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Check It! MC Hawking Raps

Parody Web site explores the famed astrophysicist's other career.

November 02, 2000|SUSAN CARPENTER | susan.carpenter@latimes.com

Yo! Stephen Hawking raps!

At least that's what the creator of MC Hawking's Crib at http://www.mchawking.com would like his site's visitors to believe--that the wheelchair-bound, world-renowned astrophysicist is also a hard-core gangsta rapper.

That claim is almost credible on this raunchy, hilarious and amazingly well-executed parody site that boasts of being the Web's first and only resource for information on the English scientist's lesser-known career as a "lyrical terrorist."

Streetwise and rich with rap lingo, the site is structured like a fanzine, with "newz," record reviews and artfully enhanced "picturez" of Hawking alongside famous rappers such as Run DMC and the Beastie Boys. But the real gems here are in the "Rhymez & Fat Beatz" section, in which there's a bevy of MP3-format songs that layer a simulation of the scientist's computer-synthesized voice over hip-hop beats.

"This one goes out to all my homeys working in the field of evolutionary science. Check it!" MC Hawking raps on "F--- the Creationists," a takeoff on the rap group N.W.A's "F--- tha Police." According to the site's discography, the song appears on "E=MC Hawking," the most recent of his three critically acclaimed albums.

In reality, MC Hawking has yet to get his first record deal, but that may change soon. Since the site's Sept. 7 debut, he's had two offers.

And tons of visitors.

"I expected maybe 5,000--10,000 on the upside," said Ken Leavitt-Lawrence, the Gloucester, Mass., software developer who created MC Hawking.

The 30-year-old rap fan came up with the idea in July when the company he worked for gave him a Macintosh computer instead of the PC he was used to. When he made a mistake on the new system, "it spoke the error message," Leavitt-Lawrence said. "The Mac talks to you. It occurred to me it kind of sounded like Stephen Hawking."

Modifying a voice he found on Willow Talk, a text speech program, he put together a rhyme and sent it around the company as a joke. When one of his co-workers suggested he put a beat to it, it was no problem for Leavitt-Lawrence, who has a bachelor's degree in music composition from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass.

MC Hawking was born.

All the raps he's created are lyrical nods to famous hip-hop acts, songs and culture. He wrote "The Mighty Stephen Hawking," he said, because "there had to be one song about him talking about how cool he was. That's a rap staple."

He just finished a track with a fake heavy-metal band called Dark Matter and a version of Naughty by Nature's "O.P.P." called "Entropy" that will explain the concept.

According to the site, Hawking first became interested in rap when the Beastie Boys played a concert at Oxford. He met his collaborator, DJ Doomsday, when he started "to drop some science" in the local rap scene.

"Once I worked out one of these songs, I decided that the best way to present this would be . . . to create an entire mythology around the concept that Stephen Hawking is a gangster rapper," Leavitt-Lawrence explained. "If you accept the concept . . . everything else on the site should make sense, but, of course, the original concept is ridiculous."

But all the site's biographical information about Stephen Hawking is accurate, he said. "Everything not related to rap is fact. Despite the fun I'm having with it, I have tremendous respect for the man."

That goes both ways, apparently. Leavitt-Lawrence received an e-mail from the office of the real Stephen Hawking that read: "Just thought I would drop you a line from the office of mchawking himself. He has asked me to let you know that he is "flattered as it's a modern-day equivalent to [the satirical BBC television show] 'Spitting Image.' "

*

Susan Carpenter is an editor in The Times' Southern California Living section.

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