Edinburgh Fringe 2009
The Rap Guide to Evolution
Venue: Gilded Balloon Teviot
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
The rap stylings of Baba Brinkman are a joy to behold: music so far removed from its stereotypical field that it can be appreciated in a new and exciting light. Brinkman’s riffing on the theory of evolution, and the many aspects of this scientific/religious debate around Darwin’s theory, form the basis for an interesting and well-performed afternoon of hip science and rhythmical theoretical biology. Brinkman is an excellent performer, combining the boyish energy of a rapper with the clever wit of a comedian and the intelligence of a lecturer to create an excellent production, which could be a new and exciting art form.
Baba Brinkman, now the proud holder of a Fringe First, is well-deserving of the hype heaped at his feet. His new production builds on his success by taking another crunchy, meaty topic, and codifying it into the medium of rap, and adds a level of self-referentiality that makes the whole concept an even more ironic wink at the Fringe audience: a triumph from the writing perspective. By comparing and explaining the theory of evolution based on rap music, his production and himself, Brinkman encourages an audience to be drawn into the rationalism of his statements, as the theories explained are given life before our very eyes. This ironic and self-referential style only adds to Brinkman’s already existant novelty, and the show is the stronger for it.
Brinkman himself is also a joy to behold. Sliding delightfully between aggressive, boyish energy and witty, intelligent banter, his skills as an entertainer are a joy to behold. Although unfortunately a little hoarse in the show I saw, he still gave his hour all of the energy he had available to him, and powered through his extremely-well written songs with verve and drive. Although slightly let down by some of the technical aspects of the production, which was particularly disappointing considering the slickness of the rest of the performance, Brinkman’s energy doesn’t falter, and he manages to enagage an audience in a simple game of call-and-respond so easily and with such charm.
With rappers in the wider musical market starting to branch off into all sorts of more esoteric topics for the musical ramblings, it is enlightening to see someone who may have begun this trend continue his work. However, while Brinkman, his ideas and his performance are excellent, there is still a slight sense of confusion. Has rap become too obscure for the audiences this show is being played to? Very few audience members, myself included, seemed to get more than bemused by Brinkman’s antics, and while the messages were surely sinking in, there was an undeniable alien feeling to Brinkman’s performative style. We joined in when we were supposed to, all sang along dutifully, but very half-heartedly. This is a concept that is either too far ahead of its time, or playing to the wrong audiences. Nonetheless, it is a performance worth seeing, as it is still entertaining, enjoyable and enlightening.