Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shiny and New

I don't usually do headings, but this is a heady update. Each headline could have been its own email. I didn't want to carpet bomb you though, so here goes.

New Website

I have a brand new website! I am officially phasing out my old site for the more straightforward, which has now been fully redesigned for ease and enjoyment. Please take a moment to check it out.

Twin Studies

In other news, I received a weird random Skype call from my long-lost identical twin brother recently, which was pretty surreal. Luckily I had the presence of mind to screen capture the whole thing. Have a look.

I'm A African!

Would you like to be in one of my music videos? We're doing a video for the song I'm A African and we need lots of people to send in video clips of themselves rapping along with the song, so we can cut between dozens of faces all proclaiming "I'm A African!" like any well-informed Homo sapien. If you'd like to join us, click here for instructions.

Fail Beyond Belief

The Rock Beyond Belief concert at Fort Bragg that I was so looking forward to performing at has been cancelled! This was a blatant example of discrimination against non-religious people by the US Army, but there's a chance it might be resurrected in the Fall, or it could result in a court challenge. Here's their latest update if you're curious about the unfolding drama.

Broken Ankle

As for me, I'm laid-up in Vancouver at the moment since I broke my ankle bone snowboarding a few weeks ago, which earned me 6-8 weeks in a cast and on crutches. This is inconvenient to say the least, but I'm cracking on with desk work in a state of general agitation while I heal.


Speaking of agitation, I made some political videos, including one about Canada's sleazy Prime Minister and one about US Health Care Reform.

Tours and gigs

My upcoming off-Broadway run is now scheduled to start in mid-June, which clears some time for fun in the run-up. On May 9th I'll be presenting at TEDxEast in New York, and then I'm heading over to England for a few weeks. I'll definitely have a gig or two in London, but if anyone out there knows of a UK venue or event I could be part of roughly 11 - 30 May, I'm looking. I'll also be in Vancouver until May 7th or so if anyone wants to set up a local gig.

Rapping Chaucer

Yeah, I still do that, although lately I've spiced things up a bit with Beowulf and the Merchant's Tale. I'm still surprised that schools let me perform the material from Rapconteur in their classes, but I'm glad too, 'cause the kids lap it up. I'll leave you with a video of one of my recent school performances captured by a Vancouver TV crew.

I'm A African!

Calling all Homo sapiens!

I'm currently working with a video production team in London on a series of music videos for my album The Rap Guide to Evolution, funded by the Wellcome Trust and Crowdfunding. The result will be part hip-hop swagger and part educational nature documentary, showing the animal roots of human behavior and the unity of all living things by descent, and we need your help!

We need some additional footage for the "I'm A African" video - yes that means footage of you. If you would like to be a part of it, all I need you to do is download the song, familiarize yourself with it, and play it on your stereo in the background while making a video of yourself rapping along to the lyrics as close to in time with the rhythm as you can (keep the camera still!). Don't worry if it's not all perfectly in time, or if you just want to do a segment of the song rather than the whole thing, but keep in mind that we can only use the parts that are in time!

If you can memorize the lyrics great, but if not you can get them from Bandcamp, print them off, and place the cheat-sheet near the camera so you can read them while facing the lens. Please make sure the scene is well-lit, the background isn't too cluttered, and the camera captures you from the torso up or closer. iPhone4 is okay, or Quicktime via webcam (make sure the recording quality is set to "Best" under preferences), but if you have an HD video camera that would be even better, and of course all ages, races, genders, and body-types are welcome, that's the point!

If you would like to take part please email me at info [at] babasword [dot] com with the subject "I'm A African!" to confirm your participation (first come first serve!) and I'll respond with instructions on how to send me the files. All submissions must be received by April 15th!

**Note: this deadline has now been extended until April 30th, but please get them in soon!

Then once we get everyone's clips we'll cut back and forth between me rapping and all of you rapping to illustrate the evolutionary fact that we are all African under the skin. So say it loud and proud: I'm A African!

