Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla Face Off in “Epic Rap Battles of History”

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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Magi­cian Mar­co Tem­pest Daz­zles a TED Audi­ence with “The Elec­tric Rise and Fall of Niko­la Tes­la”

A Brief, Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to Thomas Edi­son (and Niko­la Tes­la)

Thomas Edi­son Recites “Mary Had a Lit­tle Lamb” in Ear­ly Voice Record­ing

Hayek vs. Keynes Rap

Josh Jones is a writer, edi­tor, and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him @jdmagness


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