Baba Brinkman - The Rap Guide to Religion

The bringing together of incongruous generic and thematic elements (my favourite being Bereavement: The Musical) is nothing new. In fact, the ever-proliferating and increasingly inappropriate juxtapositions have begun to seem gratuitous. Yet Baba Brinkman’s cleverness is in justifying the need for rap to an audience with a median age of around 45: ‘Rap is today’s epic poetry form,’ he boldly claims. Indeed, not only are the “raps” with which Brinkman composes The Rap Guide to Religion breathlessly epic, but verge on poetry.

Not only are the “raps” with which Brinkman composes The Rap Guide to Religion breathlessly epic, but verge on poetry.

The show opens with Brinkman launching unannounced into a rap about the evolutionary (rather than divine providential) origins of religion, a feat which attempts to marry atheist and religious worldviews and therefore be an all-round crowd-pleaser. One of the refrains returned to throughout by Brinkman, is that the show is not intended as an attack on religion or people of faith, though at times the claim is hard to believe. His criticisms are subtle and their argumentation so incremental as to be almost bulletproof, though the conclusion he somewhat implausibly reaches is that religion is unnecessary after the advent of…the Internet.

Though marketed as a comedy, it’s less Brinkman’s comic stylings than their carefully-studied underpinnings that win over his audience. His lyrics draw inspiration widely - from sociology to biology to group psychology and neuroscience. Raps are prologued by fuller explanations of more complex concepts (such as Theory of Mind), easing the way for the lightning-speed of the raps themselves. Though this speed often works in Brinkman’s favour, giving an impression of logical flawlessness, it occasionally teeters at the point of information overload, threatening to crash the system entirely.

It would be easy to blame the occasionally lukewarm reception of Brinkman’s material on the audience demographic. However, there was a distinct sense that the bullishness of the Canadian jarred with the quieter vibes coming off the room. Perhaps Brinkman would do well to take a few more leaves out of the book of the rappers upon whom he styles himself (Rick Ross features heavily), and whip up greater enthusiasm in his crowd. Either way, sparks didn’t fly quite as much as Brinkman, whose material won him numerous accolades (including an equally impressive- and hilarious-sounding NCSE Friend of Darwin Award), had clearly expected. In a more sympathetic room, he’d have been as much a rap god as any of his big-time rapper counterparts.

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The Blurb

Baba's unique brand of 'peer reviewed rap' brings together hip-hop, comedy, and behavioural sciences, striving to make sense of nature's most unpredictable primate. So what about religious beliefs? Do they provide an evolutionary benefit, or are they nothing but a virus of the mind? It's time to eff with the ineffable. Fringe First Award winner 2009, Spirit of the Fringe Award winner 2008, ThreeWeeks Editor's Award winner 2007. ‘Warm, funny, and fascinating throughout’ ***** ( ‘Astonishing and brilliant’ (NY Times). ‘Truly awe-inspiring’ ***** (Scotsman). ‘Genius ... staggeringly clever’ ***** (ThreeWeeks).