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Edinburgh Fringe 2017: Baba Brinkman's Rap Guide to Consciousness @ Assembly George Square

What the Edinburgh Fringe website says:

Fringe First winner and "peer-reviewed rapper" Baba Brinkman (Rap Guide to Evolution, Rap Guide to Religion) explores the scientific study of consciousness in his latest hip-hop comedy. Baba's brain consists of roughly 90 billion neurons with trillions of connections, and none of them has any clue that he exists. And yet those cells come together to produce a steady stream of ill rhymes, laughs, and mind-blowing scientific findings. Come and find out how. 'Astonishing and brilliant' (New York Times). 'Funny and fascinating' ***** (Chortle.co.uk). 'Close to perfect' ***** (Skinny). 'Awe-inspiring' ***** (Scotsman).

Watch a video:

Rap mixed with science

One-of-a-kind Canadian rapper Baba Brinkman has tackled many complex and hot-button subjects throughout his career, including religion, climate change and evolution. His latest set takes a look at the subject of consciousness from a scientific perspective and presents it with his distinctive mix of hip-hop and humour.

This was my first encounter with the man, so I had no idea what was in store before going in. After leaving the venue, I felt that this is the sort of thing that Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas event I attended a few days ago should have been. Combining scientific theory with rap seems about as absurd as mixing custard with tripe, but the results are hugely entertaining and truly consciousness-expanding.

His 1-hour act takes in neuroscience, Baar’s Theory of Consciousness, our moral decisions about how we treat animals based on our understanding of how conscious they are, his attempts at communicating with an aquarium octopus by using Psilocybin and much more. The format alternates between him talking about the underlying science with a few real-life examples and then coming up with rap songs around them. The feeling is akin to swallowing a whole academic textbook in one short sitting, but in a way which makes you feel truly engrossed and enlightened rather than overwhelmed and belittled.

What’s even more remarkable is that he matches his undeniable intellect with some genuinely impressive rapping skills. What could have easily sounded embarrassingly clunky (in particular when coming from a “white rapper”) clicks incredibly well, and when it manages to be funny it is so for the right reasons.

The video visuals behind him are also rather creative, in particular, a graphic (accompanying his rap about tripping while visiting the aquarium octopus) depicting the creature disintegrating into a series of random shapes. This was created using a Google algorithm which predicts what a photograph is depicting: one which is remarkably similar to the one used by the human brain to help process what our eyes pick up from our surroundings. A video sequence representing the brain as a smartphone with its own series of apps is another example of the creative approach to representing complex ideas in an accessible and entertaining manner.

Technology isn't all bad

He ends by discussing (and rapping about) using computer technology to process brain waves, an idea which could have some remarkable ramifications in the field of medicine in the near future. It’s an unusual but inspiring pro-technology stance in an age where technophobia has become all-too-prevalent amongst intellectual discourse.

Even if you are not normally a rap music fan (I’m no big enthusiast myself, despite recognising the talent that goes behind it) you might well be after attending this show; Baba asked “how many of you like rap?” three times during the show, and on each occasion the audience response grew more enthusiastic.

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Tickets are available from the following link:

Edinburgh Fringe 2017 logo

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