Disclaimer: I can't guarantee that everyone who sends me a video will appear in the final cut, as this will be left up to the discretion of the video design team and it will be based on video quality, timing, expressiveness, and the need to represent diversity of ages, races, genders, etc. However, we will stop accepting footage once we have enough to work with, so your chances are much better than average.

Legalese: we don't have physical consent forms for you to literally sign, so please be advised that sending us footage via email in accordance with the instructions attached means you consent to your image being used in the video for us to distribute and promote as we see fit, and for us to use in material for the purpose of promoting the video and the Rap Guide to Evolution project as a whole, worldwide, in perpetuity, etc, etc. That way you can't sue us if you get cold feet after sending something in!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rock Beyond Belief Canceled Due to Lack of Intent

Some of you will have heard via Twitter and Facebook and other sources, but the concert that was due to be held at Fort Bragg, NC on April 2nd has been cancelled because the Army administrators reneged on their commitment to provide "equal support" to the event after sponsoring an evangelical christian concert on the base last year to the tune of over $50,000. Masala Skeptic over at Skepchick put it perfectly: Fail Beyond Belief.

As if this wasn't hypocritical enough, I recently heard from one of the organizers and apparently the Fort Bragg admin people are now trying to justify their decision to pull the funding and downgrade the venue by pointing out that the performers hadn't signed a "Statement of Intent" with the concert organizers. So they asked me to write a short letter confirming that I had indeed intended to be there. This is starting to take on the same surreal feel as the Dover Intelligent Design trial which put the whole "Liars for Jesus" phenomenon on full display. Anyway, here's the letter, now public:

Fort Bragg

Subject: Statement Of Intent

ATTN: Erica Walker, Benjamin Abel, Stephen Sicinski

It has recently come to my attention that questions are being raised as to the seriousness of my compact with SGT Justin Griffith to perform at a concert event he was organizing at Fort Bragg for April 2nd called "Rock Beyond Belief". Please allow me to clear up any confusion by saying that I did confirm this gig with SGT Griffith, in writing, and although my usual fee to perform is around $2,000 I had also agreed in writing to waive my honorarium for the event, because the cause (equal treatment of those with divergent religious beliefs, including atheists) is one I believe in strongly.

My written confirmation was sent to SGT Griffith via email on February 6th, and on February 13th I wrote a blog announcing the event to my fans online, which you can read here: I also followed up with a newsletter that went out to my personal email list of more than 7,000 individuals, and I received many encouraging responses and expressions of interest from fans around the world. If you have any doubt about this I would be happy to show you the messages and/or send out a follow-up newsletter asking everyone on my mailing list to individually write to you via email in support of SGT Griffith and in protest of Fort Bragg's discrimination against his event on religious grounds, in clear violation of the US constitution. I was very disappointed to hear that the event was cancelled, but under the circumstances I think SGT Griffith made the right choice.

I should also add, in case anyone is foolish enough to quibble over the "official" status of email confirmation as a form of written compact or "Statement of Intent", that I currently perform more than 100 gigs per year and the majority of those events are confirmed via email with no formal contract, and never once have I canceled a gig for anything other than grave illness. Once an event has been confirmed via email and announced online and one's name has been added to the poster, it would be career suicide to treat such commitments frivolously. The music industry, like many other professions, is mostly governed by a code of honour enforced by peers with a strong interest in each others' reputation for integrity, something that is worth more than a signed contract in many spheres. I am proud to say SGT Griffith took me at my (written) word that I would be there, just like he seems to have (mistakenly) taken the word of Fort Bragg's administrators that he would receive "equal support" for his event.

At any rate, I sincerely hope SGT Griffith is able to resurrect Rock Beyond Belief at a future date, and please be assured that I will do everything in my power to attend and perform. As we say in the hip-hop world: "word is bond".


Baba Brinkman

The Rap Guide to Evolution

PS - if anyone does want to support SGT Griffith and the Foxhole Atheists by donating or writing in, here's how you do it.