Pharyngula

Hip hop anthem for skeptics

Word.

Comments

  1. #1 Aquaria
    March 24, 2010

    What no tips of the hat to PZ? No Jerry Coyne? No Hitchens?

    EH, it’s otherwise OK. They need to offer a higher quality resolution.

  2. #2 goodboyCerberus
    March 24, 2010

    Higher than 1080p?

  3. #3 https://me.yahoo.com/a/MhTBg9F6neCaqVCT4UZ6rblLxFNDVJ4-#e5b36
    March 24, 2010

    I was wondering when P.Z. would recognize the genius that is Baba Brinkman. You do all realize that he has produced an entire album called The Rap Guide to Evolution,right?

  4. #4 Cube
    March 24, 2010

    I’ve watched this in HD several times. The quality and detail of the animation in this is amazing. If you’re into this kind of thing, you gotta check out Greydon Square. Best rationalist hip hop out there right now! And I think he’s got a new album coming out very soon as well.

  5. #5 AZ Writer (Kim Hosey)
    March 24, 2010

    Fidduck yeah.

  6. #6 MeatMittens
    March 24, 2010

    This is great

  7. #7 Pareidolius
    March 24, 2010

    Superb. Simply superb. And not just because they used my If Water Has a Memory Then Homeopathy is Shit poster, but, hell, it did make me feel like Sally Field on Oscar? night.

    Baba, a star is born. And yes, I love Greydon Square too.

  8. #8 xhakhal
    March 24, 2010

    Better than vegemite.

    Vegemite vegemite vegemite.

  9. #9 unikraken.wordpress.com
    March 24, 2010

    This was just awesome, and who needs higher res than 1080p?! Jesus man!

  10. #10 hznfrst
    March 24, 2010

    Holy crap, this is the first time I’ve ever actually liked anything hip-hop, and not just because of the message!

    I’ll be gobsmacked…

  11. #12 Michael X
    March 24, 2010

    “yes I’m aware this is a copy rap”

    This allowed me to enjoy the fact that Jay-Z and Eminem’s styles were being bitten. The rap was good, basically because it was built on strong rap foundations.

    On the other hand, it’s obviously a “to the choir” song and I’m not usually in favor of those when they’re couched in styles of other popular artists. It’s one of the main reasons why christian rock is so shitty. They’re basically just recycling modern culture for a partisan end without creating a new form/style that is artistically worthwhile. So it ends up being cheap on a larger scale.

    So as far as raps go, it’s good. Just as good as ‘Dick to the Doc”. And likewise it’s a bite for partisan purposes, aimed at those who agree, or are engaged in the specific struggle.

    What I want is someone with a point of view I find rational that is an artist first and pundit second. That is what gives legitimacy on a larger scale. For example, imagine if Jay-Z and Eminem were atheists and weaved that theme through their raps. Atheism would have a huge popular standing because of it.

    This is due to rap skill first, and agenda second. This is what most (or all) ideological groups lack: a lauded popular artist to claim as their own who espouses their point of view and still remains generally popular. I suppose this might have something to do with the prickliness of most artists, but I think the real reason is that artists get into the art, not for partisan purposes, but artistic ones.

    So finding the atheist “jars of clay” is a needle in a haystack sorta deal. (And even they had only one hit.)

    The larger question is: Do we benefit more from artists who are known atheists, but don’t make a big deal out of it, or do we benefit more from out from atheist-centric artists.

    I have personal arguments to one side, but I’m more interested in the views of this particular forum.

  12. #13 Michael X
    March 24, 2010

    Ignore the “out from” confusion.
    clicked “submit” instead of preview…

  13. #14 jcmartz.myopenid.com
    March 24, 2010

    Nice & Cool. I hope this goes viral.

