Let’s Rap About LENR
Christy L. Frazier
Rapper Baba Brinkman, Celebrity Chef Martin Yan and Anthropocene Institute Founder Carl Page at ICCF24 - July 27, 2022.
For the 24th international conference in the field of LENR (ICCF24 Solid-State Energy Summit), organizers Anthropocene Institute commissioned rap musician Baba Brinkman to write two songs and perform at the event banquet. Anthropocene had a very creative approach to the ICCF conference, and the commissioning of Brinkman’s songs is the finest example.
Baba Brinkman is founder and CEO of Event Rap, a company that produces rap songs, videos and performances for organizations in science and politics. Event Rap formed in March 2021 as a new venture triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Prior to that time, Brinkman was a traveling performer, what he calls a “rap troubadour.” He has created award-winning shows (music and performance) about evolution, consciousness, religion and climate change. Over the years, Brinkman often created off-the-cuff rap theme songs for events he participated in as a performer. When live events were no longer being held and revenue streams dried up for many performers, Brinkman pivoted to becoming a “Zoom Rapper” who performed for virtual meetings and events. Event Rap was born out of this work.
Music has been called the “universal language” for its ability to reach and affect people of different cultures, generations and backgrounds. Lyric and rhyme, when joined with instruments behind, have the ability to convey complex ideas and emotions in ways that other mediums cannot. Anthropocene’s Founder Carl Page explained the decision to utilize song at ICCF24 and for the field: “One of our main goals with ICCF this year is to attract young STEM students and entrepreneurs into the promising field of solid-state fusion energy. Using music, and in particular rap, is one way to attract the attention of younger audiences. Baba Brinkman is a talented, innovative rapper who can grasp technical concepts and communicate them in ways that really spark young imaginations.”
Brinkman said, “Most people don’t think of rap as a natural medium for science communication, but the fit is remarkably perfect when you look closely. Rap is fun, clever, pithy, and bold, so it’s kind of a distillation of all the attention-grabbing elements in communication. Plus the rhymes and melodies and choruses make for great mnemonic devices, aka ‘ear worms,’ and that’s exactly the desired effect with communications. The challenge is to say more with less so that each line is quotable and also ‘unpackable’ into the details it points to.” Rap may not have been the preferred musical genre of many of the LENR scientists in attendance at ICCF24, but they are an open-minded bunch who embraced the innovative songs created by Brinkman.
Brinkman’s song and music video “You Must LENR” was premiered at the opening of ICCF24 on Monday, July 25, introduced as the theme song for the conference. The rap has many call-outs to the champions of LENR science. Though he affectionately refers to LENR scientists as “oddballs” and “nerds,” Brinkman writes:
Crazy times call for crazy moonshots too
And this isn’t ’89 it’s 2022
And science is about finding out something new
So what you gonna do? Quit, or tunnel through?
The line “what you gonna do, quit or tunnel through” was so popular with attendees that keynote speaker Matt Trevithick even quoted it in his slides during his talk the next day. Brinkman’s lyrics show a deep understanding of the dedication and tenacity of so many in this maligned, paradigm-shifting field, who “Get up and dust off when you get stepped on.” He calls the naysayers “vision-lackers…with cynical attacks directed at vision-havers.”
A sampling of a verse from “You Must LENR” follows:
Don’t tell the doyens of science
But we got research teams workin’ overtime
They know the field and they know the signs
Some experiments have a slow loading time
Italy, America, India, Japan
Anomalous heat gets detected in scans
Check the fusion events at NASA Glenn
Look around, there’s something happenin’
Call it a moment, just never call it a waste
Of effort — don’t you know what all of them chase?!
A source of energy so cheap and so safe
Fossil fuel generation all gets replaced
Brinkman’s second song and video, “Cold Fusion Renaissance,” was unveiled during his performance at the banquet on July 26. Brinkman actually wrote this song first; Anthropocene was so impressed with it that they commissioned the second song (“You Must LENR,” noted above) with just a few weeks remaining before the conference. For this first song, Brinkman began his research process: read, take notes, write lyrics, seek feedback from client, revise, create backing tracks.
The first part of the writing process (reading and learning about the field to be covered) is always a lot of work, but for the LENR field there was a particularly complex situation. Brinkman said, “I’m used to being out of my depth, but it certainly was trickier to navigate than most other fields when it comes to the politics, and the historical (and also current!) attitudes of mainstream scientists to the field. So I’d say the challenge wasn’t so much in getting the details right as it was in getting the tone right, so that the raps are embraced as giving a voice to LENR proponents while also serving an outreach function to entice skeptics to take a second look at the field. Let’s just say, there aren’t many other areas where active researchers have observed a phenomenon working in practice while many of their colleagues believe it couldn’t possibly work in principle!”
