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Evolution rapper to return to UA

Austin Frederick

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Canadian rapper Baba Brinkman will visit The University of Alabama on Friday to present his “Rap Guide to Evolution” and to film a documentary.

“I do the show because I think evolution is a fact, and not only is it a fact, but also I think it’s a great source of inspiration by understanding how it works,” Brinkman said. “It makes you more comfortable with the world around you, knowing how it works.”

Brinkman said he first discovered rap when he was young by listening to artists like Will Smith. He started writing about whatever he was feeling in his teenage years, never with the intention of educating people.

“I’ve always been a reader and thinker, so I started writing ‘smart rap,’” Brinkman said. “I just rapped about stuff I learned in my classes and dropped some science references into my songs. Once my music was out there, scientists started becoming my fans.”

Then he got an email from a biologist asking him to write a rap explaining the theory of evolution and present it at a conference he was holding. Brinkman accepted the challenge, partly for monetary reasons.

Brinkman said he had to do a lot of research on evolutionary theory before actually writing the song.

“I did a lot of research on evolutionary theory and then just pulled a lot of rap references,” Brinkman said. “I thought it would be the easiest way to connect people to the concepts. Like in sexual selection, peacock’s tails could be like their bling.”

In Brinkman’s “Rap Guide to Evolution,” there are four main remixes of famous rap songs where Brinkman emulates the style of the artist, but changes the lyrics to fit the scientific subject he is covering. Brinkman will be giving a public performance on Friday.

Brinkman will also be performing in private as part of an experiment being conducted by Christopher Lynn, an assistant professor of anthropology, involving three groups. One group will watch a video of a traditional science lecture, the second group will watch a video of Brinkman performing his “Rap Guide to Evolution” and the third group will actually see Brinkman perform live. This will be followed by a science literacy test to see how well the students retained information and which group retained it best.

“I’m not only coming back to work with Christopher Lynn, but also because of the great response that I got the last time I was there,” Brinkman said.

Taylor Burbach, a junior majoring in anthropology and president of the Evolutionary Studies Club, said she went to Brinkman’s first presentation at the University and was surprised at how good it was.

“He’s charismatic and funny, and he really knows how to play off of the audience. He even freestyled on what we talked about during the Q-and-A, which is pretty impressive,” Burdock said. “I never thought Canadian science rap would be something I enjoyed, but I really do.”

Despite his best intentions, Brinkman said he doesn’t think he can change other people’s views on evolution by strictly giving evidence.

“I think that’s a mistake that people make – they try to provide all this logic, and people are resistant of that. I think you have to do that emotionally,” Brinkman said. “I try to do that by having fun and laughing for an hour, but the subject matter that is making them laugh and have fun is science-related. I don’t think anybody that comes to my shows starts off as a creationist and ends up an evolutionist, but they might warm up to the concept a little more.”

Brinkman, like many scientists who come to Alabama, said he believes Alabama schools that refuse to teach evolution will cause a problem for kids at major universities.

“If the biology part of science is being rejected by students or teachers, then there are a lot of obvious things that are being built on that,” Brinkman said. “The only way that it is possible to get around evolution and biology is to assume all scientists are wrong. Evolution is being taught in every university and everywhere else. I think they do so at their own peril, because the kids won’t be well equipped to go into science and technology jobs and won’t understand the world around them. I think it’s a missed opportunity, and anything I can do to shift the mindset I want to do.”

Brinkman will be giving his “Rap Guide to Evolution” lecture Friday at 7 p.m. at Grace Aberdean Habitat Alchemy.

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Evolution rapper to return to UA