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Lupe Fiasco Broke Down Eminem & Kendrick Lamar Lyrics During His MIT Rap Course

Lupe Fiasco announced in May that he was “going to teach rap at MIT.” More specifically, the multiplatinum-certified rapper is teaching at the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology (MIT) for the 2022-23 academic year as the recipient of an MLK Visiting Professorship, as explained in the YouTube description of his “Rap Theory & Practice: An Introduction” lecture.

“Let your conscience be free. You’re now rolling with the thugs from the MIT,” Lupe said at the beginning of the session, playing off of Jay-Z’s “Get Your Mind Right Mami” verse. “Not thugs, but you know, rappers.”

He showed the class photos of him performing during his high school talent show and performing at MIT’s 2015 SpringFest to illustrate that “rap has always been a scholastic pursuit for me.” Over 90 minutes, Lupe dove into the educational root of rap and dissected the structures of Eminem’s “Stan,” Kendrick Lamar’s “Sing About Me,” and his own “Jonylah Forever.”

According to Lupe, “Stan” is “hands-down probably Eminem’s greatest record.” He laid out how Eminem brilliantly coined the term in fan culture, which was effective because he managed to pour universal, relatable macros into the song instead of trying to force “a bunch of details.” Lupe explained why he felt compelled to write “Jonylah Forever,” inspired by the tragic true story of a six-month-old girl named Jonylah Watkins who was shot dead in Chicago in 2013. Her father was the intended target.

“Destroyed the city. I was like, I need to make that a song right now,” Lupe told the class. “And the song was about Jonylah growing up, going to school, being really smart, going to med school, becoming a doctor. … She goes to open up a free clinic in the neighborhood in which she grew up in, and then one day, she’s in the office. She hears some gunshots outside, and then she runs outside to this van and gets this little girl. Triages her, stabilizes her till the paramedics can come, and eventually, she’s saved. She doesn’t realize that she just saved herself. Repetition, repetition, repetition, power. The twist, the power of that. The surprise.”

Lupe used Lamar’s “Sing About Me” as an example of when the surprise doesn’t fix everything — contrasting how he and Eminem blatantly said their plot twists where Lamar leaned more on evocative symbolism. Lupe promised to teach his students how to use “this particular frame” to learn about “a very specific type of surprise and how to utilize it and execute it” by studying stories from the simplicity of “The Three Little Pigs” all the way to Lamar’s intricate discography.

“You can talk about whatever you want,” Lupe said. “Just has to rhyme. That’s the only thing I ask. And it has to be to a beat.”

The course, per Lupe’s slideshow, will cover “fundamental rap primes” such as surprise, rhyme, metaphor, tone, and more. The full name of the class is “CMS.S60 Special Subject: Rap Theory & Practice.” Registration has begun for the 2023 spring semester.

Watch the full 90-minute introductory video above and learn more from Lupe’s tweets below.