Climate Rhymes for Perilous Times
by Carole Di Tosti
Baba Brinkman (http://www.bababrinkman.com/climate/), who has been nominated twice for Drama Desk Awards for his solo performances, The Rap Guide to Religion (2014), and The Rap Guide to Evolution (2011), is bringing his prodigious rhythmic phrasing, rhyming talents and performance know-how to bear on the exhaustive and controversial subject (depending upon which political group you speak to), of climate change. If there is one word to describe the full impact of this production directed by Darren Lee Cole and Brinkman’s exceptional preparation for the genius of his performance, it is “electrifying.”
With the help of video projections designed by Olivia Sebesky which include charts, photographs, illustrations, facts, figures, maps, and much more, Brinkman’s solo act rapping 24 densely informative song chapters distills the salient causes and consequences of climate change. The information is dire. Nevertheless, he continually engages us with humor, enthusiasm and vitality because his raps are emotionally laced and ultimately lean toward the positive. Whenever possible, he performs with an audience interactive approach, leading us to phrase rhymes and raise hands with him, as he emphasizes the overwhelming proof that carbon emissions are intensifying global warming,
In his entertaining, foreboding raps he includes arguments by denialists, “a rhythmic expression of joules,” the obsession by fossil fuel partyers to embrace their high energy use lifestyles and ignore common sense. He raps how Exxon had studied the impact of carbon emissions on its equipment which it retrofitted to head off damage, though it kept this information secret for decades. He raps about the unrealistic expectations of Wall Streets’ pricing of stocks based on erroneous forecasting, and he humorously raps about Pope Francis’ tweets about climate change and the impact of the selfish, spiritually impoverished consumerists whose huge energy burden is devastating the world.
Brinkman’s coverage of topics via pithy raps is as wide as the carbon oppressed atmosphere and as deep as the polluted ocean. He references charts with skyrocketing numbers and figures of rising sea levels and melting ice flows. He expresses geopolitical outlooks: the impact of the wealthy’s carbon use on third world countries who should not be deprived of progress based on energy consumption. And he raps carbon trading and market solutions, renewable energy, his own “green” history and the long, documented history of scientists’ knowledge of the hazards of increasing CO2 emissions.
Brinkman is a dynamo of energy himself, a fabulous rapping carbon life form. Even if you see his performance three times, you will not be able to wrap your mind around the extent of the research he has accomplished and had peer-reviewed by NASA Climatologists. Nor will you be able to completely appreciate his adroit use of language, rhyming expertise and rhythmic syncopation to combine entertainment and heart with a message that is so vital to all of us and frightening to consider in its fullness.
But Brinkman is not afraid. With his fearless enthusiasm and courage, he is mentoring us. with this production and doing exploits. He performed at the Paris climate conference where scientists were entertained and gratified that someone was getting it right, as information was presented in a seductive fashion. Representatives from various countries were enthralled, and even the skeptics listened and laughed. It is all a matter of going. One never knows. When you entertain, present and inform with passion, eventually word spreads and people’s ideas change.
This rapper is on a mission to spread his overpowering and passionate plea to all of us to support leaders who are implementing change by fostering the development of sustainable, renewable energy. From beginning to end, this must see production, is mesmerizing. I will probably see it again to solidify for myself the incredible amount of information Brinkman presents seamlessly with wit, irony and fun.
The Rap Guide to Climate Chaos, written and performed by Baba Brinkman, will be at Soho Playhouse (15 Van Dam St., phone number 212-691-1555) until April 24th. The show is 80 minutes without an intermission. You may get tickets at (http://www.sohoplayhouse.com/).