So Much Drama

Posted January 29, 2006 at 6:24 pm 14 Comments

When I recorded “Drama in the PhD,” I never expected it to generate quite so much Internet buzz. I think it started when Brad Fitzpatrick, the creator of LiveJournal, described it quite flatteringly in his blog as the “best fucking thing I’ve ever heard.” Various dorks posted line-by-line analyses of my lyrics on their websites, griping about the technical specifics of my jokes: “He really shouldn’t say he controls his flow better than TCP,” one nerd wrote, “since TCP doesn’t have very good flow control to begin with.” My dis track even inspired a cover by a student at the University of Delaware, though I can’t say that he did a particularly great job. All of the attention soon led to an article on, discussing my not-so-bitter rivalry with MC Plus+.

Nerd Posse
My nerd posse looking tough, except
for Suchi who kept smiling by mistake.

Shortly after the article was published, a TV producer from LA decided to do a piece on nerd rap for German television (specifically, a lifestyle show on Pro Sieben called “Taff”). She asked to come to Stanford to film me and my “geek posse” in our natural habitat, explaining that she intended to present geek rap as a new American trend while juxtaposing it with gangsta rap in an entertaining way.

I quickly agreed to participate, but realized shortly after I got off the phone with her that I didn’t actually have a “geek posse” per se. But after a few emails I managed to recruit some friends who were excited enough about getting on an obscure German TV spot that they were willing to join my entourage. We dressed up in ridiculous “geek rapper” outfits and traveled around campus doing stupid things, like soldering circuit boards while drinking forties, beating up an old CRT, and cruising down Palm Drive on our bikes while scribbling on our PDAs and Tablet PCs. As far as I know the clip has yet to air on German TV, but Jawed recorded a pretty cool “making of” video that you can check out.

For me, the funniest part of the shoot was that the cameraman and interviewer clearly had no idea what any of my lyrics were about.

“OK,” the cameraman would say, “we’re going to shoot that again, and this time I’m doing a close-up, so when you say ‘suck on these nuts bitch’ I want you to make sure you do that gesture again where you point at your crotch.”

“Actually it’s ‘mark-and-sweep on these nuts,'” I corrected him.


“Yeah, it’s a garbage collection algorithm, for reclaiming unreferenced objects to prevent memory leaks.”

“OK, never mind that, just remember to point at your crotch when you say ‘suck on these nuts bitch.'”

The same thing happened when I was being interviewed. The producer asked me how my music combined the elements of computer science and gangsta rap, and I said “well, for example, in the music world when someone is ‘unsigned’ it means they haven’t signed a contract with a record label. But in computer science an unsigned integer is one that’s always interpreted as positive; the most significant bit is used to double the positive range instead of specifying the sign.”

“That’s a little complicated,” she said, “do you have a simpler example?”

“OK,” I said, “uh, in computer science, ‘linear probing’ is a technique for resolving collisions in hash tables, but clearly in this context it’s referring to sex.”

“I don’t get it,” she said.

“Well, a hash table is this data structure with efficient…”

“No, I mean I don’t get how linear probing refers to sex.”


But despite the occasional miscommunication, the TV shoot was a lot of fun, and I look forward to seeing how the clip turns out.

Photo by Gary Parker

Photo by Gary Parker

The latest event in this string of unexpected publicity was a request for an interview in the “Q&A” section of EE Times. MC Plus+ and I were both interviewed about our rivalry and about CS gangsta rap in general; I believe the story is slated to appear in this week’s issue. The magazine sent a photographer to Stanford and Purdue to take pictures of me and of MC Plus+, and I think they turned out really well.

Anyway, in the midst of all of this hype I decided it was inexcusable that I hadn’t recorded a rap song since last April, so today I laid down a new track entitled “The Pimping Lemma.” It’s a tribute to the brave women of computer science. Like last time, I’ll post the lyrics for you to puzzle through; it’s up to you to look up any rap terms or CS terms with which you may be unfamiliar.


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  1. You are my hero.

    Comment by Alice — February 9, 2006 #

  2. Great job! I think they didn’t even realize they’ve been fooled 🙂 I nearly died watching the documentary and the making of!

    Comment by Korbinian — February 23, 2006 #

  3. cool song! i like it very much. and, as our prof pointed out, this song even implies that P = NP, which does not have been proven wrong so far.

    making of video does not seem to be accessible any more.
    c’est dommage.

    Comment by reindyr — February 28, 2006 #

  4. Hmm, I’m not sure where your professor is getting that idea. I say that “my crew is so hard that we roll in NP.” I also say that “I’m PSPACE complete but I’ll reduce you to 3-SAT.”


    Since the 3-SAT problem is in NP, I am implying that MC Plus+ is in this complexity class (along with “my crew”) while I am in PSPACE, which is presumed (though not known) to be an even more daunting complexity class. While problems in NP are solvable in polynomial time on a non-deterministic Turing machine, problems in PSPACE require unlimited time and an amount of space that is a polynomial function of the input length. So P, NP, and PSPACE form an ascending hierarchy of complexity.


    Problems that are PSPACE-complete are suspected to be in PSPACE but not in NP, but it hasn’t been proven whether or not PSPACE is a strict superset of NP (analagous to the question you mention of whether NP is a strict superset of P). I guess this was kind of a lame insult, since it amounts to me saying something like, “it is widely suspected in the mathematical community that I am better than you.” Maybe that’s what your professor meant.

