Canadian rapper Baba Brinkman has explored several of the world’s biggest talking points – from evolution to climate change – and now he’s back for more. Ever thought you’d see a TED talk combined with an hour of hip hop improv? No, me neither. And I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be this mind-blowingly, awe-inspiringly good.
If you love to learn as much as you love to laugh, there could be no better way to spend your afternoon than this.
Whilst not strictly improvised, the ceaseless beats that bounce from one to another as Brinkman extrapolates on what exactly makes us humans tick are addictive; I was left wanting more at the end of every refrain. Within minutes the audience is on his side, following his lead and engaging with misleadingly simple rhymes that help to demonstrate whichever neurological theorem he is picking apart for us this time.
From Bayesian mathematics to the consequences of functionalism, via a trippy encounter with Google’s “Deep Dream” AI, my notes soon turned into academic scribbles as Brinkman lays down fact after fact through his prose and verse. Whether pacing the stage or facing towards us, eyes alight and hands outstretched, the energy fizzing from his performance is always palpable.
You don’t need to be neuroscientist to keep up, as huge cartoon graphics on an overhead screen lay the crumbs for Brinkman’s trail of thought throughout, and there are welcome pauses between tracks for performer and audience to catch their breath. It’s not all rest however, as a series of hands-up audience polls turns the action back onto ourselves, causing you to question your own knowledge, beliefs and maybe even use a Bayesian probability formula to adjust that belief. Now that’s something you can show off with at the bar afterwards.
If you love to learn as much as you love to laugh, there could be no better way to spend your afternoon than this. Bring a friend, a drink and a notepad and pen: you’ll thank me later.