Rapper Baba Brinkman takes on evolution


There are plenty of ways to learn Charles Darwin's Theory on Evolution, the most notorious way perhaps being while sitting in a stuffy science class listening to a droning, monotone teacher.

But Baba Brinkman can deliver Charles Darwin's Theory on Evolution and it's far from droning or monotonous. Instead, it's presented in a way that could make anyone from science teachers to Young Jezzy put their hands up in the air and wave them like they just don't care.

Brinkman, 34, is a Canadian scholar and rapper. He combines both of his interests and creates catchy raps centered around topics that aren't known to inspire modern hip-hop lyrics.

Tonight, Brinkman will present "The Rap Guide to Evolution" in the ‘62 Center for Theatre and Dance's Adams Memorial Theatre at Williams College.

Drawing an almost unthinkable common ground between Darwin's theory of evolution and modern-day rap music, Brinkman fast-talks his way through a toe-tapping, hip-swaying rap version Darwin's theory that is, above all, scientifically accurate.

And it's done, Brinkman said, "in a very entertaining way."

"It's storytelling," he said. "I integrate it with a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor and pop culture. I just name-drop a lot of rappers."

Mark Pallen, the author of the book "The Rough Guide to Evolution," suggested to Brinkman that he "do for Darwin what he had done for Chaucer" with his "Rap Canterbury Tales," an internationally acclaimed take on the literature and Brinkman's first foray into the learning-tool rap hybrid.

"Rap Canterbury Tales" pays homage to rapper Eminem's "8 Mile," which bears a resemblance to Chaucer's tale, according to Brinkman, whose master's thesis in Medieval and Renaissance English literature was comparing the hip-hop world to the literary world.

"The origin of ‘Origin of Species' was harder to create," Brinkman said. " ‘Canterbury Tales' is already a story."

Brinkman consulted Pallen to help "The Rap Guide to Evolution" maintain scientific accuracy. Brinkman did a "crash course" in biology to prepare, he said.

It paid off. In a news release, Pallen said Brinknman "swallowed the idea and turned into a work of genius."

Brinkman gave a quick tease of the "The Rap Guide to the Evolution" during a phone interview. He fast-talked his way through a beat that is an homage to the rap song "I'm a African" by the rapper Dead Prez. Darwin's theory states that homo sapiens originated in Africa.

Other rap beats incorporated in "The Rap Guide to Evolution" include "Hypnotize" by The Notorious B.I.G., which connects to sexual selection in peacocks, and Mobb Deep's "Survival of the Fittest," a more obvious nod.

"Most rappers have already rapped about evolution without even knowing it," Brinkman said.

This, he said, is how to connect to an array of audiences, both inside and outside of classrooms.

"It makes them realize a new side of hip-hop as a form of storytelling and literature," Brinkman said. "Its main purpose is to take it out of the classroom and bring it to a larger audience."

And Brinkman and "The Rap Guide to Evolution" have certainly achieved a "larger audience." In 2009, "Rap Guide " won the prestigious Scotsman Fringe First Award in Edinburgh before going on tour in Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. It was also featured on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC-TV.

Recently, both "The Rap Guide to Evolution" and "Rap Canterbury Tales" played for extended runs at the SoHo Playhouse in New York, where Brinkman lives.

To reach Adam Poulisse:
or (413) 496-6214.
On Twitter: @BE_Poulisse


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