Hip-Hop and Theatre, Hip-Hop in Theatre or Hip-Hop Theatre

One definition of Hip-Hop is popular subculture especially of inner-city youths associated with rap music graffiti, break dancing & with the style & fashions of African American inner-city residents. Hip-Hop is more than just a genre of music, but it has become a way of life, a culture and one of the most influential subjects of our time. Hip-Hop is one of most influential to youths because it is the number one trend-setter. In the Hip-Hop culture new words and slang are created, like bling, kicks, tight, wife beater and so forth. Some words have even been added to the Oxford English Dictionary like “jiggy,” “break beat,” “dope,” “phat” and “bling bling.”

New clothing or ways of wearing clothing are created. The most interesting thing about Hip-Hop is that it is constantly changing as time goes. Also Hip Hop clothing is not a fashion or a trend but rather a development made by the individual. There are no set rules to Hip Hop, the individual who grows up as part of the culture can create his own slang or come up with his own style of wearing his pants and that’s the beauty of Hip Hop. It was bound to end up in the theatre.

Now Hip Hop has only been around since the late 70s early 80s and theatre has been around since…, well, since forever. I was born in 1983, around the time where Hip Hop was breaking out of its shell and since then Hip Hop has changed a lot. From breakdancing on cardboard boxes to “Dance Crew” on MTV, from DJ’s scratching in local parties to DJs selling a million records on iTunes. The Flava Flav from Public Enemy to the Flava Flav in VH1’s “Flava of Love.”

I lived most of my life where theatre was hardly ever bought up. In fact, I didn’t even know theatre existed until I was in middle school. I thought the word “theatre” was just another name or just short for movie theatre where you go to watch films on the big screen. In the city where I lived it was instilled in us that the best way of life is to become a professional athlete or a Hip Hop artist. It was not that it was the only way; it’s just that it was the easiest way. Now I have always wanted to become an actor, but when I decided to make theatre my major while I was in college I was just learning everything about theatre while everyone already knew everything. All I knew was Shakespeare so I didn’t learn anything about Chekov or Stanislavsky until my junior year in college.

Hip Hop is directly associated with African performances. The ingredients and elements of African performances can be easily traced down to the African greats like Henry Louis Gates, Eileen Southern and Joseph Holloway.

The djali/griot tradition of West Africa and the hip hop hold a lot of similarity with each other. Owing to their seemingly marginal position in the society, griots are looked down as a part of the lower class, and have very limited authority in establishing themselves or their place in the society. However, their marginality denies the prevalence of power across, and provides them with the opportunity to scrutinize society and culture accordingly. The griots were amongst the most feared people of West Africa for their knowledge of insider information. They were looked down, treated with contempt, and perceived as a class that ranked along with blacksmiths, weavers and shoemakers.

The similarity between MC hip hop theatrical performances and the griots stems from their similarity where in both were considered as low class professions. Hip Hop is considered one in particular by the American community at large. However some consider it as a way through for many blacks, thanks to the economic success of many rap stars.

While griots are nomadic, MC hip hop artists act as informers letting people knowing of whats concurrent in their society, the political issues and the personal lives of performers, community people and violence etc. Spreading the use of vernacular and language traditions they contrast with the griots who took pride in relating mythological and historical accounts, as well as current events.

As performers Hip Hop MCs are known for their live and energetic performances. Embedded in all sorts of grammatical humor, and aspects such as analogy, metaphor, parody and sarcasm, the audience would stand out stunned and enthralled.

The elementary difference between Hip Hop MCs and griots was that the latter’s were not performers. The griots are not future oriented and remain deeply rooted to their past.

Delivery of style means the physical way of representation, more precisely how performers incorporate movements, clothing and facial expressions within their performances. In the African-American culture, the dress element is just as important as the sound effect itself. This is apparent from the reaction that crops up from the audience when the performers make it on stage. If the performer has dressed according to the aesthetic style of the audience, whistles and accolades follow. Through the flamboyant and colorful, costumes performers wear; they establish their image, arouse energy and enthusiasm in the audience. (Maultsby:p189)

The priests outfit mostly is a t-shirt held under a checkered shirt, and construction boots that complimented the jeans he wore. He is sometimes seen in a fisherman’s hat. This resembles the way MCs dress on stage. The idea behind is to develop a sound camaraderie with the audience. It ensures the recirculation of the lively affect intended. In this bid, performers try to do according to the audience’s perception, thereby removing any form of distinction that may alienate the audience from the performers.

Historically, hip hop emerged as a rebellion to the baroque like disco style of glamour and glitz. It is thus only natural that the dressing style in hip-hop reflects off –the-street ideal. The priest’s uniform in hip hop expresses stuff about him that need not be verbally expressed. Artists like Busta Rhymes, Lil Kim, Jay Z have categorized their styles from non verbal clues. These performers are considered by many as underground followers of hip hop pop. If we take a look into the things that categorize pop hip hop dress, these artists follow it for example, branded outfits, brightly colored attires, and an overall flashy style that delineates high economic status. In contrast, the priests strike their personality across in their relatively simple attires.