Brinkman noted that he would “usually turn down commissions that don’t have mainstream support in the scientific community, not because they are necessarily bunk but because I’m not qualified to say and I want to be careful not to tout pseudoscience.” He said, “One thing I always have to remind people is that I’m not a scientist myself, so I rely heavily on science journalism and mainstream peer-reviewed journal articles to get myself caught up on a subject, and LENR has a dearth of those.” After much research, and especially now that he has mingled with some of the scientists and listened to the talks at ICCF24, Brinkman stated, “I’m very happy to play a role in the public rehabilitation of LENR’s image, now that I have some recent institutional clout (and newly published research findings) in my corner. I’m not saying that’s the only factor that matters, but it certainly makes my job easier!”
Brinkman chose to “weave skeptical takes” into the songs, which he particularly accomplished with “Cold Fusion Renaissance.” He thinks that this “lends credibility and will help it reach a much wider audience, by meeting people where they stand and inviting them to lean in.” “Cold Fusion Renaissance” even deploys a term often used to deride the field, pathological science. In one line, “pathological science” gets turned on its head, when Brinkman raps, “From pathological science to rational optimism.” He wrote of the Department of Defense scientists now exploring LENR:
And they don’t give a deuteron about the controversy
Is it proven or not!? I guess we’re all gonna see
And that debate is shooting off some anomalous heat
So cool it off and focus on the receipts
Brinkman wanted to “celebrate those who have pursued this research while also championing its growing acceptance into mainstream science, with all the added scrutiny and rigor that entails.” This celebration was particularly realized at the banquet on July 26. Here Brinkman premiered the song “Cold Fusion Renaissance,” with the animated music video playing alongside him in sync with his live performance. The other songs in Brinkman’s set included “IPCC” and “Fossil Fuel Ballers” from his one man off-Broadway show Rap Guide to Climate Chaos, and also a performance of his SMR nuclear anthem “Molten Salt,” which drew a rousing cheer from ICCF24’s technical audience.
A funny thing happened at the banquet. Celebrity Chef Martin Yan (host of “Yan Can Cook” and cookbook author) was one of the banquet entertainers. Brinkman was seated in the front row as Yan presented various culinary techniques. At one point, Yan began to banter with Brinkman, assuming he was a scientist. As Brinkman tells it: “I was his foil in the show and the crowd found it hilarious, because they knew who I was but he didn’t…He said things like ‘You think you could cut a pepper this thin?’ and ‘My knife is so sharp it could even shave off your beard.’” No one corrected Yan’s assumption that Brinkman was a scientist, so when Brinkman got up to perform later, he started his set with a “freestyle battle rap that responded to Chef Yan’s barbs point by point. A few choice lines from Brinkman’s set include: “I gotta do it like this, while I’m reppin’ this set / It’s about to be a rapper against a celebrity chef” and “I’m kind of nice on this mic / he’s kind of nice with his knife” and the frankly hilarious: “It’s a rap that I’m kickin’ / It’s not impressive, not impressive like relaxing a chicken” (a reference to one of Yan’s culinary tricks).
Brinkman said of the incident afterwards, “It really brought down the house, and couldn’t have been funnier if we had staged it.”
The banquet was not the first time Brinkman performed live at ICCF24. He often does a “Rap Up” of events he performs at, creating rhymes in real-time while an event is happening. He sat in the audience at ICCF24 for all of the first two days. At the end of each of those days, he closed out the session with a Rap Up of what unfolded on the stage that day. These exercises were quite remarkable. Consider that a conference has very few breaks and ICCF24 flowed so quickly between each talk that there was barely time to process what you had just listened to. Having the ability to digest complicated material and then compose songs then and there based on that material takes a very specialized skill set. Brinkman somehow managed to write songs on-the-spot that incorporated each of the speakers’ names (which in some cases were part of a rhyme scheme, like “let’s go” and “Theresa Benyo” from Monday’s Rap Up), direct quotes and general themes—and he did it two days in a row!
The Day 1 Rap Up was a nearly ten-minute live rap that even included material from the “fireside chat” that occurred just moments before Brinkman got on stage to present the song. The refrain goes like this:
ICCF 24, come explore
Step in the door, and get a taste of love and war
Of the ideal future energy source
That some adore, and some for some reason deplore
ICCF24, discover more
Ways to make LENR become a force
A form of energy we can’t afford to ignore
It’s warm in here, so come aboard.
Before presenting the Day 2 Rap Up, Brinkman joked that he “wrote this months ago, psychically predicting what everyone on this stage would say today.” One line of the rap noted that those in the room had a “healthy skepticism of the impossible” but the full verse is a call-out to venture capitalist and former Google program manager (and ICCF24 presenter) Matt Trevithick and the location of the conference as well as Trevithick’s current pursuits (Silicon Valley):
All we need is a skilled reputational engineer
Good thing we got the likes of Matt Trevithick up in here
Welcome to Silicon Valley, where we dodge every obstacle
Where it helps to have a healthy skepticism of the impossible
These Rap Up songs were quite impressive. We will link to them if video of this part of the sessions becomes available later.
Brinkman’s Event Rap company currently employs a dozen experienced rap artists, including himself, each of whom attend events and produce original music videos about topics ranging from technology and education curriculum to public policy and climate change. With Brinkman leading the way in applying the craft of rap performance and songwriting to unexpected but important fields, including LENR, the Event Rap motto says it all: “any topic, any occasion, there’s a rap for that.”