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Baba Brinkman

Friday, November 13, 2009
Lecture Hall 2, 4:00 PM

The Rap Guide to Evolution

“After seeing this show, you’ll never look at a hip-hop music video in the same way again.” – The Scottsman Review


Baba Brinkman is a former tree-planter who worked in the Rocky Mountains of B.C. every summer for more than ten years, personally planting over one million trees. He is also a scholar with a Masters in Medieval and Renaissance English Literature. His thesis drew parallels between the worlds of hip-hop music and literary poetry. After graduating in 2003, Baba began his career as a rap troubadour.

Since 2004 Baba has toured his award-winning hip-hop theatre show, “The Rap Canterbury Tales”, to dozens of cities around the world, including two tours of Australia, three critically-acclaimed runs at the Edinburgh Fringe, several college campus tours of the USA, including Harvard, and frequent returns to the UK and Europe. His rap adaptations are now used in hundreds of classrooms around the world.

Baba’s latest project, “The Rap Guide to Evolution” won the prestigious Scotsman Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, and will continue touring the UK and USA throughout 2009, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin.


From the Scotsman Review:

Last autumn, Brinkman was approached by Dr Mark Pallen, a microbiologist from Birmingham University who suggested that, to mark Charles Darwin’s bicentenary in 2009, the performer might consider doing for the theory of evolution what he had previously done for Chaucer. The Rap Guide to Evolution is the result, and as it was checked for accuracy by Pallen himself, it is, as Brinkman proudly points out, the first peer-reviewed hip-hop show in history.

Not only is it factually correct, it’s also dazzlingly intelligent. Where most people would be happy just to convey the gist of Darwin’s theories in rhyme, Brinkman adds a twist: this isn’t just a show about evolution delivered in a hip-hop style, it’s also a show about the evolution of hip-hop. Just as some species in the natural world prosper and others die out, Brinkman explains, so some rappers adapt and survive while others “go extinct like Vanilla Ice”. Evolution, it transpires, has much to teach us about hip-hop, and vice versa: bling is a fitness display; the process of natural selection operates on iPod playlists and teenage pregnancy in the ghettos can be read as an evolutionary strategy designed to maximise the chances of genetic material being passed on in a high-risk environment.

Brinkman’s right: after seeing this show, you’ll never look at a hip-hop music video in the same way again. Oh, and everyone should take heed of his plan for world peace: don’t sleep with mean people. Like most things in The Rap Guide to Evolution, it makes perfect sense when you stop and think about it

From the BU Pipe Dream:

“Science and humanities are famously said to be different worlds, but in the real world the most important ideas are communicated through art, and fusing science and art is extremely important and interesting,” said David Sloan Wilson, a professor in the biology department and BU’s EvoS program, who first had the idea to bring Brinkman here.

The rap guide seeks to put many concepts of evolutionary science into an accessible form by using a medium students are familiar with.

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Poster (8.5 x 11 PDF):


Large Poster (11 x 17 PDF):