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Hard Knock Life

Friday, February 12, 2016 - 06:47 PM

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

This Valentine's Day, a mysterious tap tap tapping leads us into a world of sex, death, and head-banging.

Biologist Dave Goulson introduces us to the lonely yearnings of an especially pathetic beetle and snatches a sound back from the hands of the devil himself.  Featuring rapping about rapping from extra special guests Lin-Manuel Miranda, Utkarsh Ambudkar and Freestyle Love Supreme. 

Produced by Simon Adler. We had engineering help from Rick Kwan.


Utkarsh Ambudkar, Dave Goulson and Lin-Manuel Miranda


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Comments [24]

Matt from Bakersfield, CA

Really interesting! I do feel kinda bad for the little beetles.

Sep. 16 2017 01:30 AM
Gabe from USA

The song that starts at 16:23 sounds soo much like another song I have heard - the melody/rhythm of it - especially when he goes for the long notes at 16:26, 16:31, 16:46 and 16:57. I can't recall what though, does anyone know?

Oct. 14 2016 02:44 PM
BuffaloGary from Buffalo,NY


Sep. 27 2016 08:23 AM

the team leader didn't appear to have prepared her team for what to expect in terms of stares & attitudes from whites when a black group enters a "white space." uncomfortable? maybe. intimidating? no way! i would have given those black kids a good talking to ahead of time and had them striding into that space with their heads held high, knowing full well there's no reason they can't come out of there champions.

Jun. 26 2016 07:09 PM
Janni from Olmué, Chile

My hat's off to you for making a fascinating story about a tiny brown beetle that captures attention and imagination. Even though I have slight entomological tendencies, still, this work is appealing to all. Congratulations!

Jun. 22 2016 09:41 PM
krompus from Montreal

Haha, this is awesome! The first episode I've listened to. :)

I'd love to know the name of that dreamy ambient guitar interlude; that was very soothing.

Apr. 19 2016 05:36 AM
Dan OlderMusicGeek

While I quite enjoyed the rap musical, it seems to be that beetles that head bang to find a love, and continue to head bang while making love, should have a metal tune!

Mar. 25 2016 12:51 PM
Devinne from Chicago

To Ruth from Ireland--I think that's from "Just The Same But Brand New" by St. Vincent.

Mar. 07 2016 09:59 AM

This was by far the most entertaining episode I've heard for a while, LOVED it!

Feb. 24 2016 11:13 PM
Orbital Fetus from NYS

If the mother drops all of the young off in the same area, does that increase the chance that siblings become mating partners more often than not?

Feb. 21 2016 09:52 AM
Andrea from Washington DC

...IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE...this episode, along with the one on football, and Oliver Sacks/periodic table have ranked on my top three. These stories are like love letters from the human species to the world. The best ripple effect I can pass on was coming down to the breakfast table this morning and having my boys singing the song, to the word, over a game of monopoly after only hearing it only a couple times at 2am last night. In an effort to kick a nightmare off center stage of my 11 year olds mind I played the podcast. It obviously made quite the impression. Keep sending love letters out. They speak to us on so many levels.

Feb. 20 2016 11:36 AM

The podcast version of this episode is broken.
Lin-Manuel Miranda's rap is missing and Robert's voice is cut off by the music. Then I think the wrong segment of music plays at the end.
It's like layers of the music production went out of sync.
The rest of the episode sounded fine as far as I can tell.
And the episode plays fine in the player above.
Love the episode, by the way.


Feb. 17 2016 02:57 PM
Gordon Haas from Medford, Oregon

Female Deathwatch Beetle:
"I like big bugs, I cannot lie.
The male with the most mass, he gets my ass.
He's my guy!"

Feb. 17 2016 02:02 PM
Peter J. from Des Moines, IA.

Big fan of the show. And not turn it away from romance. But in Edgar Allen Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart" the protagnist mentions listening to Deathwatch early on. There's a theory that the protagnist isn't hearing the heartbeat of the man he killed, but instead the Deathwatch beetles. Which is fun, I guess--and thought I'd mention it.

Feb. 17 2016 01:39 PM
Jessica Sporn from NJ

FANTASTIC episode. I just wish Lin-Manuel Miranda, Utkarsh Ambudkar and Freestyle Love Supreme would collaborate on more educational raps. PLEASE!

Feb. 17 2016 12:57 PM
Ruth from Ireland

Great episode! Just wondering could I get the name of the piece of music at the 12:20 approx minute mark?!

Feb. 17 2016 11:21 AM
Delenn from Los Angeles, CA

I love RadioLab and I LOVE Lin, and this is the best and worst thing I have ever heard in my life. I'm going to listen to it 12 more times now, thank you for this gift.

Feb. 16 2016 11:09 PM
Paul from Philly

This is such a great episode! Keep them coming!

Feb. 16 2016 03:24 PM
The Skleeve from Portland, OR

What a great episode! I love that the guy is such a champion of the insect that is slowly destroying his roof - ya gotta love Biologists! Also, there are a lot of references to this beetle in pop culture and literature, but this is the first time I've ever heard of it. Maybe uncommon in N. America?

On a side note: I am a die-hard RL fan and absolutely enjoy 99% of episodes, but I have to say that this one was especially nice for me because it felt like a return to some of the science & natural world subjects that I and many others crave so much. I enjoy the the less "sciency" episodes as well, but it would be wonderful if the ratio was something like 4/5 science themed and 1/5 human interest. I think there is a place in Radio Lab for both, but please more like this and the early episodes. Aren't we due for another visit from Neil deGrasse Tyson? Thank you again, and I will continue to support and contribute to RL.

Feb. 16 2016 02:33 PM

Loved it!

Feb. 15 2016 08:00 PM
Karen Boatwright from Jacksonville, FL

Love it!

Feb. 15 2016 12:01 PM
Mary Hess from Wiesbaden, Germany

Delightful! First time I ever listened to an entire rap song.

Feb. 14 2016 05:06 AM
Mark from UK

This looks like it might be slightly scientific, at long last. But you know what? I don't think I'll bother. I've just plain lost interest and faith (so to speak).

Feb. 14 2016 02:44 AM

when I heard this podcast this morning, I had no idea it was an omen, or even a metaphor for my own life. I can't help but laugh a little.

Feb. 13 2016 12:42 PM

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