Rap is today’s epic poetry according to Baba Brinkman, a modern form of scripture that, through its lyrical storytelling quality, is the perfect vehicle for spreading the word against The Word – religion.
Calming and familiar, the barefooted Canadian is the perfect guide to such a contentious subject. With his position throughout this empowering hour less to antagonise and more to enlighten, continually offering up subtly convincing arguments against faith through complex rhyming and reasoned thought. His flow is a boom-bap throwback and a delight to listen to, both comfortable on beat with an authoritative tone.
In his opening song concerning religion as something that has evolved, Brinkman dominates the stage setting early precedent for skill and knowledge. Though the argument itself isn’t groundbreaking, it is delivered with a real joy that quickly transmitted to the mostly full Gilded Balloon room. A later song, ‘The Ten Cultural Commandments’ is arguably the highlight, a tremendous breakdown of how symbols spread and reinforce faith, with Brinkman encouraging the crowd throughout to throw up their own signs, be it for gang or God.
Hip-hop music isn’t just about lyrics and flow however, but the music behind it too, the beats. Though this is admittedly a minor quibble, the show would certainly have benefited from a more distinct musical background to Brinkman’s irresistible lyricism. The soundtrack here felt a little stock to this hip-hop fan and slightly detracted from the overall experience. Indeed it would have been nice if Brinkman kept more rap culture within the show, as early comparisons between famous rappers and religious issues were both hilarious and thought-provoking.
Obviously religion is an ever-sprawling topic that is impossible to present a ‘guide to’ within an hour, but Brinkman does incredibly well at covering a variety of topics in an engaging way. A more defined thesis probably would have helped to tighten things up, however. What Brinkman touches on at the show’s close for example, that the internet replaces a lot of what religion once gave humanity in the past, is an interesting point that I wish he spent more time on. Overall though this is a fantastic show that is a little preaching to the choir at parts, but is clever and reasoned throughout.
Baba Brinkman – The Rap Guide to Religion is at Gilded Balloon (Venue 14) until 25 August. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.