The Origin of the Pi Rap (March 2004)
» Three days
of focus, ending with a sudden command performance in front of hundreds
A brief description...
It was Monday, March 8th. The sixth Pi Day of Luke's speaking
career was approaching, but he hadn't yet been invited to return to his
college for his annual presentation. When he finally got the call
that afternoon, he decided it was time to add something to his
act. Each year since 1999, he'd given a lecture about the history
and mystery of pi, always ending with the recital of 250 digits from
memory, and a cheesy piano love song about the number. He wanted
to spice things up in '04, so he decided to write a rap.
Luke worked at an investment bank at the time, in a 10-hour-a-day
job. For the next 72 hours, he filled every spare moment, from
lunchtime to his bus commutes to his evenings at home, with pondering
and writing the lyrics. He was a big fan of Eminem's recent hit,
"Lose Yourself," and the song's theme of performing under pressure lent
itself quite well to the idea of reciting that elusive number in front
of a crowd.
Luke finished the rap on Thursday, and performed it for a few coworkers
that afternoon. His boss overheard the mini-concert, and he
confronted Luke about it the next morning. No, he wasn't upset;
in fact, he wanted Luke to perform it on the company's trading floor,
in front of a couple hundred people, as a charity fundraiser! The
company was about to launch a two-week drive to raise money for a local
foodshelf, and Luke's boss thought this would be a great way to kick
off the event. Raise $2,500 by noon, he challenged the company,
and Luke will rap live in front of everyone. And if other
branches of the investment firm were to donate, then Luke would wear a
headset and turn the performance into a national conference call!
The money poured in, and in just three short hours, people had given
well over $4,000 to the cause. Luke didn't even have his own
words quite memorized yet, but he donned his now-famous Pi Diddy hat
and gave it all he could. Hundreds of traders and analysts
dropped what they were doing and stared (or listened) as Luke stomped
back and forth across desks, singing about how possessed he was by a
number. It was a hit. In the end, the company matched many
of the donations, raising the total to about $7,300... not bad
for an impromptu hip-hop benefit concert on a trading floor.
Luke went on to perform his rap at his alma mater that afternoon, March
12th, and would later sing it for dozens of middle school
classrooms. He recorded it professionally in late 2005, and in
early 2006 it became the most popular feature on TeachPi.org. In
2007, his song and classroom presentations were covered by local and
national media, and he was even quoted in Newsweek talking about the
celebration of his very favorite number.