (SOSA), for example, has brought them together with academics in an informal guild that teaches aspiring lyricists the role and use of linguistics and semiotics.
The MLK Visiting Scholars program was established in 1991 and expanded to include MLK Visiting Professors in 1995. It has welcomed 137 people from a wide range of disciplines. Though most are college and university faculty, some like Jaco have been organizers or artists, such as cartoonist Frank Espinosa, National Book Award recipient Ta-Nehisi Coates, indigenous activist Patricia Saulis, jazz composer Donal Fox, and interdisciplinary artist Sanford Biggers.
“It’s no secret that Lupe Fiasco IT is an amazing lyricist, one of our top verbal artists,” said Montfort. “He’s also an excellent teacher who delivers knowledge from the stage and within organizations he works with, such as SOSA. And at MIT, he’s going to work with us as a researcher as well. We are already putting together plans to bring computing and rap together in new ways, with the involvement of my colleague Professor Fox Harrell. We will be studying rap through lenses that include mathematical and scientific ones.”
For additional information, contact Professor Nick Montfort (firstname.lastname@example.org).