The Rap Guide to Evolution

Darwin meets Hip hop at Baba Brinkman unveils his Rap Guide to Evolution at Cambridge University's Darwin Festival.....
12 July 2009

Interview with 

Baba Brinkman,


Chris -   Now this week was also Cambridge University's Darwin Festival.  What actually happened was that we've had a full week of events which have been designed to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin who was actually a Cambridge University student.  Also, it's 150 years since he published arguably one of the most famous books of all time, The Origin of Species which effectively rewrote our understanding of the world of biology around us.  But one event that took place as part of the festival and really leapt out was a Canadian hip-hop artist - he's actually an erstwhile medieval historian - His name's Baba Brinkman, and he unveiled his answer to Darwin which is his Rap Guide to Evolution and he spoke to David Fisher all about it.

A Woodburytype carte de visite photograph of Charles Darwin, published by John G. Murdoch. David -   The week here at Cambridge has seen mostly older scholarly types in panel discussions or alone at the lectern, analysing, speculating, debating, and theorizing over every nuance of Charlie Darwin's existence.  So, for a summary of the week, here's rap artist Baba Brinkman who covers every angle of every session in his hip-hop show, The Rap Guide to Evolution.

Baba -   So whatcha know about natural selection?

Go ahead and ask a question and see where the answer gets you.

Try the impassive aggressive or try smashing heads in and see which tactic brings your plans to fruition.

And if you have an explanation in mind then you're wasting your time coz 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 of the literal Adam and Eve and that Edenic myth 'coz their family tree is showing some genetic drift.

Take it from this bald headed non-celibate monk with the lyrical equivalent of an elephant's trunk. 

It's time to elevate your mind's state and celebrate your kinship with the primates. 

The weak and the strong, who got it going on.  We lived in the dark for so long. 

The weak and the strong, Darwin got it going on.  Creationism is dead wrong.  Tell them Dawkins...

David Fisher -   This Canadian rapper is no scientist.  His area is medieval literature.  After applying rap to the Canterbury tales, he was approached by a microbial genomist who asked if he could do for Darwin what he did for Chaucer.  Baba read his way through a pile of books on evolutionary biology and out spawned his Darwin show, covering every aspect of the great man's work.  And according to Baba, there's a curious similarity between the creation, sorry, the growth, the evolution of an artistic work and any living thing.

Cover page of Charles Darwin's Descent of Man (1871).Baba Brinkman -   When I first started writing the show back in January, early drafts of the script sounded a little bit like this: 


The origin of species ain't no faeces. 

Dawg, believe me. 


And that was all I think of. 

And then I thought, I thought.  Well, maybe my show needs to get rewritten and sometimes, people ask me how does a show get written? 

Like this, performance, feedback, revision.

And how do I generally develop my lyricism? 

Kind of like this, performance, feedback, revision. 

And how do human beings ever learn to do anything? 

Like this, performance, feedback, revision.

And evolution is kind of just an algorithm, isn't it?

That goes like this, performance, feedback, revision.

So, really the genetic code of very living thing was written like this,

Performance, feedback, revision.

So, the genes are like a text with a thousand pages and revisions occur in the random changes that come from mutations and then when they...

Chris -   That's rap artist Baba Brinkman from Canada who was able to be here in Cambridge touring with his rap, effectively Darwin set to a rap tune.  He was talking to David Fisher who was an honorary member of The Naked Scientists for a week but you'll normally find him at ABC at Radio National in Sydney, Australia.

We've actually got a recording of that entire show and we're going to be publishing it for you as a special podcast on our website later this week.  So, if you check out, then you should be able to listen to all of Baba Brinkman's show.


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