We’ve written a fair amount on the various facets of Thomas Edison’s career, and somewhat less on his less-famous former employee-become-rival Nikola Tesla (who seems to polarize people in ways Edison doesn’t). Both inventors provoke all kinds of serious speculation, commentary, and debate. But even people having fun with these larger-than-life characters feel the need to pick sides. For example, there’s webcomic The Oatmeal’s “Why Nikola Tesla was the greatest geek who ever lived,” which obviously comes down hard in favor of Tesla. Then there’s Tetsuya Kurosawa Biographical comic Thomas Edison: Genius of the Electric Age, which gives the edge to Edison.
Now, in another showdown between the pioneering geniuses of the electric age, we have Epic Rap Battles of History, Season 2, with Edison and Tesla spitting rhymes to prove who should wear the top inventor’s crown. Previous Epic Rap Battles of History episodes pit Gandhi against Martin Luther King, Obama vs. Romney, and Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates. They’re all pretty great, but this one goes out to the science history nerds (who have a sense of humor). The lyrics hit the high points of Edison and Tesla’s careers—Edison’s intellectual property theft, endless string of patents, use of direct current, and “stacking riches”; Tesla’s almost religious belief in the power of electricity, disinterest in business, grievances with Edison—and there are plenty of personal insults thrown into the mix.
Whether you’re a partisan of Edison or Tesla, or couldn’t care less either way, no doubt you’ll get a kick out of this. And for an added bonus, check out the “making of” video below.
Josh Jones is a writer, editor, and musician based in Washington, DC. Follow him @jdmagness