The Hip hop elements

DJing, MCing, Graffiti art, and B-boying are four main elements of hip hop. Theater incorporates and makes use of these funky styles within its entirety. Before we look into the nuances associated with hip hop theater, I would like it to elaborate on these distinct forms of hip hop art.

Djing also called disc jockey was introduced by Kool DJ Herc in the first place. He holds the unique honor of creating hip hop through the isolation of breaks. New innovations came into form through the introduction of scratching. This was a result of th efforts by the likes of DJs Grandmaster Flesh, Grandmaster Caz and Grandmaster Theodore.

Theoretically speaking, a DJ connects two ways simultaneously. These are connected to various electronic equipments that include a speaker, a mixer, and an amplifier. The DJ who stands at the heart of the performance, makes efficient use of his tricks by juggling between the two albums. As a result, a completely new original track crops up, which was an amalgamation of 2 songs into one.. More often than nor, a DJ should not be perplexed with the producer of a music track…

The infusion of bands kike Melle Mel of Grandmaster’s Flesh crew and the furious five have hogged away the limelight from most DJ stars who reigned supreme before 1978. The DJs on the pinnacle of their stardom lately include Mr Magic, DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Scratch, GrandMaster flesh, DJ Premier from Grand master, DJ Scott La Rock from Boggie Down Production, DJ Pete Rock of Pete Rock and CL Smooth, DJ Muggs from Cypress Hill, Funkmaster Flex, Tony Touch, DJ Clue, and DJ Q-Bert.

Needless to say, hip hop theater has incorporated much of the punk associated with DJing. Special original renditions are made to build on the hip hop effect originally intended.

Rapping also known popularly as, Rhyme spitting, MCing, spitting and Emeecing, is nothing but the rhythmic delivery of rhymes, one of the laying foundations of hip hop music and culture. The word rap has often been considered as the backronym of the phrase “Rhythmic American Poetry,” “Rhythmically Applied poetry”, “Rhythmic American Poetry”, or “Rhythmically Associated Poetry”. The use of the word is to describe slangy and quick speech that predates along the musical form.

Graffiti art has long been associated with politics. It has been looked on as a means to express political intend and to commute with the audience at large seeking to explain the purpose at large. In America, during the late 1960s, it was used as a popular form of expression by political activists. Signature tags of Philadelphia writers like Top Cat, Cornbread and Cool Earl started to emerge during the 1960s. In the 1970s, graffiti innovation change bases to New York.

Writers in New York, started the practice of juxtaposing street numbers to their nick names, at times bomb a train with their name and allow the subway to take it. If their fame was big, impressive or more simply pervasive, it would go round the city. Bubble Tracing was yet another popular form of art that held sway initially amongst writers from the Bronx. The bandwagon was later joined by Artists like Dondi, Futura 2000, Lee Zephyr, Rammellzee, Crash, Kel, NOC 167, Lady Pink and Blade. (Chang, p3-6)

Graffiti art and hip hop culture have had a long standing association. It goes back to the time when graffiti artists used to practice different forms of hip hop in places where hip hop was evolving as a peculiar art form. Unlike break dancing, which is considered as a physical expression, graffiti is considered more as a visual expression. Popular TV show of 1984, Style Wars and the book Subway Art gave a lot of footage to graffiti art and brought it in the limelight.

Hip Hop Theater has more often than not made good use of graffiti art. It is used as embellishments, and to decorate sets incorporated from within. This is because of the funky nature of graffiti art and its ability to commute effectively as a visual representation which rests at the heart of hip hop theater.

B-boying which is also popularly known as breaking , breaking girling break dancing, or for women by its followers and executers is yet another energetic form of dance.. It began to take form in South Bronx along with other aspects of break dancing. The B in B-boying basically comes from the B- of break boying or break girling in the case of girls. DJ Kool Herc’s parties gave way to the term. He started the practice of saving the best for the last.

He would perform his dance moves right in the end, taking the audience away in an unimaginable frenzy. The Freshest Kids, which is a documentary film on the history of the b-boy, DJ Kool Herc, has described b in b-boy for breaking which in that time and age was a slang connoted for “going off”. Earlier “booing” was used for the dance form..It was later given more focus and little in the fictional film Beat Street. Zulu kings are considered to be one of the most primitive B-boy crews.

Moves like those of popping, ticking, boogalo, locking, hitting and various other funky styles have been often branched away with break dancing. Most of these styles evolved independently in the late 1960s in California. It was a common sight during the 1980s to see a group of people in front of a radio in a basketball court or sidewalk while performing a break dancing show for a large audience.

This gave way to the popularity of hip hop as a dance type. It comes from break dancing but doesnot constitute wholly of break dancing moves. It has few limitations in terms of positions or steps unlike various other forms of dance.

Beat boxing is the fifth most important element of hip hop culture. It was popularized by Doug E. Fresh and is nothing more than a verbal form of hip hop culture. In beat boxing, rhythm is the focus. Different rhythms are created by making use of beats and melodies.. It was initially known as beat boxes. It in essence creates music. Various techniques are employed to generate and produced new music.. It should be noted that, sometimes some rapping type is also intersected and integrated with the human created beat.

