Baba Brinkman’s Different Kind of Beatbox

(L to R) Sergey Gavrilets, Suzanne Lenhart, and Louis Gross welcome rap artist and playwright Baba Brinkman (second from right).

NIMBioS and DySoC (the Center for the Dynamics of Social Complexity) along with several UT groups across campus were fortunate to host Baba Brinkman this week for some spectacular educational rap.

Baba’s first performance occurred at the end of the first full day of the DySoC/NIMBioS Investigative Workshop on Social Norms. While still sitting in their seats in the classroom, about 40 scholars from fields diverse as anthropology, economics, neurobiology, psychology and more heard some of the themes of the day in a “rap up,” which Baba wrote and performed after sitting in on the workshop, keenly attuned to the day’s discussions and masterfully taking great notes, obviously. Baba’s performance delved into topics such as the psychological experience of a social norm, social motivations in choice, collective action, and even India’s “theater of the oppressed.”

Baba Brinkman performs his “rap up” of the first day of discussions at the workshop.

Whatever he learned on the first day — no doubt a fire hose of scholarly information — he brought to bear in the evening’s public performance, the world premiere of his “Rap Guide to Culture.” The performance included several tracks accompanied with a slideshow as well as audience interaction where Baba rapped “freestyle,” improvising based on audience responses to questions. Still finalizing the rap as he went along, or as Baba would say employing “performance, feedback, revision,” Baba will perform the show this summer at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh.

Baba Brinkman’s rap up of the first day’s discussion

The “Rap Guide to Culture” can now be added to his impressive collection of guides, including rap guides to Evolution, Human Nature, Business, Wilderness, Religion, Medicine, Climate Change, and Consciousness.

Baba’s visit was also sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Music, the Departments of Anthropology, Psychology, and Sociology, the Office of Research and Engagement, and the Campus Events Board.

We were delighted to have Baba back at NIMBioS. He was last here seven years ago as a Songwriter-in-Residence. His original songs written while at NIMBioS include “Welcome to NIMBioS,” “Rising Up,” and “Mad Scientist.” “Welcome to NIMBioS” is a rap-up of the visit by the National Science Foundation during its site review of NIMBioS, which occurred while Baba was in residence in April 2012, and features “an intro” by NIMBioS Director Louis Gross. Listen to the raps at

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