Baba Brinkman

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Baba Brinkman
Baba Brinkman Cusp Conference 2010.jpg
Baba Brinkman performing at the CUSP Conference, 2010, Chicago, IL
Background information
Birth name Dirk Murray Brinkman, Jr.
Born (1978-10-22) 22 October 1978 (age 38)
Riondel, Canada
Origin Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Genres Canadian hip hop
Occupation(s) Poet, rapper, playwright
Years active 2004–present

Dirk Murray "Baba" Brinkman, Jr. (born October 22, 1978) is a Canadian rapper and playwright best known for recordings and performances that combine hip hop music with literature, theatre, and science.

Early life[edit]

Born in the remote community of Riondel, British Columbia, in a log cabin built by his parents,[1] Brinkman is the eldest of three children of Joyce Murray, a Member of the Parliament of Canada, and Dirk Brinkman, Sr., who is notable for having founded the world's only private company responsible for planting more than one billion trees.[2] Dirk Sr gave Brinkman the honorific nickname "Baba" at birth, because of his son's contemplative, Buddha-like expression.[3] Brinkman's childhood was divided between Vancouver and the Kootenay region of British Columbia. He attended Crawford Bay School and Relevant High, a democratic school.

Education and Forestry Work[edit]

Brinkman spent his early summers in remote tree planting camps,[4] and began planting trees himself at the age of 15. He worked for his parents' business, Brinkman & Associates Reforestation, for twelve seasons in British Columbia and Alberta, personally planting more than one million trees.[5] During this period he also earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Simon Fraser University and a Master of Arts degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Victoria, Canada. He studied human evolution and primatology with the orangutan researcher Biruté Galdikas and wrote his thesis comparing modern Hip hop freestyle battling with The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Brinkman is married to cognitive neuroscientist and television host Dr. Heather Berlin. They have a daughter, Hannah, born in 2013.[7]

Literature Rap[edit]

Brinkman first gained widespread media attention for his one-man show "The Rap Canterbury Tales,"[8][9][10][11] devised as a means of re-telling Chaucer's iconic stories for a modern audience. The show premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2004, and the following year Brinkman was sponsored by Cambridge University to perform the show in British secondary schools.[12] The Rap Canterbury Tales was published as an illustrated paperback by Talon Books in 2006.[13]

Brinkman's 2010 follow-up show, "Rapconteur," premiered at the Edinburgh Free Fringe and featured hip hop adaptations of Beowulf, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Finnish Kalevala.[14][15][16] In 2011, Brinkman premiered "The Canterbury Tales Remixed" at the Soho Playhouse in New York City.[17] The show combined material from Rapconteur with new adaptations of The Merchant's Tale, The Pardoner's Tale, and The Wife of Bath's Tale.[18]

Because of his interest in merging hip hop and classic literature, Brinkman has referred to his style of rap as "Lit Hop," which was also the title of his 2006 solo rap album.[19]

Science Rap[edit]

In 2008, Brinkman was commissioned to write a new rap show about evolution by Professor Mark Pallen, microbiologist and author of The Rough Guide to Evolution. The result was "The Rap Guide to Evolution," a hip hop homage to Charles Darwin which Brinkman first performed in Britain for the Darwin bicentennial in February 2009.[20] Because the lyrics were fact-checked for scientific accuracy, Professor Pallen calls it "the first peer-reviewed rap".[21] Brinkman cites Richard Dawkins, David Sloan Wilson, Jared Diamond, Geoffrey Miller, and E. O. Wilson as his influences in writing the show.

The Rap Guide to Evolution premiered at the 2009 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, winning a Fringe First Award from The Scotsman for best new theatre writing.[22] In 2010 the UK's largest biomedical charity, the Wellcome Trust, provided grant funding for Brinkman to make a series of educational music videos based on the show, as a resource for biology teachers.[23] The Rap Guide to Evolution completed a five-month Off-Broadway theatre run in November 2011,[24] for which Brinkman received a 2012 Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Solo Performance, losing to Irish actor Cillian Murphy.[25]

Brinkman has performed selections from The Rap Guide to Evolution on The Rachel Maddow Show[26] and at the Seattle Science Festival, sharing the stage with Jurassic Park palaeontologist Jack Horner and British physicist Stephen Hawking.[27]

In 2010 Brinkman produced a "Rationalist Anthem" called "Off That," attacking various forms of pseudoscience. The song was inspired by the Jay Z track of the same name, which is featured on The Blueprint 3 album. The video for Brinkman's unauthorized remix was released as part of an online science music festival called Geek Pop,[28] and was popular with atheist blogs.[29][30]

