Why don’t you ever hear hip-hop in labs?

I’ve been thinking about the music that is played in labs lately. Most labs have some background noise going on. In my experience, the single most common background sound in a lab is NPR (us scientists love us some NPR). Lagging far behind NPR is weird shit. By weird shit I mean some kind of Brazilian samba, some off-kilter tango or the latest and greatest ultracool band that no one has heard of before. I have to admit, I have no problem with any of this stuff (after all, I loves me some NPR and samba) but do any of us actually listen to this stuff at home (aside from NPR of course).

For the last few weeks I’ve been paying attention to what I hear in other labs, to what I listen to in the office and to what I listen to when working around the house and in the gym.

My ability to hear what is going on in other labs has been greatly enhanced lately by the fact that Juniorprof’s lab is moving. No, I’m not bailing for industry already. We (all the pain groups) got an offer to relocate to a central location and we jumped at the opportunity. Due to this, my lab is changing (slowly but surely) buildings and moving into some swank new digs (I’ll post some pictures of the fab panoramic views soon). I’ve heard much NPR but also a wide variety of other stuff. Lots of Simon and Garfunkel (what’s up with that) in the lab next door. Some Tejano (which I love… long live Selena) in another lab and a variety of other sounds that I’m not quite sure I’d consider music. In my own lab we’ve been listening mostly to some jazz (Stan Getz is a current fav) and as I’ve been wandering into some of the other pain group labs I’ve heard a variety of sambaesque tunes (I have no idea why they’re always playing samba, I should ask).

The music in my office, at home and in the gym is quite different. I’ve always loved hip-hop (L.L. got me hooked with “I’m Bad” back in ’80 something or other) and this is my music of choice in nearly every other location. Lately I’ve been getting back into Tribe Called Quest, some older Jay-Z with a few doses of De La Soul and Beastie Boys thrown in here and there (yeah, I’m old skool). I’ve also been listening to a bit of newer, more electronic, but heavily hip-hop influenced groups like M.I.A. and N.E.R.D.. For some reason, I don’t play it in the lab though. Why is that?

The simple answer is I don’t know. Clearly its not because I think people won’t like it. People play all sorts of crap in labs that others clearly don’t like. I’ve been known to go on a Pink Floyd trip that drives others nuts. I’ve seen others force much worse on their lab mates. Plus, who actually doesn’t like hip-hop? If the radio is any guide, everyone loves it (but not as much as Tejano out here in the desert southwest). Maybe its because I’m afraid people will find it offensive? Don’t think that is the answer either, after all what could be more offensive than Simon and Garfunkel? Maybe its the curse words? Don’t think its that either. Like Physioprof, this profession is full of foul mouths and I’m no exception.

So, it looks like I still don’t have an answer to my question. I do have a simple solution though. Tomorrow, for the first time in the history of laboratory science, Juniorprof is going to play some hip-hop in the lab. I’m gonna kick it off with a classic, Tribe Called Quest’s “People’s Instinctive Travels Through Life and Rhythms”. We’ll see how it goes. One thing is for certain, I’ll be groovin’, bad back and all! Feel free to join in, it might just bring about a revolution in science.


13 responses to “Why don’t you ever hear hip-hop in labs?

  1. We’re on a music binge right now because Advisor (who doesn’t like music in lab) is out of town. It’s all Wilco all the time….Ok, and some other stuff. You’re right, not a lot of hip-hop. Good luck with your experiment!

  2. It made me laugh when I read your post because when I left the lab this evening I heard Scottish bagpipes blaring from the lab across the hall.

  3. everyone loves it? what planet are you from? hip-hop sucks ass. objectively.

    Simon and Garfunkel kick ass, otoh.


  4. I work with rodents, so I have had to set down a few basic rules:
    Rule #1: No booty-shakin’ music during surgery
    Rule#2: No gangsta during behavioral testing
    Rule #3: No opera. Ever.

    So that leaves Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, pre-1975 Genesis and for the more upbeat days, Glen Gould. I think there is a section in the DSM on people like me.