  14. #15 Ichthyic
    March 24, 2010

    So as far as raps go, it’s good. Just as good as ‘Dick to the Doc”. And likewise it’s a bite for partisan purposes, aimed at those who agree, or are engaged in the specific struggle.

    strange you should say that, given the controversy surrounding who the message in that (Beware the Believers) was actually FOR, regardless of who paid for its production.

    just for review…

    http://vimeo.com/7731747

  15. #16 Bride of Shrek OM
    March 24, 2010

    If anyone wanst to check out the finer details of the ‘God Trumps” cards from The New Humanist you can find them here

    http://newhumanist.org.uk/1915/god-trumps-part-i

  16. #17 Ichthyic
    March 24, 2010

    Do we benefit more from artists who are known atheists, but don’t make a big deal out of it, or do we benefit more from out from atheist-centric artists.

    both.

    If atheism is a message, you want your message in as many popular media as possible.

    there is no down side.

  17. #18 Michael X
    March 24, 2010

    Ichthyic@15

    strange you should say that, given the controversy surrounding who the message in that (Beware the Believers) was actually FOR

    “or are engaged in the specific struggle.”

    I included this line in anticipation of that very point.

  18. #19 Ichthyic
    March 24, 2010

    “or are engaged in the specific struggle.”

    who the fuck ISN’T?

  19. #20 Michael X
    March 24, 2010

    If atheism is a message, you want your message in as many popular media as possible.

    How to get that message into as many popular media as possible is the exact problem I’m raising. From vast experience, ideologically based artists (as opposed to artistically relevant artists) rarely make it into the largest demographics beyond one song. If that. Meaning that they fail to make it into the many media as they could, and so not only is the music not heard, neither is the message.

  20. #21 Ichthyic
    March 24, 2010

    From vast experience, ideologically based artists (as opposed to artistically relevant artists) rarely make it into the largest demographics beyond one song.

    *sigh*

    no, the idea is to get as much out there as possible.

    you think xian rock is a failure?

    tell it to these guys:

    By the late 1990s and early 2000s, and the success of Christian-inspired acts like Skillet, Thousand Foot Krutch, Decyfer Down, Underoath, Kutless, and Relient K, saw a shift toward mainstream exposure in the Christian Rock scene. Tooth & Nail Records saw their roster of artists and bands gain wider popularity and acclaim despite existing outside the walls of a traditional mainstream industry.

    you have to start somewhere.

  21. #22 Michael X
    March 24, 2010

    “who the fuck ISN’T?”

    In context of what I wrote, it was in regards to the struggle of creationism vs. evolution.

    And I can state without hesitation, that most of the nation, let alone the world, is not engaged in that struggle.

  22. #23 Michael X
    March 24, 2010

    Ichthyic @21, my critique is that the mainstream music base has not only heard of NONE of the bands you just listed.

    I will grant that you have to start somewhere. But, that doesn’t invalidate my point. Which is music first.

  23. #24 Ichthyic
    March 24, 2010

    And I can state without hesitation, that most of the nation, let alone the world, is not engaged in that struggle.

    the context of what you wrote is meaningless to the larger picture, and even to this particular video. the struggle really is between the rational and the irrational.

    …or did you think somehow this video was only about creationism?

    I’m not sure what your argument really is, but I can already tell I’m not interested in arguing with you about it.

    maybe someone with more patience will be able to feret out what you want to discuss.

  24. #25 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    March 24, 2010

    Sweet fuck, I hate hip hop. Just a droning note on the tonic, and a bunch of guys struggling to rhyme around it. Yeah, I know. The “content” is great. Execution is trite. Sucks.

  25. #26 Michael X
    March 24, 2010

    Ichthyic@24
    The context of what I wrote is relevant because it’s the context of what I wrote it in.

    I realize struggles between rational and irrational exist,I fight them daily, but frankly that isn’t the issue I’ve raised. So if the issue I’ve raised isn’t the issue you’d like to discuss, then I would encourage you not to engage with people who are not talking about it.

  26. #27 Ichthyic
    March 24, 2010

    The context of what I wrote is relevant because it’s the context of what I wrote it in.

    then you would be trolling the thread.

