“Rap Guide to Religion”
Baba Brinkman Gilded Balloon 1430 until 25th August Reviewed 9th August £9.50 4 stars
Baba’s been a’hipping and a’hopping for about 40 minutes when it suddenly occurs to me that something might not be right here.
He’s prowling the periphery of the room like a big cat marking its territory, spitting verses into his mike and throwing his gang signs around. Of course, this being Baba Brinkman, his lyrics deal with intra-cultural transference rather than bitches and hos; and his gang signs are actually Vulcan salutes from Star Trek.
I’m having the time of my life. I love Brinkman’s blend of lecture hall, with vaudeville, with a studied and yet organic lyricism. I love that he treats a serious subject with levity and without frivolity. I love the bit about cats.
Baba Brinkman’s Rap Guide to Religion is a wander through evolutionary psychology and an exploration of our predilection for religion, with a rapper for a guide. He breaks down complex concepts like the prestige drive and the theory of mind while simultaneously breaking down some wicked tracks. It feels a bit as though the wine bar venue has been double-booked for Social Psych 101 and a hip-hop gig, and they’re both proceeding at the same time. It’s real talk, in every sense.
His thesis is driven around the idea that religion is an intrinsically human phenomenon; that the nature of cognition (and the processing errors within it) inevitably push us towards communal spirituality. Complicated ideas, made simple through song. Like the Wiggles for adults.
The problem is maybe that I enjoy Rap Guide to Religion almost too much. It’s a diverse audience, but I suspect that I hit that sweet spot where all of his demographics overlap. Maybe this is the kind of show that appeals to, and reinforces, that stereotypical atheist: self-regarding poseurs and hipsters with an appetite for being fed propaganda that reinforces their smugness. Think Richard Dawkins, with a side serve of rap game, although with far less arrogance than that combination implies.
Baba Brinkman certainly isn’t trying to please all the people, and nor should he. Ultimately, however, I do believe that there’s something here for almost everyone, (particularly that fair proportion of the UK who describe themselves as non-practicing or ‘cultural’ Christians, without really understanding why).
I recognise that there are those who’ll be predisposed against one or other aspect of the show. Everyone else should make a point of catching Rap Guide to Religion.