By Gabe Fernandez
If you were born in the 90s and attended an American public school, a substitute teacher for your science class was probably the greatest news you could receive for your education. Why? Because your teacher for the day was no longer Mr. Johnson, who used this gig to keep his Fleet Foxes cover band from college alive, it was William Sanford Nye, a.k.a. Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Bill Nye the Science Guy brought hype to classrooms as a show with a host that amazed you with his intelligence and entertained you with his mad scientist-like personality. For 30 minutes, the goldfish-like attention spans of elementary and middle schoolers were captured and learning about science briefly seemed “cool.”
One of those kids who Nye’s show used to entertain in his youth was rapper Tyler, the Creator. At age 26, he is old enough to remember when the show aired on PBS on Saturdays before the cartoons even came on.
“That show,” Tyler said in an interview with Netflix. “It got kids to not hate science class. And that worked. It full on worked.”
While other Bill Nye fans decided to repay the scientist for his years of entertainment with their attendance at Saturday’s March for Science, where Nye was a speaker and march-leader, Tyler decided to thank his scientific hero in a different way.
— Bill Nye on Netflix (@BillNyeSaves) April 17, 2017
Tyler, the Creator wrote and produced the theme song for Bill Nye’s new show on Netflix, Bill Nye Saves the World. Yes, you read and heard that correctly. This is beautiful for a couple of reasons.
First off, Bill Nye allowed a black artist to be himself. Any fan of Odd Future will tell you that the beat is unabashedly Tyler’s sound. Take a listen to Tyler’s lead single off of his album Wolf, Tamale.
The drums and rhythms used in that song are almost identical to what was used in the theme song and the vocal tone used in “save the worrlldddd” shows off another traditional Tyler trait: creating these rambunctious voices for hooks of his songs as if they’re characters he’s trying to portray.
If it sounds ambitious and experimental, it’s because it’s supposed to. Tyler does bring in the nostalgic “Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!” chant to his version of the theme song as an homage to the original, but he makes the rest of it his own. Nye could have gone an incredibly safe route and chosen an artist like Snoop Dogg to make the theme. This, in theory, could have brought in a more cultural audience while not alienating his more “traditional” (read: white) viewers.
But Nye decided against the safe choice. No, Tyler isn’t some underground artist who is being brought to the mainstream with this opportunity, but he isn’t a traditional hip-hop artist, let alone a traditional musician. Nye clearly appreciated that about him and let the “leader” of Odd Future be himself on that track.
In a show about a field that’s notoriously bad at supporting scientists of color, this appreciation and showcasing of black artistry is a welcome change. Granted, it probably also helped that the two are friends.
The other reason for this beauty, Tyler’s theme song shows the true impact of Nye’s show on today’s generation of 18-25 year-olds.
Tyler was given the opportunity to write the theme song for someone he holds to such a high regard because of what that person taught him and meant to him as an adolescent. Most of us who grew up on Bill Nye are now at an age where our actions, voices and abilities can create an impact, which is what he wanted all along.
“I realized that kids are the future,” Nye said in an interview with the Washington Post. “The reason I made the ‘Science Guy’ show was quite deliberate. If we can get young people excited about science, then we have a shot. I knew I was fighting the fight.”
If the thousands of people who showed up to the March for Science is any indication, not only are young adults more excited about science, but more are ready to fight the fight alongside the man who made our science classes more fun. And with an administration that’s willing to scrap much of the scientific policy progress made in the last decade, those numbers will be necessary.
Featured Photo Credit: Feature photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore on Flickr.
Gabe Fernandez is a senior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.