  27. #28 Michael X
    March 24, 2010

    Trolling?!?! I asked a clear fucking question that you then decided to misinterpret for the sake of some “larger picture” that I hadn’t asked about. I asked this: “Do we benefit more from artists who are known atheists, but don’t make a big deal out of it, or do we benefit more from out from atheist-centric artists.”

    You said, “both”, I answered in opposition. I have much more respect for you than to believe that simply disagreeing with you now equals trolling.

  28. #29 unikraken.wordpress.com
    March 24, 2010

    I came here to fuck some goats, but it appears that they’ve already been taken care of. Oh well.

  29. #30 Michael X
    March 24, 2010

    “maybe someone with more patience will be able to feret out what you want to discuss.”

    Deal.

  30. #31 scooterKPFT
    March 24, 2010

    I really liked the riff and the lyrics, and also the rapper was dead on, in the groove, but the vocals were mixed way WAAAY too far back, and it was overall too midrangy.

    The video was awesome, I recommend double clicking and watching the higher def version, great work.

  31. #32 John Morales
    March 24, 2010

    Sigh.

    So, I listened for as long as I could.

    Muted it after about an excruciating minute.

    Gah! “music” to be tortured by, is what it is.

  32. #33 negentropyeater
    March 24, 2010

    Muted it after about an excruciating minute.

    1’35″ here :-)

  33. #34 speedweasel
    March 24, 2010

    Sweet fuck, I hate hip hop. Just a droning note on the tonic, and a bunch of guys struggling to rhyme around it. Yeah, I know. The “content” is great. Execution is trite. Sucks.

    Josh, tell me to fuck of if it’s none of my business, but have you been diagnosed bipolar?

    Half the time you have something relevant to contribute and half the time you are just unloading caustic angst.

  34. #35 Jetsam1
    March 24, 2010

    (First ever comment! Been reading for a while though!) I think this is a good thing. I think that the idea over the relative influences between established artists (who aren’t going to be coming out as Atheists if they want to keep making their millions!) and the guys like this who are driven by their laudable principles is a bit of a red herring. It’s about exposure, and this is one link in a bigger picture and it will all add up. As someone said earlier, you need to start somewhere and I think this is a neat way of reaching out to people who maybe wouldn’t be reading the science lit etc.

  35. #36 The Tim Channel
    March 24, 2010

    Reposted to my facebook page. Good stuff. I’m basically powerless against such great rhetoric, specially these days. After the failure of my interracial Mormon marriage counseling service, it’s stuff like this that helps me get by.

    Or, to quote some hip-hop:

    I’m just barely getting by -
    Cuz money’s way too tight -
    And I can say this right? -
    The struggle and the fight -
    It’s weakening all the muscles in my body like kryptonite

    Struggle Everyday – Akon

    Enjoy.

  36. #37 IanKoro
    March 24, 2010

    It’s spelled “werd”, old man.

    This is awesome, though.

  37. #38 IanKoro
    March 24, 2010

    Oh, the guy who wrote this is named Baba Brinkman… he also does a live show that’s a rap version of the Canterbury tales which seems pretty interesting. Check out youtube.

  38. #39 John Morales
    March 24, 2010

    Jetsam1, good comment, and nice to see another delurker!

  39. #40 Watson
    March 24, 2010

    Michael X:

    For example, imagine if Jay-Z and Eminem were atheists and weaved that theme through their raps. Atheism would have a huge popular standing because of it.

    I was an atheist before it was cool.

  40. #41 mikerattlesnake
    March 24, 2010

    At werk, can’t listen. Is this a take on Jay-Z’s Off That? If so, AWESOME. That’s probably one of the best songs I’ve heard in the last year.