Brinkman followed up his Darwin tribute with a sequel show specifically about evolutionary psychology, "The Rap Guide to Human Nature," which premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2010.[31] The album features "peer review" phone messages from David Buss, Olivia Judson, and David Sloan Wilson commenting on the science content in Brinkman's lyrics.[32] In 2012 "Human Nature" was adapted into a theatre production, "Ingenious Nature," which ran off-Broadway from November 2012 through January 2013.[33]

In March 2012, Brinkman was announced as a songwriter-in-residence at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) and spent a month at the University of Tennessee Knoxville as a guest of the Institute, along with DJ and music producer Jamie Simmonds.[34] Brinkman later released "The Infomatic EP," a collection of hip-hop songs inspired by computational biology.[35]

Brinkman's next play, "Rap Guide to Religion," premiered at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe,[36] before transferring to the Soho Playhouse for an off-Broadway run in October 2014. The production ran for seven months and was a Time Out New York[37] and New York Times Critics' Pick, as well as receiving a 2015 Drama Desk Award nomination in the category "Unique Theatrical Experience".[38] The show explores theories from the cognitive science of religion and promotes religious naturalism.[39]

In 2015, Brinkman was commissioned by Arizona State University and Dr. Randolph Nesse to write and produce an album entitled "The Rap Guide to Medicine", which communicates themes from evolutionary medicine. Dr. Nesse said of the finished project: "This is amazing. I won't need to teach my course, I’ll just have students listen to the album!"[40] The album includes songs about Mendelian disease, parasitology, somatic evolution in cancer, mismatch theory, and senescence.[41]

Environment and Ecology Rap[edit]

Brinkman was commissioned by the WILD Foundation to produce "The Rap Guide to Wilderness" in 2014. The album was critically acclaimed and features songs about biodiversity, extinction, conservation, habitat loss and trophic cascade.[42][43][44][45][46]

Brinkman's latest hip-hop theatre show, "Rap Guide to Climate Chaos," premiered at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe to glowing reviews. It summarizes the science, politics, and economics of climate change and advocates for a global carbon tax as part of the solution.[47][48][49]

Science Comedy[edit]

Brinkman and his wife, the neuroscientist Dr. Heather Berlin, co-wrote and performed in a science comedy variety show entitled "Off The Top" at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2014 and 2015, about the neuroscience of improvisation and freestyle rap.[50][51][52]


The Rap Guide to Evolution won the National Center for Science Education's 2013 Friend of Darwin Award.[53] The show is controversial primarily for its open criticism of creationism and the essentialist elements of its discussion of natural selection.[54] Teachers have also expressed concern about Brinkman's use of strong language and anti-religious sentiments in his educational performances and videos.[55]

Brinkman himself has been described as an "evangelical atheist"[56] and has blogged about his encounters with creationists, both in educational settings[57] and within his own family.[58] He also performed in support of the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers "Rock Beyond Belief" concert alongside Richard Dawkins at Fort Bragg, NC in 2012.[59]

Ingenious Nature was reviewed unfavourably, and Brinkman received criticism for "singling out women in the audience, pointing at them, and rapping about their ovulation cycles," among other things.[60]

The song "Tranquility Bank" from The Rap Guide to Wilderness received a hostile response from some environmentalists because of its assertion that urban living is better for the environment than back-to-the-land movements.[61]



2004: The Rap Canterbury Tales

2008: The Rebel Cell (co-written with Dizraeli)

2009: The Rap Guide to Evolution

2010: Rapconteur

2010: The Rap Guide to Human Nature

2011: The Canterbury Tales Remixed

2012: Ingenious Nature

2014: The Rap Guide to Religion

2015: The Rap Guide to Climate Chaos


2004: Swordplay

2004: The Rap Canterbury Tales

2005: Pandemonium

2006: Lit-Hop

2008: Mine the Gap (Mud Sun)

2008: The Rebel Cell (Mud Sun)

2009: The Rap Guide to Evolution

2009: Apocalyptic Utopian Dreams in the Western Wilderness

2010: Rapconteur

2010: The Rap Guide to Human Nature

2011: The Rap Guide to Evolution: Revised

2011: The Rap Guide to Business

2012: The Canterbury Tales Remixed

2012: The Infomatic EP

2014: The Rap Guide to Wilderness

2015: The Rap Guide to Medicine

2015: The Rap Guide to Religion

2016: The Rap Guide to Climate Chaos


The Rap Canterbury Tales, Talon Books 2006

"The Speciation of Rap" The Evolutionary Review, Volume 2, March 2011

"Finding 'God' in the Female Orgasm" The Evolutionary Review, Volume 3, May 2012

"Darwin On The Mic" Evolution: International Journal of Organic Evolution, Volume 69, Issue 5


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