This art form enjoyed strong presence in the late 1980s. Artists like Robinson of the Fat boys, Biz Markie demonstrating their beat boxing skills, and Buff the Human Beat Box made great waves. It exercised even more popularity then the underground. It has been experience since the late 90s also marked by the release of “Make the Music 2000” by Rahzel of the Roots.

Today, Beat boxing has grown big. It is a multi billion dollar industry that extends beyond the hip-hop culture. KRS-ONE, a rapper from the golden age of hip-hop has named nine elements of hip hop culture which include DJing. Graffiti art, break dancing, rapping, beat boxing, hip hop fashion, hip hop slang, street knowledge and street entrepreneurship. It has become a cultural moment as reflected in his Temple of Hip Hop.

Thus, Hip Hop culture extended far and beyond the traditional making its way into theater as well. All fusion of rap and beat boxing works to give the theater the novel affect necessary to relate with the audience. It also serves to arouse the passion and form an inherent link with the spectators something which has been a rare sight in the Western plays. Black theater works to relate with the audience. Audience reaction rests at the heart of every plot and these sound effects are only the icing on the cake. They are further complimented by funky outfits clad with the latest trend and fashion pervading around the Hip Hop verandas. However, it should be noted that hip hop does not merely mean keeping up with one general form of fashion that is then embedded in the society. It can be molded and redefined according to the likes and dislikes of an individual. It is all about change and Africans take pride in the associated change and radicalism.

Artists like Le Cog Sportif, established sportswear and fashion brands in the early 1980s. Brands like Nike Inc, Adidas and Kangol became attached to the emerging hip hop fashion. MSKS fashion line was introduced by artists like Heather Hahfiel and Tokyo Japan. In the midst brightly colored name-brand track suits, leather bomber jackets, sheep skin and Clark shoes colored the fashion front. Sneakers and Dr Martens boots also become popular in the process. Jheri curls of the earl 1980s to the hi-top fade as popularized by Will Smith spread across the realm of hair cuts. Large eye glasses like Cazalas or Gazelles, Kangol bucket hats, multiple rings, name belts and nameplates reigned supreme during that time. Heavy gold jewelry also became popular during the 1980s wherein heavy jewellery also became an enduring and an essential element of hip hop fashion.

Men’s jewellery focused more on heavy gold chains while that of women, emphasized more on big big gold earrings. Accessories worn by performers like Kurtis Blow and Big Daddy Kane reigned supreme in that time period. On the other end, female rappers like Roxanne Shannte helped made gold door-knocker earrings a popular front. This style of heavy jewellery was considered analogous to prestige and wealth while some associate it with Africanism. The 1980’s hip hop fashion is considered as one of the most integral and pivotal elements of the old school hip hop. It has oft been celebrated in various numbers such as the Ahmad’s 1994 single Back in the Day and Missy Elliot’s 2002 single.

Theater evolved and adapted to the hip hop fashion accordingly. It has come a long way from punk braids to bladed haircuts. The rise of hip hop in early 1990s brought another trend on the evolutionary front as far as hip hop is concerned. The work of Sean Diddy Combs who was locally known as the Shiny Suit Man brought in with him loud and flashy elements like the PVC aviator inspired suits, and platinum jewellery to the forefront.

This was in an attempt to add a new vivid and colorful dimension to the videos which were originally produces as marketing tools. Clothing manufacturers like Karl Kani and Fubu came into the limelight through Combs who started his own Sean John Clothing line. This internalized hip hop fashion, making it a multi billion dollar fashion industry. Traditional African hairstyles such as the conrows, and Afros, the Ceasor low cut also gained popularity in this time period. Ceasers and conrows are generally maintained by wearing a do rag on the head during periods of excess sleeping and while doing house chores to prevent the hair from being tossled or displaced. They soon became popular fashion hip-hop accessories in their own right.

The hip hop era also witnessed split between the male and female trends of hip hop fashion. This was a new change for they were previously similar. Women emulated the male tough-guy fashions for instance baggy jeans, sultry looks, heavy workboots and Loc sun glasses. Lip glosses and light makeup to complement work pants and boots gained prominence.

Performers like Lil Kim and Foxy brown took the tide in another direction, popul popularizing glamorous, high fashion feminine hip hop styles such as Kimora Lee, and Baby Phat fashion line of Simmons. Eve and Lauryn Hill, on the other hand popularized more conservative fashion styles that distinctly maintained the feminine and hip hop feel.

Theater artists incorporated fashion according to the changing scene on the front end. This was as mentioned necessary to evoke a reaction from the audience which is found to be at the heart of any hip hop theatrical performance or any hip hop performance for that matter.

Today, Hip hop fashion has embarked on a tighter, hipster style of dressing which has also including items from Nike, Nike Air Force 1, Dunks, polo shirts, woven button shirts, sport coats, large ornamental belt buckles, skull and skeleton decorations, cufflinks, trucker hats, elaborately decorated zip-up hoodies, tighter fitting vintage style, fitted caps, t-shirts with sleeves that are arm short, plaid designed shirts and Lumberjack button ups, tight denim jeans and Snow Inspired Fashions.

