Read Open Culture long enough, and sooner or later you’ll encounter “geek rapper” Baba Brinkman, the Canadian MC whose rhyming subjects of choice include evolution, The Canterbury Tales, and British versus Canadian English. Though the hard-reading Brinkman has, it seems, staked out the musical genre of “lit hop” for himself, he’s gained just as much of his distinctive brand of rigorously factual hip-hop notoriety by rapping for the other of what C.P. Snow defined as the “two cultures.” His parallel science rapping career began on a commission from University of Warwick microbiologist and Rough Guide to Evolution author Mark Pallen. Out of all this came “the first peer-reviewed rap” show, The Rap Guide to Evolution, whose development we’ve previously featured.
Above, you’ll find the music video for “Artifical Selection,” one song from The Rap Guide to Evolution. “Artificial selection, it starts with a question,” Brinkman raps. “How did people ever get cows, chickens and pigs / And other animals and plants to act so domestic? / We took them from the wild and we bred them, brethren.” He explores the topic further, touching on Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, the inadvertent usage of evolution by early farmers and livestock breeders, domestic aphids kept by ant colonies, and even the natural selection inherent in the MC’s development of his performance techniques. On Brinkman’s official site, the video comes with tags like “Heredity,” “Lamarkism,” and “Unity of Common Descent.” How many rap videos could credibly do the same?
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.