Baba Brinkman Raps About Evolution and Chaucer: "Why Would I Pretend to Be Dumber Than I Am?"

Categories: Interview
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The weak and the strong, who got it goin' on?
We lived in the dark for so long
The weak and the strong, Darwin got it goin' on
 Creationism is dead wrong."

The verse from the hook to rapper Baba Brinkman's intellectually provocative song "Natural Selection," demonstrate that the scholarly Canadian lyricist does not shy away from tackling such divisive and academic themes as Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. 

Matter of fact, that's just the tip of the iceberg for the hip-hop artist. While studying for his master's in medieval and Renaissance English lit, Brinkman began formulating parallels between the worlds of hip-hop and literary poetry -- his two passions in life. The end result was The Canterbury Tales Remixed, a performance rap show that serves as a modern take on Geoffrey Chaucer classic fourteenth century tales.

"I wanted to do rap, but still be true to my interest; so from the start, what I wrote was quite cerebral," said Brinkman, about to board a plane to West Palm Beach, where he will be performing two of his celebrated, off-Broadway and Fringe Festival favorites, The Canterbury Tales Remixed and The Rap Guide to Evolution, at the Kravis Center.
"I've always been an educated, intellectually voracious person. Why would I pretend to be dumber than I am when I rap?" rationalized Brinkman. He does admit that his style of highbrow hip-hop may be geared towards more educated folk, but he justifies it. "Rap always had an exclusionary, localized element to it, mostly aimed at urban African American gang culture." He explains that all emcees have their "'in' group," his being people with a love of science and literature.

Brinkman says his use of scientific terminology shouldn't be a source of aversion. "There are libraries everywhere," he points out. As a teen, he didn't start out wanting to be the Einstein of rap, he had pipe dreams of being the next Eminem. "In the beginning, all I wanted to do was put out records and hope they'd catch on, and be played on radio."

He reached a crossroads though, where he considered dropping out of school and "battling his way up from the bottom," of hip-hop or finishing his education. In the end, he chose both, and "hybridized" what he was studying in college with his knack for rap. "I was under the assumption that there must be a market for people who love rap and want to be intellectually challenged at the same time."

This scholarly experiment set to turn tables paid dividends for Brinkman. While not achieving mainstream attention, Brinkman's theatrical hip-hop shows at the Edinburgh's Fringe Festival and off-Broadway; they have been resounding successes, winning favor amongst critics, rap fans and university scholars alike. After being wowed by Brinkman's crafty and hilarious reworking of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, Brinkman was approached by a university professor to "do for Darwin what he had done for Chaucer." That laid the framework for what would become Brinkman's second show, The Rap Guide to Evolution. It is the first peer-reviewed hip-hop show in history, according to Brinkman, who sought advice from said professor to assure accuracy.

Brinkman is such a staunch believer in Darwin's teachings that it pervades his love life too. Brinkman's escapades in online dating sites such as OKCupid initiated his third work, Ingenious Nature. "It deals with mating behavior in online dating from the perspective of evolutionary psychology," explained Brinkman. In this performance Brinkman said he "turns the lens of behavioral sciences" onto himself and his search for a mate. For Brinkman, the subject of evolution is not off limits for first date subject matter.

He tells us tales of dates with young earth creationist, spiritualists that follow Deepak Chopra, and radical feminists. "All these girls with different ideas about where human nature comes from, my idea is that evolution can help us explain human nature."

While going into detail about these dates, Brinkman is called to board his plane. There was enough time for one more detail, Brinkman did find a soul-mate with enough brainpower to match his own. Turns out he met her while writing the verses for Ingenious Nature, and she was traveling with him down to West Palm Beach.

Baba Brinkman. Friday, Feb. 15 and Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd. in West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $20.The Canterbury Tales Remixed plays Friday, February 15 at 8 p.m and The Rap Guide to Evolution is Saturday February 16 at 8 p.m. Visit Kravis.org for more info.




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