    @#25

    You’re wrong, this song is incredibly rhythmically interesting. Hip Hop is not about chord progressions (and the same could be said about a lot of modern musical expression) as much as rhythm and tone. Y’know what I’m sick of? Jackass dudes who learn a bit of guitar and feel like throwing “tonic” around makes them a musical authority. Happens on every goddamn message board and it’s always “all hip hop sucks” not, “hmm, maybe I have something to learn about this hip-hop thing.” I would never assume that all music in a genre sucks. I may not like the popular representatives of country or dance music, but I’d be pretty shocked if nothing good was being made in those genres.

    Of course, I can’t speak for the vocals on this track particularly and I’m assuming this is based on the Jay-Z track, but you called out hip-hop as a whole, and you’re just blatantly wrong.

  41. #42 Phro
    March 24, 2010

    Michael x: I may hav misunderstood you, but I think you’re asking an interesting question: can politically or ideologically motivated audiences break into the mainstream while advancing their cause?

    I think the answer is generally yes. Maybe punk would be an intersting example. take a band like green day (okay, psuedo punk) where they have generally not watered down their message, and still obtained monumental success. If we want to know why my conservative army friend listens to them, it’s simple: the music appeals to his ears.

    Hiphop is one of the most popular music genres in the world, and it’s particularly useful for delivering a message (like a suitcase bomb, if you will) when in the hands of a competent lyricist and producer. I would point to mos def and Taliban kweli for examples. Both left leaning “underground” rappers who also have solid selling albums.

    Okay, so my point is: yes, to get the musicians with the ring message to be popular, they first need to be GOOD musicians. Christians still listen to A Perfect Circle and Judith is pretty antichristian.

    Does it advance the cause? I don’t think so. I would not convert in any direction for the music, but it might attract weekend atheists like that tooth and nail shit probably attracted weekend Christians trying to fit in.

    So I don’t think the message counts for shit if the music doesn’t back it up. I won’t listen to overtly religious bands (and o generally avoid vegan bands as well), but I also wouldn’t listen to a shitty atheist band.

    This video was well produced and fairly catchy, but (apparently) not original. So if you’re saying it won’t get airplay without originality–yah, probably not.

    But it’s fun.

  42. #43 charley
    March 24, 2010

    Michael x:

    I think that ideologically driven songs like this one and Christian rock are artistically inferior to those which make a more emotional or human connection between the artist and listener. They are also less popular, because people don’t like being preached to unless their views are being affirmed (or the music is infectious enough to tune out the lyrics). I suppose this song might convey its message to somebody who wouldn’t read an essay or watch a TED talk.

    I enjoyed it because it’s well crafted and I agree with the message, but I don’t need to hear again.

  43. #44 Androly-San
    March 24, 2010

    That video contains bucketloads of Win.

  44. #45 abutsimehc
    March 24, 2010

    Quick! Somebody send this to Bill Donahue! So it will blow his mind ….. or at least give him a headache ….

  45. #46 mikerattlesnake
    March 24, 2010

    Well, remixes, remakes, samples, mixtapes, etc. are all a big part of hip-hop. Originality isn’t necessary for club play, internet popularity, or even radio play (and before anyone points to this as a weakness of hip-hop, keep in mind that originality in rock music is way overstated). Good songs get extended lifespans through reuse and reinvention. That said, I suspect that this song (again, haven’t listened yet) is made to appeal to a more specific audience than the club crowd.

  46. #47 mikerattlesnake
    March 24, 2010

    Well, remixes, remakes, samples, mixtapes, etc. are all a big part of hip-hop. Originality isn’t necessary for club play, internet popularity, or even radio play (and before anyone points to this as a weakness of hip-hop, keep in mind that originality in rock music is way overstated). Good songs get extended lifespans through reuse and reinvention. That said, I suspect that this song (again, haven’t listened yet) is made to appeal to a more specific audience than the club crowd.

    Also:

    “Jesus can?t save you life starts when the church ends:
    -Jay Z

    Jay is already one of the most blasphemous rappers out there. His nickname is Hove or Hova, as in J-Hova.

  47. #48 mikerattlesnake
    March 24, 2010

    whoops, dunno what happened there. Sorry.

