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babasword darwin rapWell, anyway, Darwinism gets a rap. I’m not enough of a hip hop connoisseur to declare with any authority which rap is good and which is bad. But if you were thinking, “What I’d really like is to listen to the Origin of Species in rap format,” then Canadian rapper Baba Brinkman has delivered the goods for you.

The Rap Guide to Evolution, Baba’s treatment of Darwinism, is a manifesto in which he not only summarizes the doctrine (in what he boasts is “the only peer-reviewed rap show”) but also takes a stand, since he feels a fierce urgency to “bear witness” to the truth of evolution.

Be warned: this is EXTREMELY white rap. A Canadian who is perennially popular at the Edinburgh Fringe, Baba has no choice but to make the most of his certified Pasty Gangster variety of street cred. Knowing that he can’t represent as urban, he mostly avoids Ali G levels of embarrassment.  I say mostly, because these things are pretty subjective.

When Baba boasts “I am a African,” he’s not over-reaching. He explains that he’s “talkin’ primeval.” “No I wasn’t born in Ghana but Africa is my mama / ‘Cause that’s where my mama got her mitochondria.”  Ah, of course. “The DNA in my veins / Tells a story that reasonable people find believable.” And they find it reasonable because, Baba assures his audience, “The fossil record has gaps but no contradictions.” That last line, by the way, doesn’t seem to have a rhyme or much rhythmic scansion; it’s one of the many places where the project crosses the line into In Your Face didacticism.

Baba rapping Darwin hits all the bases:  Quotations from the Origin of Species, vocal samples from Richard Dawkins, audience participation (“I say Creationism is, you say Dead Wrong!”), and dexterous wordplay. Hip hop has always excelled at making use of long, Latinate words that other poetic forms can’t digest, so Baba gets to deploy plenty of scientific terminology.

And when it’s time to talk smack and boast that he’s doper than those other MCs, as they say, his chosen foe is creationism:

If you have an explanation in mind, then you’re /Wastin’ your time, ‘cause the best watchmaker is blind /It takes a certain base kind of impatient mind /To explain away nature with “intelligent design” / But the truth shall set you free / From those useless superstitious beliefs /In a literal Adam and Eve, and that Edenic myth / ‘Cause their family tree is showin’ some genetic drift / Take it from this bald-headed non-celibate monk / With the lyrical equivalent of an elephant’s trunk...

The grand unified theory of rhyme

The mating mind uses lyrical signs, combined with wit

And wordplay, conversation, humour and different narrative styles

To appraise the fitness of mates, both for the purpose of marriage ties

And for mates of the more temporary kind

These are the humble roots of the literary sublime

We’re all just Shakespearean primates verbalizing our cherry behinds

The inevitable question is, is this the right medium for this message? Mostly not, so the high entertainment value of evolution rap comes from its status as a self-aware, comically incongruous novelty. But there are some points where the Darwinist message and the hip hop form come together fittingly. Baba doesn’t just rap about evolution, but also believes in the evolution of rap, and in rap as a product of bio-cultural evolution. That is, he is proud of the fact that rapping, as a conspicuous display of wit and rhythm, is all about attracting mates and increasing the odds on spreading the rapper’s selfish genes.  This leads him to his “grand unified theory of rhyme,” which is sadly reductionist but finds the courage to sin boldly:
The grand unified theory of rhyme / The mating mind uses lyrical signs, combined with wit / And wordplay, conversation, humour and different narrative styles ... We’re all just Shakespearean primates verbalizing our cherry behinds...

Baba’s previous forays into Great Books Rap include The Rap Canterbury Tales.  Not to be missed, if what you’re in the market for is Chaucer rockin the mic with the mad lyrical flow.
HT: Martin Cothran on the revival meetin’ at the Church of Darwin.

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