    Comment by monzy — February 28, 2006 #

  5. Hey, Monzy! I totally loved “So Much Drama in the PhD,” it made me howl. But as a geeky chick, I am torn about your latest track “The Pimping Lemma” is a great example of taking Gangsta Rap cliches and reworking them into compsci terms, but one cliche you reworked really should’ve been left behind – totally dissing the women you are claiming to prefer. Using derogatory terms to refer to compsci women (bitches, pigeons, shorties, etc) is far from flattering and your descriptions of collecting women en masse reduces them to objects.

    I’m glad to see a rap glorifying us geeky gals (I’m a tech writer who does both hardware and software manuals and ref guides) but couldn’t you do it without reducing us to hos like everyone else? I love how clever your wordage is, but listening to this track gives me the creeps.

    Comment by Ealasaid — March 3, 2006 #

  6. Hey Ealasid, thanks for the comment. I’m sorry to let you down with my last track — I hate to disappoint an admirer. Attempting to marry concepts from computer science and gangsta rap is difficult — it’s an uneasy union, and in an effort to more closely emulate the parlance of my favorite rappers, I may sometimes go overboard in adopting their terminology.


    On the surface, perhaps it gave the song an unintentionally misogynistic tone, but underneath you’ll note that the main theme of the track (the “pimping lemma” itself) is that I choose which women to pursue not because of their appearance, but because of their intellect. I describe how I rejected one woman, who had difficulty with dynamic memory allocation, in favor of another who was comfortable coding in vi. Referring to these women as “bitches” and “hos” is not intended to be derogatory, but is rather a side effect of the fact that it’s a rap song (or perhaps more accurately, a satire thereof).


    It’s funny: before I recorded the song I asked my roommate to take a look at the lyrics and suggest some edits, since he’s more knowledgeable about rap than anyone I know. Next to one line, where I referred to one of my girlfriends as a “whore,” he wrote, “ouch!” I asked him what he meant, and he said, “You can’t call your woman a whore! That’s disrespectful!”


    “Oh,” I said, confused, “but ‘ho’ and ‘bitch’ are acceptable ways to refer to women?”


    “Sure,” he said, “I know it’s strange, but in rap those terms don’t really carry any offense.”


    So I suppose the way you interpret the words is partially a matter of perspective. Many rappers also make frequent use of the n-word without intending offense, but I shied away from that one for obvious reasons. So I understand why you would take offense, but it does help to think of it in the context of gangsta rap. Please understand that I’m actually parodying, rather than attempting to perpetuate, rap music’s objectification of women.

    Comment by monzy — March 3, 2006 #

  7. Hello Monzy,

    I think your “Drama in the PhD” song is hilarious, but I also have to join the ranks of those picking at the tech details of your song. Namely, you say “My lyrics get stolen by sucker MCs, I gotta sign my rhymes with PGP”.

    As a PhD student in crypto, I think those lines are particularly funny — seriously, a rapper that puts up with PGP’s poor usability must be quite eager about protecting his rhymes…

    However, signing your great lyrics to protect them won’t do much except that you prove your CLAIM of authorship. Any “sucker MC” Eve could just sign them as well! I hate to say it, but it looks like you need some DRM or so. “Gotta rap my rhymes on TCB” might be a replacement.

    Comment by Till — March 4, 2006 #

  8. Definitely a legitimate technical gripe. PGP would allow me to prove that a set of lyrics came from me, preventing rivals from trying to attribute crappy lyrics to me that I hadn’t written. However, it would do nothing to prevent those sucker MCs from resigning my lyrics and trying to pass them off as their own.


    Perhaps we could set up some sort of central lyrics authority that would sign your rhymes with a private key taken from a continuous sequence of randomly generated keys that changed every hour; that way you could use the public key for that timestamp to establish who had written the lyrics first.

    Comment by monzy — March 6, 2006 #

  9. This song has made my C++ and 68000 Micro’s class seem worthwhile! Nice going Monzy!

    Comment by David Gowenlock — April 4, 2006 #

  10. Top stuff monzy, I’ve listened to dramainthephd more times than I care to admit to myself, and was well pleased that you finally released another…

    As far as the PGP debate goes, it may not hold up very strongly, but I imagined it to mean that noone could steal your lyrics before they had a chance to be attributed to you. I thought maybe you were implying you sent yourself encrypted emails of works in progress, for example. Tenuous, I know.

    Keeping it real.

    Comment by mc garbage out — April 18, 2006 #

  11. I have been receiving and sort of reading EE Times for 13 years now at work resulting in zero chuckles and more than a few naps. That changed when your issue came out. I laughed out loud. Just thinking of your “war” with MC++ (great name) made me snort out a laugh during a boring ass meeting about intermodulation distortion specs. The documentary and the making of are a complete riot. Keep up the good work, you’ll make your paper in the struggle.

    Comment by Ed — May 9, 2006 #

  12. The technical gripes are ridiculous, this was not a dissertation, it was a rap parody and it was hilarious. Good work Monzy.

    Comment by iamkobe — May 11, 2006 #

  13. MORE!!!!!…. PUBLISH MORE!!! Dude.. you should be a producer.. your content is priceless.

    Comment by jpongin — December 14, 2006 #

  14. You’re my hero. Thanks to you, I giggle every time I use the pumping lemma. ^_^

    Comment by Nicole — October 26, 2008 #

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