  48. #49 davem
    March 24, 2010

    Muted it after about an excruciating minute.

    1’35″ here :-)

    1 min 11, including fumbling for the keyboard. 1 minute 20 before the nerves unjangled. It’s like listening to next-door’s electric drill in the communal wall…

  49. #50 Clive
    March 24, 2010

    Sorry if y’all know this already, but this one is fun, too. (Tim Minchin: If you open your mind too much…)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFO6ZhUW38w

  50. #51 brian.guilfoos
    March 24, 2010

    Along a similar vein, there are some other “sciency” hip-hop songs done by “nerdcore” performers. (I didn’t see these in the discussion already.)

    Here is one heavy on the sarcasm from MC Frontalot called “Origin of Species”:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Yrwzi3clPQ

    (Aside: I’m a huge MC Frontalot fan. He’s got a very unique lyrical style, and is pretty funny. Other favorites from him include a track about unexpected – and unwanted – sexual deviancy with a stunning girl at a Star Wars convention called “Yellow Lasers”, a song about a dream where he fathered a super-evil-genius baby that “built an exoskeleton out of gelatin and chalk”, and another about playing Zork. There’s even a track called “Rhyme of the Nibelung”, where he goes to the opera expecting Lord of the Rings. Funny stuff.)

    And then there is MC Hawking’s “What We Need More Of Is Science”:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89jt7zJzkNQ

    (MC Hawking – aka “The Hawk” – is some guy who’s persona is, I kid you not, a gangsta-rapping Stephen Hawking. The quality isn’t as consistently as high as Frontalot, but rapping about fake beefs with other physicists is amusing – to me at least.)

    There are probably a few more nerdcore songs along the same theme, but these are the only two I thought of off of the top of my head.

  51. #52 bcoppola
    March 24, 2010

    Well, remixes, remakes, samples, mixtapes, etc. are all a big part of hip-hop. Originality isn’t necessary for club play, internet popularity, or even radio play (and before anyone points to this as a weakness of hip-hop, keep in mind that originality in rock music is way overstated).

    Werd. Originality in music, period, is understated. (Pedantry alert!) Until what some call the “long 19th Century” (beginning about 1780) composers like Bach, Monteverdi, Vivaldi et al thought nothing of reusing their own and other’s themes. Partly this was in homage to other masters they admired, party because the whole “art for art’s sake” thing didn’t come along till “the long 19th C”. Musicians were more like journeymen. They admired and valued originality, sure, but didn’t place as much emphasis on it as later artists did. While it may be ahistorical and facile to say it, it’s tempting to think that Bach and the boys would be making crazy contrapuntal mix tapes if they were alive today (just as the importance of improvisation, now all but lost in the classical tradition since about the mid 19th c. led many jazz musicians to claim Bach, renowned as a demon keyboard improviser, as a forebear).

    As a middle aged white guy, however, rap and hip hop are admittedly pretty foreign to me. But then, so is Carnatic classical music from India. It’s more my problem that I don’t get it. My mind is wired to value all that stuff about melody, development, and chord progression, though intellectually I dig that that’s not all there is to music. Lots of great music traditions are built on rhythm and elaborations around a tonic. But I liked the video anyway.

  52. #53 bcoppola
    March 24, 2010

    I meant “originality in music, period, is overrated” at the top of my post.

  53. #54 mikerattlesnake
    March 24, 2010

    It took me a long time to develop an appreciation for hip-hop (especially stuff that could be considered club music) and it had a lot to do with stripping away the pretentions I had about what music “should be”. I was (and still am) a punk rocker, and I was into “emotional” indie rock for a bit in college. I needed to relate to what the singer was saying and I craved some sort of raport (if only one way) with the artist as if it would somehow give more meaning or validation to my situation. Now I find it more interesting to hear other viewpoints, often those I don’t necessarily agree with and lyrical abstraction that allows the musicality of vocals to take precedence over meaning.

