While American theatre goers may by now have grown numb to the ongoing absurdity of trying to sex up or modernize Shakespeare by adding hip hop music and other supposedly current cultural influences into classic plays, the trend is no longer being ignored by the music industry.
At a star-studded press press conference held at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills last night, a veritable who’s who of American hip hop artists announced that the expropriation of their art form by the mainstream theatre – and specifically in Shakespeare plays – has got to stop.
And until it does, theatre fans better get ready for a retaliatory salvo: Non stop misappropriation of Shakepseare in hip hop.
“Basically, enough’s enough,” said JAY-Z, Chairman of the newly formed SFPHHMIA (Society for the Preservation of Hip Hop Music in America). “Every time I go to see Shakespeare, it turns out to be hip hop. Don’t get me wrong, I love hip hop. That’s what I do. But that’s not why I go to see Shakespeare. I can’t even get through one of the simple comedies anymore without some dude dressed up like MC Hammer singing one of my songs. Give it a rest, bro. And the history plays? Those things are a [redacted] nightmare. So we’re gonna turn the tables and see how you theatre people like it. You come expecting hip hip? You’re gettin’ Shakespeare. It’s gonna be 24-7 Shakespeare until you leave us the [redacted] alone. And you better believe we’re gonna get it all wrong.”
P Diddy hewed to an equally hard line. “All these aging white baby boomers are gonna take our stuff? Ok. Now I’m gonna take YOUR stuff – and mess with it. Ol’ Bill Shakey? I own that [redacted]. I’m gonna sing it, I’m gonna live it. I’m gonna wear ermine capes and bejeweled crowns in my Rolls like King Richard or whoever if I have to. I guess I already do that.”
50 Cent was livid about the trend. “It’s not cool, not at all. Some white guy with stringy long hair from the 1600’s or whenever? I am not in his plays. I never was. Shakespeare knows nothing about me. DO NOT PUT ME IN HIS PLAYS, PEOPLE. OR I WILL COME AFTER YOU. Now hear this [redacted]: Leave me the [redacted] out of these plays.” Fans at a recent concert nearly rioted when the well respected rapper did an incoherent 20 minute one person adaptation of CORIOLANUS.
Snoop Dogg, always the purist, raised concerns about the authenticity of the transplanted art form. “I was out watching ROMEO AND JULIET at BAM the other night, and the fight scene, you know, the dude’s like “Ima pop a cap in your ass this” and the other guy’s “No, no, Ima pop a cap in YOUR ass that”. First, I go to the theatre for poetry, you know? I get enough violence at work. Second, no one’s said “pop a cap” since like 1994. And you don’t announce it in advance when you’re gonna shoot someone – you just shoot the guy. Right? Now get out the way, I need to practice my Malvolio…”
As a kind of “We Are The World” manifesto for the new movement, a group of top artists performed a scorching 25 minute rendition of their founding anthem, “Is this a 9 mil which I see before me?”. The evening ended with a surprise visit by Dr Dre who performed “2b”, and also a reworked “guns, guns, guns” monologue, which was temporarily interrupted when an elderly irate theatre fan, upset at the alteration of “the [redacted] text”, hurled a bottle of Grey Goose across the stage.
“You see? That’s what I’m talking about. Now you know how we feel!” Dre shouted as the heckler was taken away. “This shit’s about to get real, folks. So real.”
Reached in New York City where he is currently giving the performance of a lifetime in the Shakespeare’s Globe (London) rep productions of RICHARD III and TWELFTH NIGHT, two shows which contain 0% hip hop, Mark Rylance had a lot to say about the phenomenon SFPHHMIA is protesting – but unfortunately almost no comments that are printable in a family magazine.
Rylance voiced total support for the group and said he would send in a contribution to their Kickstarter.