Chaucer, Darwin, and Hip-Hop: The Creative Works of Baba Brinkman

Baba Brinkman is definitely not your average rapper.

In his creative fusion of classic literature, science, and modern poetry, the Canadian-born artist communicates information through an unexpected medium: hip-hop. And people are listening.

“For me, keeping it real means being true to myself and my own interests,” Brinkman explains. And those interests happen to lie in conventionally academic subjects like classic literature and evolution. “The Rap Canterbury Tales”, a modern adaptation of Chaucer’s classic stories, earned Brinkman his first big break in 2004. Today, he is busy touring his favorite creation to date, “The Rap Guide to Evolution”, all over the world.

With a Masters in Medieval and Renaissance English Literature from the University of Victoria, complex language is no stranger to Brinkman. He’s definitely used his knowledge to his advantage—his four hip-hop plays have received worldwide recognition, running at venues like the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and off-Broadway in New York.

Brinkman views rap as a “high-level communication technology”; it immediately grabs the listener’s attention with catchy beats and clever rhymes, effectively sharing the ideas and information the rapper hopes to convey. His music serves the dual purpose of entertaining and educating listeners at the same time.

In the same way Shakespeare was a lyrical entertainer of the past, Brinkman believes that “rappers are the main lyrical entertainers of the present.” Rap is simply a modern, innovative, and playful form of poetry—a contemporary style of a timeless art form.

Like any style of music, rap both reflects and entertains the culture from which it emerges. Brinkman’s songs help him to understand the world around him, and he wants to spread that understanding by sharing his music with others. His work is not only a form of self-expression, but also an expression of powerful ideas that are relevant to our time.

Chaucer and Darwin would be proud.

Baba Brinkman’s talk for the 2014 TEDxNavesink conference, “A Brief History of Rhyme: Wordplay Past and Present”, will delve deeper into the rich past and thriving present of the modern rap phenomenon.

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