Interview with Baba Brinkman who performs his Rap Guide to Evolution in Vancouver on Feb. 20, 2011

Peer-reviewed and rap music are terms that don’t usually go together unless you’re talking about Vancouver-based rapper, Baba Brinkman.  (ETA Feb.17.11 Baba’s website) The performer has developed a rap about evolution that’s been extensively toured in the UK. Sunday, February 20, 2011, Brinkman brings his evolution rap home to Vancouver (Canada) for a performance at the Railway Club presented by the Centre for Inquiry and others. From the event webpage,

The Centre for Inquiry Vancouver, Radio Freethinker and CiTR 101.9FM are proud to present Baba Brinkman and the Rap Guide to Evolution!

Baba brings his rationalist rap back to his home for a special show of his popular spoken word rationalist rap – The Rap Guide to Evolution! The New York Times has said that this is the only hip-hop show to talk of mitochondria, genetic drift, sexual selection or memes. For Brinkman has taken Da rwin’s exhortation seriously. He is a man on a mission to spread the word about evolution — how it works, what it means for our view of the world, and why it is something to be celebrated rather than feared.

Baba’s work has been called:

“Brilliantly conceived and effervescently performed…not only is it factually correct, it’s also dazzlingly intelligent…after seeing this show, you’ll never look at a hip-hop music video in the same way again!” – The Scotsman

Event details:

Sunday, February 20th 2011 at 9:00 pm – 12 am
The Railway Club, 579 Dunsmuir Street, Vancouver BC
Tickets: $8 at the door
Special Guests: Aaron Nazrul & the Boom Booms

Prior to his Sunday performance, Baba very kindly answered some interview questions:

(a) Is this the first time you’ve given a performance of ‘The Rap Guide to Evolution’ in Vancouver? And how did this performance come about?

This won’t be the Vancouver première of the Rap Guide to Evolution since I was featured as part of the 2009 Vancouver Evolution Festival with performances at UBC, SFU, and at a club venue in Gastown, but the show has evolved considerably over the past two years and it is my first performance in Vancouver since achieving any recognition for the show.  In terms of the show’s origins, I was performing a rap adaptation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales a few years back and encountered a geneticist named Dr. Mark Pallen at the University of Birmingham in the UK who challenged me to “do for Darwin what I did for Chaucer”. Dr. Pallen had a grant from the British Council to organize a Darwin Day celebration in 2009 and he commissioned me to write the show for his event, and then after that I brought it to the VanEvo festival, the Cambridge Darwin Festival, the Edinburgh and Adelaide Fringe Festivals, and numerous college campuses, plus an off-Broadway showcase in New York, so it’s been a busy couple of years.

(b) I understand this ‘evolution’ rap was commissioned and is the only ‘science peer-reviewed’ rap in existence. How much research did you do on evolution before you started rapping about it? What did you learn that you didn’t know?

I got the commission officially in September 2008 so I had approximately five months to read-up on evolutionary theory before I started rapping about it. I read books by E O Wilson, Richard Dawkins, Jared Diamond, Joseph Carroll, Dan Dennett, D S Wilson, Geoffrey Miller, and Mark Pallen’s own “Rough Guide to Evolution”. There were other books as well but those are the authors that significantly influenced the writing. What I learned is that the explanatory power of Darwin’s theory is far more vast that I had imagined when first accepting the challenge. I was familiar with evolution from taking biology and human origins courses at University, but I had never heard of Universal Darwinism or Evolutionary Psychology or Costly Signaling or any number of key concepts that ended up featuring heavily in the show.

(c) How has your rapping practice (scientific and otherwise) evolved?

My rapping practiced has evolved in the same way that everything else evolves, gradually and haphazardly in response to changing environmental circumstances. For instance, I would never have guessed when I started rapping at the age of 19 that I would end up in a science rapping niche, but each step seems to have followed effortlessly enough from the last along the way. I still attend to the same stylistic and musical concerns as before so that I keep improving my skills, but the content has taken some surprising turns. There’s an apt expression in hip-hop for this process (also the title of a Too-Short album): Get In Where You Fit In.

(d) Is there anything you’d like to add?

The Rap Guide to Evolution will be transferring to New York for an off-Broadway run in a couple of months, so come see the show while you can, since I might not be back for another two years at this rate!

I’m hoping to get there for Baba’s performance and his last comment definitely provides motivation in addition to the incentive provided by the sweet sounds of his special guests, Aaron Nazrul & the Boom Booms.

I have featured Baba and his work previously in these posts:

2 thoughts on “Interview with Baba Brinkman who performs his Rap Guide to Evolution in Vancouver on Feb. 20, 2011

  1. Pingback: Performance, feedback, revision: Baba Brinkman’s Feb.20.11 performance « FrogHeart

  2. Pingback: Hip hop infused science rap theatrical experience travels from off Broadway (New York) to Vancouver (Canada) | FrogHeart

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