8 Mile

Monday, April 16
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1hr 50mins // directed by:Curtis Hanson // featuring:Eminem, Kim Basinger, Mekhi Phifer, Brittany Murphy

Rap phenom Eminem stars as Jimmy Smith, aka B Rabbit, a young white rapper trying to make a name for himself in Detroit’s predominantly black hip-hop world.

A factory worker living in a trailer with his alcoholic mother (Kim Basinger), his little sister, and his mother’s loser boyfriend (Michael Shannon), Rabbit sees rap as his only chance to break out of his dead-end life.  He lets out his frustrations with twisting, clever rhymes admired by his friends, who keep pushing him to enter a weekly rap face-off at a local club.  When he chokes on stage and gets booed by the crowd, he’s convinced he’s missed his shot.  Can he redeem himself?  In the film’s electrifying climactic scenes, Rabbit retakes the club’s stage, going head to head with his nemeses in a ferociously creative freestyle rap battle.  Co-starring Brittany Murphy, Mekhi Phifer, and Anthony Mackie. The Eminem written, produced and performed track "Lose Yourself", featured in the film, was the first rap song to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

How are freestyle rappers able to create lyrics off the cuff?  What makes their brains tick?  Charles Limb, MD, a hearing specialist and surgeon at Johns Hopkins and a lifelong musician, has spent more than a decade studying the brain activity of musicians as they improvise.   Known for his groundbreaking studies of jazz musicians, he has expanded his research into another musical genre that emphasizes rhythm and improv: hip hop.  He and his team at Johns Hopkins have put freestyle rappers into functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machines to see what happens in their brains when they rhyme off the tops of their heads.  Join us as Dr. Limb discusses his work with Baltimore rappers, and what it reveals about how artistic creativity works in the brain.

About the Speaker


Charles Limb, MD, is an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, where he specializes in neurotology and skull base surgery.  He is also a faculty member at the Peabody Conservatory of Music.  He received his undergraduate degree at Harvard University (where he directed a jazz band) and his medical degree at Yale University School of Medicine, and completed surgical training at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  His current areas of research focus on the study of the neural basis of musical improvisation and creativity (in jazz and freestyle rap) as well as the study of music perception in deaf individuals with cochlear implants. His work has been featured by National Public Radio, TED, National Geographic, Scientific American, PBS, the New York Times, the Library of Congress, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian Institute.