Lupe Fiasco

2020-21 CAST Visiting Artist

Breaking down and building up the languages of rap

About the Residency

Grammy award-winning rapper Lupe Fiasco and Professor of Digital Media Nick Montfort come together to engage the MIT community at the intersection of rap, computing, and activism. 

Fiasco’s work as a rapper and producer is informed by his interests in cognitive science, linguistics, semiotics, and computing. During his CAST residency, he shares insights from his work as an entrepreneur and community advocate, for instance working with the Society of Spoken Art (SOSA), an educational guild for aspiring and established rappers, of which he is a co-founder. 

Montfort and Fiasco also lead “Code Cypher,” a programming competition for language and rhythm that engages teams of MIT students in a one-day creative coding event in fall 2021.


Past Events

“Code Cypher”
Saturday, October 9, 2021 / 10:00am – 6:00pm
MIT Building W97
345 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA
Open to MIT Students on Covid Pass | Registration by October 6 is required to participate. This event is not open to the public.

Register your team of two to four MIT students to develop computational artworks during this “Code Cypher” that play with language and rhythm, and present your work to Grammy award-winning rapper Lupe Fiasco.

A topic will be announced on the day of the competition. Competitors only need to show up ready to work with each other and bring their own computers. Some team members may have more experience in music and rap, others in programming and computation. All MIT students are welcome to join!

CAST Visiting Artist Lupe Fiasco: SOSA (The Society of Spoken Art)
Wednesday, February 24, 2021 / 5:00pm EST

Lupe Fiasco speaks about SOSA (The Society of Spoken Art), an educational guild that brings established and aspiring rappers together to hone their verbal prowess and master the fundamentals of linguistic and semiotic methodology. In its educational dimension, SOSA fosters connections between established rappers and some of the most well-respected minds in academia. A comprehensive curriculum provides lyricists with the guidance and resources they need to deepen their linguistic and rhetorical understandings of spoken art.

In this conversation with his MIT collaborator Professor Nick Montfort, Fiasco covers the history, structure, academic and artistic programming, methodology, and goals of the organization.

Collaborators at MIT

Nick Montfort, professor of digital media in MIT’s Comparative Media Studies/Writing, studies creative computing and develops computational art and poetry. Montfort founded and directs The Trope Tank, a DIY research lab/studio, based at MIT and in New York, that undertakes scholarly and aesthetic projects and offers material computing resources. His computer-generated books of poetry include #!, the collaboration 2×6, Autopia, The Truelist, and most recently, Golem. His digital projects include the collaborations The Deletionist and Sea and Spar Between. His MIT Press books, collaborative and individual, are: The New Media Reader, Twisty Little Passages, Racing the Beam, 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10, Exploratory Programming for the Arts and Humanities, and The Future.

Biography: MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing

D. Fox Harrell, Professor of Digital Media & AI and Director of the MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality

Ian Condry, Professor of Comparative Media Studies/Writing

Ekene Ijeoma, Assistant Professor in Media Arts and Sciences and Director of the Poetic Justice group


Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, better known by his stage name Lupe Fiasco, is a Chicago-born Grammy award-winning American rapper, record producer, entrepreneur, and community advocate. Rising to fame in 2006 following the success of his debut album, Food & Liquor, Fiasco has released more than four acclaimed studio albums; his latest, Drogas Wave, was released in fall 2018. His efforts to propagate conscious material helped solidify him as GQ’s Man of the Year in 2006, and garnered him recognition as a Henry Crown Fellow. While musical genius and ingenuity are at the forefront of Fiasco’s achievements, the artist extends his innovation to projects that aim to foster creative discourse and opportunities in underprivileged and impoverished communities.

As the co-founder and co-owner of community initiatives such as We Are M.U.R.A.L, The Neighborhood Start-Up Fund, Society of Spoken Art (SOSA), and Studio SV with Bonnie Chan Woo, Lupe Fiasco proves that he is more than just a mouthpiece for change, but a committed facilitator of intellectual community discourse and outreach.

Lupe Fiasco’s conscious efforts to propagate social and artistic change continue to inspire his musical and community efforts, serving as a distinguished example of giving back and paying it forward.

Website: Lupe Fiasco
Social: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube