26 August 2009

Darwin is my homeboy: The Edinburgh Fringe Fringes On with Baba Brinkman'sThe Rap Guide to Evolutoin

This post is a review of The Rap Guide to Evolution, performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2009

Having written a review of Jane Austen in the voice of Jane Austen, I'm now worried that I've set myself up to review The Rap Guide to Evolution in rap. Even my woeful lack of rap qualifications - I'm both white AND Canadian - don't provide me with an excuse, because the star of this one-man show, Baba Brinkman, is ALSO Canadian and white. But I'm afraid I will punt on this challenge and just give this review in my own arrhythmic voice.

It. Was. Freaking. Awesome.

Until this show, I hadn't walked out of anything here without thinking of ways it might be improved. The only flaw in this show was the fact that Brinkman's voice appears to be suffering from two hour-long rap shows daily (he's also performing in The Rebel Cell) and I sometimes felt some sympathy throat pains. His show doesn't just summarize Darwin; it uses rap as evidence for Darwin's theories. From the review of the show in The Scotsman, which said it so well I'd have to plagiarize if I didn't direct quote:

Just as some species in the natural world prosper and others die out, Brinkman explains, so some rappers adapt and survive while others "go extinct like Vanilla Ice". Evolution, it transpires, has much to teach us about hip-hop, and vice versa: bling is a fitness display [while] the process of natural selection operates on iPod playlists...

As a kid, I loved Gordon Korman's MacDonald Hall books, and at one point he had the nerdy character Elmer Drimsdale play the frontman vocalist of a massive 100+ piece marching band, and in this capacity, lacking any other ideas, he shrieks science facts as fast and as loudly as he can. He boasts proudly to a reporter that the band is loud, but "What's more, we are always scientifically accurate." The Rap Guide to Evolution can boast the same. A professor from the University of Birmingham (Dr. Mark Pallen, author of The Rough Guide to Evolution) commissioned the show after hearing Brinkman's version of The Rap Canterbury Tales. He asked Brinkman "to do for Darwin what he had for Chaucer" - Brinkman dryly notes his pleasure at hearing "for Chaucer" instead of "to Chaucer" - but as the project was due to receive British Council funding, the professor insisted on checking all of Brinkman's lyrics for scientific accuracy. Consequently, Brinkman now claims to have the world's only peer-reviewed hip-hop show.

The Rap Canterbury Tales, by the way, was also a Fringe show, based on Brinkman's Master's thesis. We bought a couple copies of his Evolution show as gifts, and we're going back today because he promised to have a copy of Canterbury Tales, which he'd accidentally left at home. Justin is salivating.

I wish I had some lyrics on hand to quote for you because he's simply brilliant, but unfortunately there's no headphones at the library computer so I can't check out the CD. It was just an uproarious show and I'd recommend it to anybody. He does have a couple of clips available online at his website, so you could watch some of his previous performances.

This show is what a Fringe show should be: wildly creative, off-the-wall, and performed brilliantly. I loved it.

1 comment:

  1. This my favorite review yet, and the main reason is that I was also a huge fan of Korman's Bruno and Boots series, but I had completely forgotten about Elmer Drimsdale and his marching band, until you made the connection and a wave of nostalgia washed over me. Thank you! I was also quite partial to Rudy Miller in "I Want to Go Home!" :)