In Africa and across the black Diaspora, many black musicians produce an array of sounds many of which imitates those of speech, nature, spirits and animal. The sounds are producing using a myriad of techniques, by hitting the chest, and by maneuvering the cheek, tongue and mouth. When arranged in the required order, these sounds form the foundation of musical composition. The same is applied to performances projected in the theater as well.

There are certain voices allocated according to the context in which the situation is executed. A milder mellow tone is used to welcome the bride; indiscreet adventures indicated through husky voices; a teasing tone elaborating on a satirical situation; and mockery compensated by the laughter tone bubbling up, it all varies and depends according to the time and situation.

Characteristic recitation of a hip hop verse is different from the monotonic recitation of a normal poetry. Vocal inflations are used to bring about the highly punctuated, rhythmic, pulsating and chanting flow of the hip hop lyrics. As put by Gates, hip hop needs to communicated through performance not words.

For instance a priest in theater makes use of all elements to conduct his speech. His use of patch intervals, scat singing, musical infections, seat singing, emotion and a complete range of speech dynamics energize and enliven his text. In a simple script transcription of his text, these nitty gritties are ignored. He makes good use of a preacher like voice quality to emphasize on his lyrics. This is reminiscent to the focal point of the sermon of an old time country preacher.

His application of this approach, communicates effectively the good and bad associated with MCing. By assuming the term ‘nomad’ and by using the name ‘priest’, he aims to position himself spiritually and conceptually against the main stream hip hop industry. Audience acceptance does not need to be doubted. They remain enthralled, and every time I have seen them listening to them, they have come out as a deeply engrossed crowd. However, irrespective of this recognition, the priest aspires for not national but international recognition.

Black audiences are demanding in terms of variety. They expect a unique flavor associated with every performance. They come to see a new interpretation of each song attempted, of each play conducted across. For this reason, the diversity in performance of hip hop theater has persisted as a challenge. Technical knowledge of the theater is very profoundly taken care of. Black performers make sure to reach all expectations succeeded through them by ensuring that they know all there is to technical aspects of the performance. In the words of Bebey, there is always immense room for improvisation and adaptation so that each individual has a unique talent and aptitude and attitude of his own. Thus two performances by the same playgroup will never be the same.

Mellonee Burnee puts these aspects of Black performances in theater in her study of gospel music “ Time can be expanded by increasing the length of the notes at climactic points, by repeating phrases, words and sometimes entire sections of the song and by adding instrumental or local cadenzas. Even sounds like those of hand claps create an impact of their own. Response and call help by laying down a stable foundation for the soloist or the performance.

Similarly theater performances embed a unique style of their own. Each new performance is a delight on its own and though contemporary, yet a striking contrast from what was previously projected. Dialogue delivery is eloquent, and simple. More emphasis is laid on what comes across through the performance compared to what was actually scripted in the first place. The dresses and costumes in most instances are funky, and brightly colored.

Poly rhythmic structures function to increase the overall complexity of the performance. This is because each rhythmic intension works to increase the overall rhythmic tension. Pitch is molded and manipulated by highlighting the 2 extreme ends of a single voice. It is also varied through the use of slides, melismas, blends and passing tones.

The successful manipulation of these with respect to time, text, and pitch shows the performers mastery of the ability to communicate with the audience and his mastery of the black aesthetic. For example the Priest’s ability to communicate and relate to the audience effectively is demonstrated by the crowd response that pitch up his vocals. As nicely put by Maultsby “ When performers portray their knowledge of black aesthetic, the responses of the audience are so audible and loud that they drown away the performer momentarily.”

A recently conducted theater show, showed a performance on the song title “ Stop lying’. The performers aimed to communicate their purpose through this performance. They put it all in light humor elaborating on who they are, what they sought and what they had achieved thus far. The performance can be seen as analogous to the black myths which revolve around money, social interaction, material gain and relationships. Yet again the main and most effective remains the audience response. An enthralled audience leaves no room for the performer to express alone but expresses with him. Successful theater performances seek the same.

The idea is to captivate the audience throughout, keep them mesmerized and dazzled over what is proceeding through on stage. This ensures audience commitment and grants another houseful, well before the idea is actually executed. For instance in the case of priest, the amount and degree of recognition let him know how well connected was the audience with him, how were the metaphors perceived and the general liking that pervaded across.

Thus the whole idea, is to look through and relate to the audience. More often then not, the success of hip hop theater is associated with the audience reaction that evoked out of the performance. If the play put through is intended to be a tear jerker, those emaciating and soothing tears from within the audience mark its success. The aim would be to completely enchant the audience in its world, much so that he/she relates the reel life situation to her real life. For this reason hip hop theater lays great emphasis on connectivity and henceforth all the sound and costume renditions.

