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Botany needs more rap songs

You might be used to writing scientific abstracts and reports – but have you ever tried to put your research into a rap?

A few weeks ago, we received a not-so-usual press release:

Four eighth grade students from The Nueva School in Hillsborough, California are releasing “They Grow”, a science-ified version of the popular Drake song “Headlines”. In this video, they rap about photosynthesis – starting with the basics and moving on to the intricate processes the light reaction and the Calvin cycle. With help from their science teacher, Tom McFadden, these four students wrote and performed their lyrics, then planned, shot and edited their music video. They hope that their video will help students better understand the complex process known as photosynthesis.


Tom McFadden is an inspiring teacher and science communicator, who puts together science and music, especially rap music, to engage school students and teachers. His video channel features tons of science songs. Many of them are student-led projects, like the ‘Rosalind Franklin vs Watson & Crick’ Science History Rap. In  his ‘Science x Rhymes‘ series, Tom translates current science news stories into rap lyrics.

Why Plant Science needs more rap songs

Why should we spend valuable time on writing song lyrics? A well-written song is fun and catchy, and can reach tens of thousands of people – the Rosalind Franklin rap has had over 220,000 views since its launch date in 2013.  Being able to distill your research into small sound bites is an important skill. If you can make it rhyme, you’re a true master of science communication.

“They’re like: Chlorophyll? More like BORE-ophyll!”
More like Stevie Wonder singing My Cherie Amour-ophyll.

So you want to write a plant rap song?

If like me you don’t know much about writing rap lyrics, the internet is a great source to help you get started. Like poems, raps use rhythm and rhymes to make their message appealing to the ear, often featuring metaphors and wordplays (‘7 tips for writing a rap’, Power Poetry).  Like a scientific paper, rap lyrics are structured, with an intro, a hook or chorus, verses, and an outro/conclusion (‘How to structure your rap lyrics’, Rap Pad). As the hook contains the main message, it should be catchy and memorable. How do you write a hit song hook? Keep it simple, summarise the song in it, and consider to invite audience participation (‘How to write a better hook’, Lessonface). Yes, that’s ‘put your leaves up in the air, wave ‘em around like you just don’t care’.

Play with ‘Deep Beat’

For some inspiration, or if you’re really not good at writing rhymes, you can enlist the help of ‘Deep Beat’, the Rap Lyrics Generating Artificial Intelligence. Deep Beat searches existing rap song lines for custom keywords and suggests rhyming options. Unfortunately, there do not seem to be a lot of existing Botany rap songs…yet?! If you have written a plant science rap song, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Anne Osterrieder

Anne Osterrieder is a Lecturer in Biology and Science Communication at Oxford Brookes University, UK. A plant cell biologist, she loves the Golgi apparatus, lasers and cats. She has her own blog at Plant Cell Biology.

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