Baba Brinkman’s “The Rap Guide to Wilderness” is one of the most infectious and enjoyable pieces of propaganda you can listen to. Perhaps “propaganda” is too strong a word, though it is unusual how forward the album is in its agenda.
Though “The Rap Guide to Wilderness” lacks subtlety, this cannot necessarily be a criticism, as its transparency is integral to the album’s cause. It is refreshing to listen to an album so dedicated and blunt concerning the message its artist desires to put forth.
Baba Brinkman, a contributor to the lesser-known genres of literature rap and science rap, is used to (and good at) integrating his personally held beliefs into his work. The tracks simmer with Brinkman’s fervor and are laced with complex notions of the nebulous relationship between nature and mankind in the modern age.
Brinkman’s lyricism is key here. He conveys his ideas fluidly and intriguingly. “The Rap Guide to Wilderness” is incredibly astute in this regard. Though certain lines are somewhat clunky and seem thrown in for the sake of the album’s message rather than for the best of the track in question, the lyricism at its best is both incredibly funny and relentlessly honest.
An example exists within “Party of Life,” when a human is described as a late party guest who decides, “We get to choose who stays and who’s thrown out!” In response, the fungi says, “Yo, take the mic away from the drunk guy.” The tracks are clever, regularly making use of devices such as alliteration and analogies.
The album itself acts as an embodiment of the ideas he wishes to depict: a marriage between today’s technology and the nature many people forget and ignore.
At its heart, “The Rap Guide to Wilderness” is about reconciliation. Brinkman stresses the significance of man and nature coming together in a larger way. He does not claim that civilization should renounce technology, but rather that humans should respect nature and enjoy it in addition to enjoying the technological provisions we are provided with.
In “Tranquility Bank,” he criticizes those who flout scientific advancement in the name of environmentalism: “So don’t listen to back-to-landers, / Thinkin’ they’re savin’ the planet by takin’ us ass-backwards.”
Brinkman seems determined to clarify myths surrounding environmentalists, and as such focuses on resolving what many believe to be mutually exclusive causes: environmentalism and technological advancement. This idea comes to the forefront of “Bottleneck,” which even includes the line, “Environmentalism combined with scientific exploration,” in its explanation for why atoning for past transgressions with our available means is integral to our survival and well-being.
“The Rap Guide to Wilderness” indulges in a sense of essential interconnectedness. Brinkman relays the album’s fundamental thesis in the last track, “Seed Pod:” “So what’s it gonna be? When the future computers engrave our legacy / Is this the time when the wild came back, or does it remain an age of infamy?”
The album is bitingly smart; and though at times it is a bit too on the nose, it forms a unified piece of work that both relays a powerful message and makes for an entertaining listen.