By not going over the top and producing effects and visuals just apt for the performance at hand, the playwrights, scripters and directors make sure that the whole play is executed to the t. It does not come out as melodramatic, something which is a norm in today’s theater plays. Exaggeration of rhetoric, over used and reused music, and unnecessary drama make them void of the originality and novelty of the concept. Hip hop theater works against the same, leaving the audience dazzled at the end of the day.

For instance in a line commuted by one of the performers, a girl is told “ Girl if you got an Oedipus, I will be your father figure”. This reference to Sigmend Freud’s psychosexual analysis and George Michael’s song, ‘Father Figure’ ( where “I will be your father figure” is the sexually connoted chorus) connected two seemingly unrelated ideational referents in a single idea, connecting black female and male relationships. In black cultural sexual relationship, the underlying black metaphor used is “daddy”. If the man is perceived as a good ‘lover’ he makes use of this metaphor, “make love to daddy”. Latino expressions connoting make love are similar to this. There is an expression in Spanish “papi chulo” which denotes “lover daddy” or if translated directly, it means “lover man”.

This gives us the ground to go down and explore the connection that emerges between the audience and the performer. More technically this can be understood in the neuroscientific context promulgated by the Melaughlie as explained and put forth by Devy,. For performers coming through as the priest, hip hop is seen more as a career than an economic opportunity. It is way of being exercising one as they are. It is about feeling proud conducting themselves as they are and not as they should be; feeling good, clean and complete in the process is the whole idea. At the end of the day, every individual feels incomplete unless they stand out true to themselves and their living.

For this reason and manifold the priest and many MCs represent cultural lord bearers of their generation, and provide an alley for other aspirers who are still struggling their way through poverty and are in desperate need of a good living. It opens the doors of opportunity and works to connect everyone in general. This is necessary because in a community like that of the Blacks, many young people grow up dreaming to become theater artists or hip hop performers but ended up taking more subtle and stable careers. For this reason, the priest represent what they believe they had, had they had the opportunity to perform.

In this sense priests and these performers act as liaisons between audience needs and members desire to have their cultural needs expressed artistically. The need to have concerns mitigated artistically is because black members feel that art and music serves as a catalytic vehicle that helps heal social ruptures through successful integration of nationalistic concepts, spiritual beliefs, group dynamics and political concerns cut across through the ritualized expression of performance.

In this case, the priest’s central focus, incorporators popular traditional and secular performances outside of the traditional black church. Truner and Bruner put this beautifully by saying “ Theater has tremendously inherited one of the great multifaceted systems we have termed as the tribal rituals” which embraces ideas and images of cosmos, interdigates the clowns along with their foolery with the God, and makes use of all the sensory codes to produce more than symphony in music. This is apparent from the entwining of drinking, burnt offerings, body painting, ritualized feasting, drinking, painting and body markings of many kind inclusive of circumcision and scarification, the drinking of potions and the application of lotions, the successful way of enacting heroic and mythic plots drawn out from oral traditions and a lot more.

Rapid advancement in technology and modernization have passed this preliminary test, associated with the complexities in the society, after industrialization in particular. Though the performance over big super natural characters has greatly reduced, there are indications that the amputated specialized genres seek to recover something of the animosity that was lost in the sporograms.

Thus, theater today has moved towards more realistic ideas and concepts. Dependence and fascination over great mythological figures has decreased and rapid real life association is sought for more than often.

This concept of Tuner is embodied in the following research conducted over a hip hop theater event that surrounded the debate of underground hip hop and pop hip hop.

An insight into a hip hop theatrical Performance: This is a play created by a Howard University student named Kamilah, in which the Priest who made a cameo performance staged the drama of underground versus pop hip hop. Called “They Rhyme deferred”, this play was performed at the experimental theater of Howard University. The play has gone down to New York since there and has been successful in evoking rave reviews by the Source Magazine and the Washington post. The idea behind the play was to address the primary concerns associated with the underground hip hop culture regarding the sell out nature of pop hip hop. The main characters in the play were Sugar Cane and Dave.

Sugar cane was executed and cut through to the audience as some puffy like character who made music about things like partying, drinking, and women. Note the striking similarity between this reel life hip hop theatrical character and an average African-American boy. This confirms the aforementioned arguments that revolved around how all efforts go into play to make sure that the audience is able to relate to the performers successfully. The characters are never over the top and come straight from the life the mortals experience daily. This is one of the many reasons that explain why these plays exercise so much popularity and success across the globe.

Anyways moving ahead with the story, Dave was sketched out as the hip hop artist who worked in menial jobs during daylight and practiced the art of MCing at night in epihers and battles at night. The two, Dave and Cane are brothers while Cane is the older one of the two. Under pressure from his record company, Cane comes to Dave who is a little mic shy, to make a new record with him and offers him a $50000 to do so. Instead of taking the money, Dave decides to build up on his skills. He informs Cane about his intention to seek advice from father who is a jazz saxophonist. This worked to build up Cane’s curiosity and an over whelming jealousy. He wondered why the father would choose the younger brother to perform with him and not him. This gave way to his evil selfish side, and he stole the lyrics originally composed by Dave to perform on them.

