The Greatness of Charles Darwin Explained with Rap Music

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?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Baba Brinkman: The Rap Guide to Evo­lu­tion

The Can­ter­bury Tales Remixed: Baba Brinkman’s New Album Uses Hip Hop to Bring Chaucer Into the 21st Cen­tu­ry, Yo

What’s Your Eng­lish? British v. Cana­di­an Rap Bat­tle

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 Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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