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REVIEW: Baba Brinkman – Rap Guide to Human Nature (Independent 2010)

Baba Brinkman is a former tree planter from Vancouver who managed, personally, to sow over 1 million seedlings by the age of 24. He also has a Masters in Medieval and Renaissance English Literature. And he’s recently released his Rap Guide to Human Nature; a guide to many of the current theories of evolutionary psychology. This brief description wouldn’t necessarily make you think that this should be an album worth a listen, but it is. I should point out that this is his seventh solo album and that he started in hip-hop after writing his thesis comparing Chaucer’s storytelling with modern day rap freestyling. After the success of his theatre show, “The Rap Canterbury Tales”, Baba was approached by a microbiologist from the University of Birmingham and asked to “do for Darwin what he did for Chaucer”. This led to the Rap Guide to Evolution and it seems that he has wanted to stick with science.

The Rap Guide to Human Nature starts with an introduction (why can’t more albums be this logical?) to some of the topics he is going to tell us about and the idea that all human behaviour is a result of evolutionary pressures and our genetics. More importantly; it’s a really catchy song. I’m no hip-hop connoisseur – in fact I’ve never really listened to it – but I’ve enjoyed the music of this album as much and possibly more than the science contained within his lyrics and it has made me want to try out more rap. So, I don’t want to put you off the album by pointing out all the interesting theories he discusses, but it is an album that has been made with the intention to promote science to the general public, so I can’t really avoid it. I’ll just make examples of some of my favourite tracks then, alright?

‘The Planter’s Dilemma’ uses Baba’s experience of tree-planting and other analogies to explain game theory:

It’s the prisoner’s dilemma, you’ve been charged with a crime

But you get off scot free if you snitch and drop dime

And if your partner snitches on you, you’re knocked for life

So you both snitch, and you both do hard time

‘She’s Ovulating’ and ‘Parental Investment’ both explore relationships between men and women and how the differences between us have shaped the way we interact. There are great lyrics in both, but they aren’t generally to pull quotes from. Except this:

I’m not tryin’ to conceive with you

But right now something makes me wanna be with you

My final favourite is ‘Wannabe G’s’ – probably the least scientific track on the album. It’s a song about violence and attitude “from a young white Canadian Wannabe G’s perspective”.

Although an educational album that aims to teach you a little about how science can explain the way we behave, Baba does not shy away from some of the language that you expect from rap albums, which adds to the album’s authenticity. It is obviously not merely a tribute or a parody of rap, but has been recorded by someone who really loves his music.

If you want to listen to it, it has recently been added to Spotify (Baba Brinkman – The Rap Guide to Human Nature) or you can head to his website and download it, if you’re one of those people who likes to own mp3s (http://bababrinkman.bandcamp.com/album/the-rap-guide-to-human-nature).

Dave Christensen

By Dave Christensen

Dave is an identifiably tall PhD student who enjoys pretending he knows what he's talking about. With Spotify, his music tastes, ability to act as if he's well-informed, and desire to sound pretentious have increased dramatically. Now he just wants to demonstrate this to you - give him a chance won't you?

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