The original rendition associated with real life instances is highlighted through this act. Siblings love each other to die for each other but as hard as it is to admit and acknowledge, jealousy does come in on various fronts, especially when it comes to career choices and education. Some times it is infused by family members, by inevitable comparisons across dining tables and some times by peers. Thus hip hop theater take pride in bringing to life small real life instances and elaborating on their repercussions on our life.

The narrator/ Shaman tells the younger brother that he is the chosen and has to defeat the chosen one to create and reestablish his grounds. Dave outperforms Cane and ends up defeating him by coming straight from the heart. In the midst of all this, Cane is badly beaten, his tongue severed with no suspects resting with the police. This is a striking reference with the story of Cane and Abel where Cane is the selfish brother who ends up killing Abel. On the contrary, in this story, it is Cain who is defeated, and brings to fruit the sense of justice and ownership that many underground MCs seek to find.

Jealousy is undoubtedly the biggest and most dangerous feeling of all. It encompasses and is encompassed by all. Shakespeare made great ways through his successful connotation of this notion in his play Hamlet. The theatrical performance mentioned above elaborates on the extent of severity associated with this feeling. The jealousy that made a brother kill another brother maybe theoretically impossible to perceive but in abstract and object, it can do beyond simple resurgence of the feeling time and again.

More generally as intended, this performance can be perceived as a ritual addressing the underground’s frustration and discontent with pop hip hop. The continuous down turn of the MCs did not go down well with them and the pops are thus targeted in the process. Spiritual and mantric implications associated with power led to the demise of pop fictious character in this story.

As mentioned earlier, call, response and dialogue are central to black ritual and performance. Black African culture is bifurcated between Afro-Diasporic aesthetic and western ideals, the more traditional black performance is set up with a stage that separates the audience and fictious character only in theory. This practice makes it incumbent on the performer to bring the audience on the other side of the stage in the realm of liminality. This is different from the western form of theater where the audience stays quiet and tightlipped till the end of the performance. However blacks take pride, in evoking audience reaction and responding to it throughout the performance.

The impact the performance puts on the audience stands central to the heart of all those involved with the play. Everything revolves around arousing this impact. It is this effect that aims to inculcate the social, moral and religious drive intended. The many rap stars and artists today associated with hip hop theater have more or less been inspired. Peer and family pressure, may have thrown them onto paths where they would have opted for more conventional, predictable career ways. Some, went against the norms, and chose to build up on what they chose in the first place through their inspiration and associated morale.

The electrical circuit that connects audience with the sentiments intended is a continuous and a dynamic flow. It conveniently follows the laws of electromagnetism, wherein if the circuit is incomplete, the electricity ceases to flow and if the distance between the source and recipients is big, the vibrations dim down. To create heat and electricity the circuit should be complete and the distance covered by electricity must be big enough to help vibrations speed up.

The performance moment brings forth all the life in theoretical and historical foreshadowing. This is the time where all the ideas and concepts are communicated through the audience in a bathing community. This moment holds immense importance for the theatrical artists. It is the moment of result and the moment of execution. The execution has to be flawless and the moment completely enthralling. A mistake can be deadly at this juncture especially if the artist is new and laying the foundations of his drive through to the theatrical world. At this critical juncture, it is also important to reciprocate with the audience accordingly.

One cannot turn a blind ear to the audience’s reaction and the aspirations that follow. Hip hop is a performance art and its venues spread across Saturday night clubs, MCs, epiphers and parties. The clubs have been historically called as jook joists. There could be a concert as well, in which a small local group is performing or a band performing for a larger arena. The more informal venues are the strip where people collect in an area in town and their cars broadcast music out from their systems. There could also be the ‘stoop’ wherein people congregate in front of other’s house and listen to music apart from other activities. Communal essence is apparent form these formal or informal gatherings.

Hip Hop Theater is another communal gathering. People muster together to perform and percolate through and within each other. The black association with communal interaction is highlighted through this aspect of these gatherings. They find pleasure in commuting and sitting together to have fun, and share joys with each other. Theater gives them one more reason to do so and they trot along accordingly.

The hip hop community can be perceived as a macro group while groups from places like New York, Miami and Los Angeles can be seen as micro groups from within the larger groups. These indigenous groups have distinct jargons, way or performing, acting, vernacular and accent, each unique to the place of origin in its own right.(Olivo W, n.p) When an MC from one region goes and visits an MC in another region, the distinct jargon and originality can be configured. The distinct vernacular and musical structure are true in their own right and thus hip hop has transformed an originally region specific form into a national and international phenomenon.

However it should be noted that even though the MCs and DJs vary in their indigenous areas, they all follow the essence of African-American style embedded in them. Whether the MC is from an LA or a CA, the approach to it will follow the African-American tradition. The theater incorporates the same route. Performers come from diverse background and the concepts are manifold. However, the one notion that is common is the essence which is depicted in the back drop of African-American style. For example, Snoopy dog’s reference to gang banging is something which is uniquely West coast as far as dress style (colored, checkered shirts), vernacular ( partner, shortly) and presentation is concerned. On the other hand, priest’s reference to squad or crew, t-shirt, jeans and boots, and the in-your-face-way he rhymes, is an undoubtedly East Coast style.

