With 2Pac’s Activism In The Conversation Again, Broadway Cries Holler If Ya Hear Me
While Tupac’s music is perennially celebrated, it is his activism that has once again come to the foreground, recently. A month ago, 2Pac’s previously-unreleased conversation with Sanyika Shakur (Monster Kody) provided 20 minutes of deep insights, reflections, and admissions from the final year of the iconic “Thug Angel’s” life. Over the weekend, Public Enemy’s Chuck D shared a letter ‘Pac drafted him from prison, in 1995, suggesting the Thug Life rapper’s plans for a unified front in Hip-Hop activism.
Aside from the controversies, convictions, beef, and vengefully fiery records, Tupac Shakur’s life and times (especially in the year leading up to September 7, 1996) are commonly interpreted differently. To some, the native New Yorker was a war-mongering rapper who danced with the hype-machine until it conquered him. To others, a seemingly much wider majority, Tupac Shakur is the perfect merger of poetry and Rap, who lived like so many geniuses, amidst controversy and contradiction—a self-proclaimed feminist convicted of sexual assault, a soldier for peace, and a money-counting capitalist who often said he wanted to conquer poverty. All of those complex themes and gray areas are at play in “Holler If Ya Hear Me,” a Kenny Leon-directed Broadway production at the Palace Theatre—even if Tupac’s name is never mentioned. Starring poet/author/musician Saul Williams (Slam, “Not In My Name”). In an early review, The L.A. Times wrote, “With its Shakur-inspired tale of urban decay and street morality, it is a very un-Broadway musical, presented by some of Broadway’s biggest names.” With Tony Award-winners in the cast (Tonya Pinkins) and an August Wilson fellow behind the script (Todd Kreidler), the production may not closely follow ‘Pac’s life or mention his name, but it is deemed as an illustration for the kind of life the man lead, and the proponent of change he aimed to be. The review expounds on the plot as, “Centering on the newly released ex-con John (Williams), it tells of a man whose act of street violence landed him several years in jail, but whose Shakur-like reading and writing of poetry has yielded a quiet intelligence, if still-simmering anger.” However, “The narrative is structured around some of [2Pac’s] most popular and provocative songs. ‘Changes,’ with the aforementioned welfare lyric, casts a harsh eye on social ills. Personal anthems such as ‘Me Against the World’ and ‘Only God Can Judge Me’ offer intimate and defiant looks at men who feel trapped by circumstance.”
With ‘Pac’s mom, Afeni Shakur, signing off on the production, and the late August Wilson himself having a strange hand in the script’s development, the belief is strong. However, per the review, the $100 ticketed production is attracting stars like Chris Rock and Ms. Shakur herself, but needs help. Having opened June 19, “Holler If Ya Hear Me” is strongly depending on more support to maintain its Palace residence. Sources close to the production have told Ambrosia For Heads that upcoming audiences are paramount to keep the musical on Broadway.