Making the Song: Layers of the Earth
I first drafted notes for this blog post about 5 years ago but shelved it because we were too busy doing other things. Recently I stumbled upon those notes and am excited to finally document some of the fun work that went into making this educational rap song.
Most songs Ben and I produced for Rhythm, Rhyme, Results — the educational rap company we started in Cambridge, MA — were collaborations that involved a network of contributors scattered across the country. Ben usually led the creative side, either writing lyrics himself or at least editing them, while I focused on “business stuff” but sometimes joined the creative fun and managed production once Ben started law school.
This song was a great example of our typical collaboration style and went something like this:
- Our summer intern researched the topic and sketched the outline
- We bought the instrumental from a producer in Atlanta, a Berklee College of Music graduate we met because she responded to our first Craigslist ad
- I edited the outline and assigned lyric writing to a talented guy in Brooklyn, who also sent back an audio demo
- I edited his lyric, recorded another audio demo, and sent to Ben, who was at this point getting his JD/MBA at Stanford. Note: you’ll understand why I kept myself in the producer’s chair most of the time.
- Ben edited the lyric and send accompanying notes, including emails like:
"throw your hands up for your turf" plays well in kettering, but if this ever gets to a place with actual gang activity, that quickly becomes a volatile lyric.
throw your hands up for the layers of the earth
throw your hands up for what’s below the surf(ace)
throw your hands up cuz we’re gonna discuss
the inner core, outer core, mantle, and crust
"the heat will make you sick"… no it won’t, it will f***king kill you. how about "the heat will burn you up"? i don’t think the "trip"/"sick" rhyme was worth it anyway.
9 to 4000 degrees sounds like a range of 3991 degrees. i think we at least want to go with 4-9000 and hope they can figure out we mean 4000.
"awesome" might be a better adjective than "rotten"… if "bottom" can be pronounced so that the first vowel is the same as the first vowel in "awesome" it will be a more convincing rhyme.
- I sent the lyric and audio demo to a singer/songwriter (now a lawyer) from Miami whom Ben performed with as an undergraduate at Harvard
- He sent back his own audio demo, which blew us away. He created it with GarageBand and his laptop’s built-in mic.
- We recorded everything with a producer in his studio in Arlington, MA. (The producer is now a professional composer in Los Angeles, where he makes songs for movies and commercials like this, this, and this).
- We mastered at M-Works in Cambridge.
And there you have it.
You can hear Layers of the Earth and more science songs in the Science Collection, which also racked up a Parents’ Choice Award. When you buy a song from the site you get the full track in four versions (regular, slowed down, missing vocabulary words, and instrumental), plus worksheets for students that include an answer key for teachers.