These emerging regional and local identities in hip hop affirm the local character and specificity of cultural forms, as well as the larger forces that define hip hop and Afro Diasporic cultures. In every region takes pleasure in aggressive sub ordination and takes on a sense of entitlement.

Hip Hop theater festivals: are hosted round the globe. This is the sixth year of the festival but the roots of the theater date as far back as 1990s. It has been creating waves with the likes of Broadway hit Bring in ‘da Funk and Bring in ‘da Noise, by Def Jam poet. The tapping Genius Savion Glover and Gaines. On the other end, the playwright, Robert Alexander, Western style was incorporated. In 1995, the play, A preface to the Alien Garden and across the pond, Lyrical Fearta by Jonzi D blended with movement, monologue, and mime innately made new waves.

Today the theater festival serves more as a gathering ground where voices from distinct ethnic and cultural backgrounds make it to share their passion. This is a dramatic from its original stance as a lightning rod. It was originally found in 2000 by actor and playwright Danny Holch. As Kamilah Forbes puts it, “It’s something different and new’’; More precisely it presents hip-hop culture in a different light, a rare form which was originally not explored.

The trends and fashion of the hip-hop theater have evolved remarkably since the mid 1990s. Anu Yadav, a performer from Washington D.C. substantiates this fact with the trend that has encapsulated all over after her. Simple and elegant with a normal built, curly dark hair pulled down into a pony tail is a different sight from the usual blings, no skin tight designer gear and no swagger. This contrasted directly with the story she weaved at a recent festival, that shifted to and fro amongst different character; a style that lays in the heart of hip-hop.

Another tale by Capers tells tales based on the lives of the inhabitants of a D.C housing project that protested a city government’s relocation effort to make space for gentrification. The performance was a unique blend of documentation and special insight into trueto-life characterizations switching between God-fearing grandmothers to a tough bureaucrat to a fiery teenage girl.

The diversity that incorporates theater festivals today is apparent from the standing ovation that followed the D.C. edition of the Hip Hop Theater Festival (HHTF). It mustered a huge crowd from the various segments of the city to in its circles that few knew even existed. Hip hop stands out today apparently as one of the most influential cultural export since the past 2 decades. Having seeped through into genres of music, film, fashion, television, advertising and books, it was only about time that the aroma of hip-hop took over theatrical stage as well.

Hip-hop theater unlike hip hop music and culture spreads across different phases, forms, regional style that cannot be categorically defined. Hip Hop Theater brings in the elementary elements of hip-hop culture that is deejaying, rhyming, graffiti art and dance onto the proscenium stage. It is more than just a marketing term of an artistic genre, a light amalgamation of diverse, young, mostly urban artists telling the stories of their generation.

Performers like Yadav keep reservation discussing their origins. “I come from Iowa, an Indian American and from the Midwestern suburbs. I did not think of myself as a hip-hop theater artist and came east for college,” puts Yadav claiming her liking for hip-hop’s history of resistance and grass roots activism. Yadav’s perception is not a rarity, even when it comes to artists participating in the festival. “I think most artists resist labels and tagging, but if this is what brings new work to the mainstream discourse, then be it. It’s this way of validating art which is generally not considered as art by traditional art industry circles. By stamping a label on it, it authenticates it,” she says.

The proof rests with the people and most agree whatever the definition. The audience that turns in is one of the most eclectic, energized and diverse crowds in American Theater today. This is apparent from the events in the San Francisco, New York, Bay area and Chicago. It retains a unique aroma, the result of their association with partnering in organizations of existing art and high-caliber local performers along with international and national acts. Events take form in various venues, hi addition to fully presented plays, and festivals ranging from three day mini fests to week long affairs with multiple events each day. Readings of works-in-progress, dance performance, panel discussions, occasional filming and community workshops that the art exhibits are also offered.

The main events took place at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C for the Performing arts and studio theater this year. Along with parties in underground clubs, there were also lectures and film screenings round the town. The festival also had the added advantage of being sponsored by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, ensuring that all the performances were free to the public. This goes on to show the immense popularity these festivals exercise amongst the masses.

But Jose Dominguez, DCCAH grants and legislative manager, who arranges most of Washington’s festival, said the free ride alone didn’t account for the packed-to-capacity audiences the festival attracts. He remembers once leaving a local theater performance in which there were but only a few handful blacks, and then passing, Home, a popular nightclub, which had a line of mostly Black and Latino young people waiting to move in. In his words “I see energy when I see them, what troubles me is the fact that most theaters say they wont young people but do little to reach them”.

Dominguez added: “I think the Hip-Hop Theater Festival adds a level of innovation, and a level of progressiveness. It is more like a voice to refute claims that contemporary art doesn’t have much to say.” This year’s D.C. festival kicked off with 13 Mies, a performance by U.K.-based performer Benji Reid. As Reid body-popped, glided and prowled around the Kennedy Center stage, along with a three-piece band comprising of turntables, drums and electric bass, the standing audience applauded and appreciated the performance, happily engrossed in call-and-response that at times transformed the environment to one of a metal concert.

