Tupac Shakur heads to Broadway
In what may be the final sign of just how mainstream the world of hip-hop has become, the music of rapper Tupac Shakur has become the soundtrack to a Broadway show coming soon. The show takes its name “Holler If You Hear Me” from Shakur’s 1993 song, and while the show itself is not based on the life of the late emcee, it is completely based on his rather lengthy body of work.
The show was conceived by Broadway veteran Kenny Leon, who has been the driving force behind a number of high profile Broadway productions including “Fences,” “The Mountaintop,” and “A Raisin In The Sun,” and he will be bringing a new adaptation of the latter to the Broadway stage this coming spring, with Denzel Washington as a featured lead.
When asked exactly why he chose to adapt the work of such a controversial artist, Leon stated that, “When you look at the lyrics of his music, he was always talking about universal things like honor, betrayal, family…” and went on to refer to Shakur as “a prophet.”
This is hardly the first time that the writing of Tupac have found their way into unexpected places, as over the past decade a number of universities, including Harvard, UC Berkley, and the University Of Washington have all offered courses which have explored his lyrics from an academic standpoint. Many of these courses have also taken time to dig into the historical impact and importance of the music he released.
Though “Holler If You Hear Me” does not yet have a stage, which Leon attributes to, “a backlog in available theaters,” he remains confident that the show will get a curtain to tell this story, as he feels there is a very important story to be told that reaches well beyond the hip-hop genre or any other social classification. In his words, Leon made clear why he feels the story is so universal, as he stated that Tupac, “…was just trying to talk about life and say something about the country and being an American and raising a family here…”
Only time will tell whether or not the world of musical theater is ready for the presence of the words of one of the greatest emcees in the history of hip-hop.