Baba Brinkman

Baba Brinkman

On this date in 1978, rap artist and playwright Dirk Murray “Baba” Brinkman was born in Riondel, British Columbia, to Joyce Murray — a member of the Parliament of Canada — and Dirk Brinkman Sr., founder of a reforestation company that has planted over a billion trees.

Brinkman, known for recordings and performances that combine hip hop music with literature, theater, science and other fields, got his nickname for his placid and contemplative facial expression as an infant. He worked in his parents’ business while growing up and earned a B.A. in English literature from Simon Fraser University and an M.A. in comparative literature from the University of Victoria. He studied human evolution and primatology with anthropologist Biruté Mary Galdikas. His master’s thesis compared the literary and cultural themes in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” with those of hip-hop culture.

He transformed that into his one-man show “The Rap Canterbury Tales” premiering at the 2004 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. His 2010 “Rapconteur” featured hip-hop adaptations of “Beowulf,” the “Epic of Gilgamesh” and the Finnish “Kalevala.” Brinkman has called his style of rap lit-hop, also the title of his 2006 album.

In 2008, microbiologist Mark Pallen commissioned Brinkman to write a rap show about evolution. After listening to an audio version of “On the Origin of Species,” he wrote “The Rap Guide to Evolution” as an homage to Darwin. Performed Off-Broadway, it won the National Center for Science Education’s 2013 Friend of Darwin Award.

At a performance in Houston, its section titled “Natural Selection” fell flat before about 120 Texas collegians. “Every time I say ‘CREATIONISM IS?’ I want y’all to say ‘DEAD WRONG!’ ” he told students. Only half a dozen or so took part in the call and response, with the rest of the audience silent.

“About 15 people walked out in the first five minutes, shaking their heads in disgust,” recalled Brinkman. “At the end a bunch of the kids came up to me and they were like ‘Man, I thought that show was fantastic. I’m a creationist though, and I tell you that intro did not work for me.’ ” (The Scotsman, Aug. 19, 2010)

“The Rap Guide to Religion” premiered at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe and also played Off-Broadway. Subsequent guides addressed the topics of the wilderness, medicine, climate chaos and consciousness. He and his wife, Ph.D. neuroscientist and TV host Heather Berlin, co-wrote and performed their cerebral comedy show “Off The Top” at Fringe in 2014, 2015 and 2017. They have a daughter, Hannah (b. 2013), and a son, Dylan (b. 2016).

A headline on The Humanist website called him “Atheism’s Best Salesman” in 2015. “I don’t see religion itself as a problem, but I see a lot of the problems of the world as a direct result of the religious mindset. … The question is: Why do we have all these beliefs that contradict demonstrable reality? Why do people cling to them even when they’re shown things that really, clearly contradict them?” Asked if evolutionary psychology offered an answer, Brinkman said, “Absolutely. It’s the key to the lock. I’m zeroing in.” (The Scotsman, Aug. 19, 2010)

Brinkman was a guest on FFRF’s TV talk show “Freethought Matters” that aired in September 2023.

PHOTO: Brinkman performing in Chicago in 2010; Greg Edwards photo under CC 3.0.

Freedom From Religion Foundation