“The festival adheres to what a theater deals with by promoting the celebrity like environment,” says Forbes. “It becomes an exotic hang out filled with fun and frolic where the community collects to share their experiences.

The artists performances ranged from traditional monologuists and playwrights to e making their first appearence in theater. D.C.-based poet and activist Quique Aviles mixed poetry, strains of salsa strummed by a guitarist, and hilarious and poignant monologues in the The Rehab Diaries, his solo-piece which he performed at the work shop.

The Poemcees, a local hip-hop group comprising of two rappers and a DJ, improved their already unrivalled calibre by portraying their daily offstage lives in Grown Folks.

Beatboxer Yuri Lane, who was born in the San Francisco Bay area and currently resides in Chicago, came up with a master-piece, creating an exceptionally riveting, nearly wordless soundscape in an excerpt from his performance, From Tel Aviv to Ramallah, a Whitmanesque homage to the conflict-encapsulated Middle East. And Psalmayene 24 performed a part of his first ensemble play, Undiscovered Genius of the Concrete Jungle.(Shawn, p23).

Karin-Siobhan Robinson, a D.C. resident who also serves as an advisory neighborhood commissioner for the Dupont Circle district and deals with public affairs, attended her first festival this year. “The audience and the energy were fabulous. The people were completely transfixed before the performance and the energy was insurmountable” she says. “What was really nice was to see hip-hop restored to its original intent, people who understand what hip-hop can do for it’s not just about the bling bling, but hip hop can also change things”.

The Chicago festival, taking place Sept. 21-24, will feature the premiere of the ensemble play Deep Azure by Chad Boseman, a naturally talented young playwright whom the festival has supported since 2001. Co-presented by Congo Square Theatre, a Black theater company in Chicago, Deep Azure is written completely in rhymed verse. The murder story and betrayal among best friends possesses an almost Shakespearean like feel to it, but in the best sense theater for Everyman, as it was in the Bard’s time as opposed to the elitist associations his work holds today.

The “Best of the Fest” sampler would be another one for the highlight reel in Chicago that will showcase solo artists such as WiIJ Power (Flow), Danny Hoch (Jails, Hospitals and Hip-Hop) and Marc Bamuthi Joseph (Word Becomes Flesh). Montreal Dance Company and Windy City favorites Rubberbandance Group will also feature, along with other local dance artists.

Music and elite culture has been blended throughout history, whether it’s the jazz and blues-influenced plays of Black Arts Movement icons such as Ntozake Shange and Amiri Baraka (née LeRoi Jones) or ’70s rock musicals such as Hair, Tommy and Jesus Christ Superstar. Musical tastes change, styles come and go. (Bakar, n.p) But Forbes, the festival’s artistic director, doesnt think the festival would be out moded any time in the near future.

“The most aspiring and engrossing feature thing of hip-hop culture is that there’s a certain amount of fluidity and flexibility to allow the culture to grow with the people that grows with time” she explains. “It may not be called the Hip-Hop Theater Festival for I believe there will always exist a younger generation of people pushing through the boundaries of hip hop theater festival changing and redefining what it is and what it should be, helping create a new voice and tone for the generation in the process”

Works Cited

Jeff Chang “Dancing on the Through-Line: Rennie Harris and the Past and Future of Hip-Hop Dance” Wesleyan University Press. Middletown, Connecticut: (1994).

Light, Alan (ed). The VIBE History of Hip-Hop Three Rivers Press. New York:. (1999).

George, Nelson. Hip-Hop America. Penguin Books St. Louis:. 2000.

Toop, David Rap Attack II: African Rap To Global Hip Hop. New York: Serpent’s Tail. New York. (1984).

Fricke, Jim and Ahearn, Charlie (eds). : Da Capo Press Yes Yes Y’All: The Experience Music Project Oral History of Hip Hop’s First Decade. New York (2002).

Corvino, Daniel and Livernoche, Shawn A Brief History of Rhyme and Bass: Growing Up With Hip Hop. Xlibris Corporation Tinicum,. 2000.

Kitwana, Bakar The State of Hip-Hop Generation: how hip-hop’s culture movement is evolving into political power.

“In the Heart of Freedom, In Chains”: 2007 City Journal article on Hip Hop and Black America, 2006.

Olivo, W. “Phat Lines: Spelling Conventions in Rap Music”. Written Language & Literacy 4 (1): 67–85. 2001.

McLeod, Kembrew. Interview with Chuck D and Hank Shocklee. 2002. Stay Free Magazine, issue 20. Web.

Light, Alan, ed. The VIBE History of Hip-Hop. New York: Three Rivers Press. New York: Pocket Books, 2001.

Gueraseva, Stacy. Def Jam Inc. New York: Random House, 2005.

Brown, Jake. Suge Knight: The Rise, fall, and Rise of Death Row Records. Colossus Books,. Phoenix: 2002.