The Rap Guide to Wilderness is the latest album by SFU alumnus and hip-hop artist Baba Brinkman. Now residing in New York City, the multi-talented rapper, playwright, and environmental activist’s most recent work was commissioned by the WILD Foundation, with 50 per cent of net profits going towards wilderness conservation programs.
The album itself is an interesting exercise in the joining of environmental topics and music, which collide together to create a thought-provoking piece. Its artwork is eye-catching and features human and animal profiles laid overtop one another.
Much like his previous works, such as Religion Evolves and The Rap Guide to Evolution, Brinkman’s most recent album takes a complex academic topic and brings it into the public forum.
The subject matter of The Rap Guide to Wilderness is both a warning and a celebration. The songs are not meant for entertainment value alone, as the album explores the connection between humans and nature. Difficult, sometimes controversial topics, including human encroachment on wild land, mass extinctions caused by humans, and the interrelation of all life on earth are discussed throughout the album’s runtime. Brinkman’s clever lyrics and academic allusions bring a level of sophistication to the work, while still remaining accessible to listeners.
His songs are generally not ones to dance to; they are pieces to listen to and ponder. However, tracks like “Tranquility Bank” featuring Aaron Nazrul and “Party of Life” featuring Tia Brazda seem to break this trend. In “Tranquility Bank,” Nazrul’s voice lends a smooth edge to the track, while “Party of Life” has a more upbeat rhythm, enlightened by Brazda’s sweet vocal interludes.
The use of documentary-style voiceover in the introduction and conclusion to “Never Cry Wolf” lend a unique and interesting vibe to the song, while concluding track “Seed Pod” has an interesting rhythm, almost reminiscent of polka and other traditional folk music.
However, I did notice there were some problems with his references. For example, on the track “Bottleneck,” Brinkman addresses the extinction of megafauna in the Americas. His lyrics blame the extinction event on the Clovis peoples, a highly controversial and disputed theory in archaeology.
Overall, though, this is an interesting, thought-provoking album, whose proceeds will benefit a good cause. Brinkman’s accessible, clever lyrics help to make the discussion of environmental issues more accessible to the general public.