    I think when you start rejecting the accoutrements of music (emotion, subject matter, politics, technical wizardry, etc.) and figuring out what actual musical aspects of a song appeal to you (I think Pandora might have been what originally got me thinking about this stuff), you can start to recognize those things in genres you may have previously dismissed.

    I have been a drummer for a little over a decade, and the rhythmic depth of good hip-hop really appeals to me. Every instrument, including the lyrics contribute to the rhythm of the song. Jay-Z for one is great at this. He’ll drop polyrhythms, sit slightly behind the beat, slide around it, punctuate it with staccato bursts, etc. If you can get into afro-pop, jazz, or funk, I bet you can find some hip-hop that you’d like if you gave it a chance. Also, don’t assume that every racial/sexist/homophobic slur is meant literally (often the meaning is subverted and turned around by smarter artists) and keep in mind the context it was created in and the forces that shape it’s development.

    Because of the culture around hip hop, it’s also a really interesting example of cultural natural selection and evolution through it’s style, slang, trends, marketing, etc. Too many people blow it off because it doesn’t fit the mold of what they think of as “music” but in doing so they ignore a really interesting and unique subculture. Hip-hop develops faster and in more bizarre ways than most other “species” of music.

  54. #55 mikerattlesnake
    March 24, 2010

    all that said, I am not a hip-hop enthusiast. I only experience it from very minimal exposure, but I hate when people marginalize a whole genre because of their prejudices.

  55. #56 mulder
    March 24, 2010

    Michael X, there is no shame in deriving your art from influence, unless we’re talking about another pack of KISS cover bands or the like.

    Here is a Message to the Messengers:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3hCQcrfg28

  56. #57 aratina cage
    March 24, 2010

    Jesus can?t save you life starts when the church ends:
    -Jay Z

    Thanks mikerattlesnake. I couldn’t make out what he was saying before, but I love that song.

  57. #58 mikerattlesnake
    March 24, 2010

    glad my comment fail didn’t obscure it! I think it’s interesting (and awesome) that a line like that made it into such an anthemic, upbeat pop song. To make the philisophical argument above more concrete, do you think that line in Empire State of Mind or the video PZ posted would have more impact as far as promoting atheism? Do either have any effect?

  58. #59 Corax
    March 24, 2010

    I used to hate hip hop. I guess the cure was actually having content worth listening to.

    Who knew?

  59. #60 aratina cage
    March 24, 2010

    do you think that line in Empire State of Mind or the video PZ posted would have more impact as far as promoting atheism? Do either have any effect?
    -mikerattlesnake

    It’s too early to tell. Right now the YouTube audience reach of Jay-Z’s song is about 32,459,000 views in 145 days or 223,855 views per day, and Baba Brinkman has about 8,000 views in 5 days or 1,600 views per day. But IMO Jay-Z would likely have a greater impact on loosely theistic listeners who do interpret the lyrics as a dismissal of faith, something to be discarded for a better life, because such people probably wouldn’t be listening to blatantly atheistic music in the first place.

  60. #61 EdgyB
    March 24, 2010

    Nice! I just picked this up off iTunes. So, aside from this and MC Hawking, can anyone recommend anything else like this (message-wise)?

  61. #62 Antiochus Epiphanes
    March 24, 2010

    #42…that’s Talib Kweli.

    GZA (Wu Tang Clan): I flow like Christ when I speaks the Gospel

  62. #63 petrander
    March 24, 2010

    Just…. Wow!

  63. #64 rthornton777
    March 24, 2010

    I think this is a great song. Hiphop is all about the rhythm and whoever dissed the drone is ignoring the musical heritage of an entire culture (aka India). Besides, the buzzing bass synth really aligns my warp coils!

    And in the end, I don’t think Baba is derivative in hiphop terms–his rapping has a nice forward push that reminds me of dancehall but yet has its own unique character.

  64. #65 QuarkyGideon
    March 24, 2010

    I concede defeat; I have found decent rap.

  65. #66 mulder
    March 25, 2010

    nice one clive.