Calling all Disciples of Hip-Hop. Holler If Ya Hear Me!
If you are old enough to remember the climatic yesteryears, then perhaps you can recall a period that was dominated by a rhythmic factory that delivered one of a kind beats and verses.
The ambassadors of this particularly stylized confection were in fact soldiers of war, engaged in a never-ending battle that almost always left them embittered and dutifully persecuted. But they never wavered in their quest to creatively express their brutal existence and the truth was easier to digest when set to lyrical perfection.
Tupac Shakur was a poet. He was the true definition of an artist. His rise to fame was organically orchestrated because he understood the power of representing the masses. Despite his meteoric rise to fame, Tupac always remained true to his craft and loyal to the ones who shared his plight. The inner city population, confined to the barriers of discrimination and insubordination. A combination that consistently yields devastating results. A hopeless existence borne out of a legacy that righteously stripped a people of their dignity and grace in a harshly defining way requires astute diligence and fondness for echoic endeavors.
That is why Holler If Ya Hear Me is a mandatory event for anyone who can relate to the desperation that accompanies being assigned to a paralyzing existence. It is a story that can be told for an endless generation, and sadly it continues to be a heightened topic, which demonstrates how far we have come.
Director Kenny Leon has done an outstanding job utilizing Tupac’s most prized possession to create an environment bursting with musical prowess and engaging dialogue set against the backdrop of a nostalgic neighborhood nicknamed “The Block”, an homage to Tupac’s 2002 hit song. Saul Williams who made a name for himself as a slam poet among other things owns the role of an ex-con who returns home, hoping for a fresh start and in the process experiences a rebirth that spreads like a virus to members of his community who are in dire need of an accessible hero.
The production doesn’t waver in its undiluted presentation. It can very well be categorized as a euphoric séance, as you take in the symphonic catalogue that instituted Tupac to the realm of mythical figures. These are the spiritual counselors who arrive just in time to spread their seeds but abruptly depart to pursue a higher calling. It is hard to imagine what Tupac Shakur would be doing now if he had survived the streets, but in a way there is solace in the fact that he is not here. The good ones die young but their mission outlives them in a way that is kinetically gripping.
Holler If Ya Hear Me, captures the magic of hip-hop because it thoroughly unleashes what the genre represents. It was hard to sit still as my favorite tunes hit the stage. From “I Ain’t Mad at Cha” to “Hail Mary”, the soulful voices and dance moves stewed in the splendor of the all to familiar themes transiently dramatized. It was an unexpected surprise and almost placed me on my knees begging God that this exercise would last all night. Once ‘California Love” made its debut, I completely lost it. I felt lucky. I was there. I was only a couple of years younger than Tupac, and I heard him speaking about the ghetto and giving the street kids a voice, propelling the pain and circumstance of a disadvantaged population who didn’t stand a chance because their predecessors were already paying the price of gross misfortune. They were products of irrefutable negligence and with that comes anger, bitterness, and self-loathing. Tupac chose to translate his frustrations in a way that resonated with his brothers and sisters. His family is still jamming to his thought process and if you are unclear about his legacy, then you must subject yourself to “Changes”. I still fantasize that the loyalists in the industry will do a memorable video of that song to honor him and also to show how much and how little has Changed.
If you are lucky enough to partake in Holler If Ya Hear Me, you will also have the opportunity to behold hip-hop exhibit at the Palace Theater (1564 Broadway at 47th Street), which is also the venue for the show. It is a dazzling display of memorabilia, artifacts and a valuable mural, all set up in the hopes of proving the importance of protecting the blueprint that is responsible for our ability to set our bodies to music while also championing the fallen and the ones who were able to rise above the ashes.
Do yourself and favor and melodiously skip over to the Palace Theater. You can’t afford to let this momentous occasion pass you by. I guarantee that you will rise up in thunderous applause and instant gratification. And in a world swathed with incoherency and disingenuous offerings, that is a feeling that surpasses the rudimentary capsules we continue to be tantalized with.