  5. Glen Gould? I was wondering where all that Glen Gould I have in my iTunes library came from. FN snuck it in there.

  6. I was in a lab in which the dominant postdoc liked to play hard rock all day, and one of the grad students loved country and rap. During the day, we would almost always have the hard rock radio station. But one night advisor came in late and ‘caught’ grad student listening to rap and pipetting with a pipetmen in each hand, grooving away.
    This was also the lab I got the other postdoc to sing the Time Warp with me (though not dance).

    Since then, I’ve been in quiet labs, though once or twice I’ve played hammer dulcimer music on the grounds it is pretty totally inoffensive and minimally distracting.

  7. Hmm, that’s a good question. Typically I hate having any music on in the lab when I’m trying to work (my theory being that it’s easier for people who want music to use headphones than for those who don’t want it to cancel it out). Luckily I’m currently in a room with one fairly infrequently used piece of shared equipment, so I’m rarely bothered by others’ music.

    But I must agree that in all the labs I’ve ever been in, rap and hiphop are completely absent. Have had the Brazilian samba though, strange coincidence there.

    Still, it must be something about the demographics. Heavy metal is often poorly represented as well, and I’ve gotten a lot of strange looks when I say I’m listening to Metallica or Iron Maiden. It’s hard to be around people with poor taste. ;)

  8. When our lab was in a different location and my mentor’s office was located within the lab he used to play all sorts of music in the lab…it generally was along the lines of Pink Floyd to Tangerine Dream and occasionally there was some Beastie Boys and when he was in grant-writing mode there was definitely some much harder rap/hip-hop…(there were also christmas lights that we strung up around his door at grant-writing time…kind of a warning signal). However, since we’ve moved to a new building and his office has been moved far, far away from the lab and we’re in a much larger space that does not lend itself to playing music so that everyone can hear it we’ve become a quiet lab with people & their headphones…I kinda miss the old days–I do love some Tangerine Dream (and Beastie Boys!!)

  9. Heavy metal is often poorly represented as well, and I’ve gotten a lot of strange looks when I say I’m listening to Metallica or Iron Maiden.

    You deserve those strange looks!

  10. Well, I’ll be at the Maiden concert this Friday, and I’ll throw some devil horns your way jp! :)

    [Heh, jp=juniorprof=junction potential; there’s something there methinks]

  11. This is a great topic: its great when a lab can actually agree on a genre of music without pissing someone off. For the past many years, I’ve been in a “quiet” building with a “quiet” lab, but Ipods are the norm. I must admit, it took awhile to accept them, as I am of the school that lab mates need to talk and interact with one another, but one the whole, people still do this, and a polite tap on the shoulder to get someone’s attention is usually sufficient.

    Anyone else have an iPod -lab. what are people listening to. For me, its podcasts (Rachel Maddow, NPRs Bryant Park Project and other various NPR shows) alternating with R&B, hip-hop and neo-soul.

  12. cookingwithsolvents

    It is tough to play hip hop in lab ’cause even positive message groups like lyrics born or blackalicious drop enough cuss words in places that can make you cringe if the boss walks through the door (I’m an “album” kind of person. . .specific playlists could work around certain songs, I suppose). Z-trip’s shifting gears is a GREAT album to work to but even breakfast club has “objectionable” language. Now, I’m not saying that PI’s (mine or others) would really care, but it only takes ONE.. . .not an experiment I really want to perform.

    I do like working to hip hop, though. A good beat helps keep me moving and I swear it makes my hands better during some specific experiments. House and tech-house can work in a pinch, though “electronic” can be a tougher sell on coworkers (just calmly explain that SHOW TUNES for electronic is a fair trade).

    pseudo-P.S. It’s also rare that you have a lab stereo setup that can pump hip hop (much less house) without sounding like CRAP so maybe that’s part of the reason.

  13. I love to rock out to Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Basement Jaxx when I am alone in the lab, lol. I sing along really loud sometimes, too. I hope to continue doing so in my new place but alas I have anxiety about people not taking me seriously as it is, since I am a tiny girl who barely looks grad-studenty, much less professorial.

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