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For The Hip Hop Nerds: ‘Watch The Throne’, A Shakespearean Play By Lev Novak

I love Hip Hop. And I love Shakespeare. While on the surface these two art forms might seem incompatible at their core they are actually quite similar. It’s all in the wordplay. Both art forms appeal to the logophile in me. So you can only imagine how thrilled I was to come across a Shakespeare inspired drama based on some of my favourite Hip Hop artists.
‘Watch The Throne’ is a Shakespearean drama written by Lev Novak wrote that deals with the power struggles in Hip Hop. The play features Kanye West, Pusha T, Ludacris, J. Cole, Kim Kardashian, 2 Chainz and the big homie Jay Z amongst others.

‘Watch The Throne’ A Shakespearean Drama By Lev Novak

Act I, Scene I

Kanye is sitting upon the throne of rap. His trusty lieutenant, Pusha T, stands beside him. On the other side is Kim Kardashian.

PUSHA T

My liege,
As Jay-Z hath ascended
Past this mortal realm
The throne has become watched by those that would seek it for themselves
The guilds of rap grow restless, my Lord.
MMG of the north waits patient,
and YMCMB rake their coals in darkness
Even the fiefdoms seek their claim;
A$APs require attention, Asap,
Taylor Gang and TDE watch us from afar,
And, though I hate to report it,
There is a whispering of evil within the very halls of G.O.O.D

(J.Cole enters, triumphant)

J.COLE

I have long said the same,
Oh Pusha.

PUSHA T

Yeuchh.

KANYE

Jermaine? Ah!
So good to see you!

(The two embrace as Pusha watches)

KANYE

Have you found success?

J.COLE

Indeed, Yeezy.
As befitting my princely status,
I have completed my first quest:
I have solidified our treaty with Kendrick of the West.

KANYE

Excellent!
The West, slumbering
May threaten West
Nevermore, without Kendrick’s flow.
But aligned,
The two might prosper.
You have done well Jermaine.

J.COLE

Thank you, Yeezy.
But I have taken a name unto myself: J.Cole

KANYE

Christened by Yeezus, I approve your nameship.
May pressure make you a diamond.
Like the Roc-a-fella’s before us.

(They look skyward)

J.COLE

Praised be J-Hova.

KANYE

Praised be he.

J.COLE

And yet…

KANYE

Yet what, Cole?
Speak.

J.COLE

It was odd;
As I left the palace gates,
I found myself without reinforcement.
Guest verses undelivered,
My album was assailed by critics.
I survived, and persevered but this;
(shows a scar on his face)
Is damage from Pitchfork.

PUSHA T

The fool Don Glover
Found his head upon one.
‘Tis but a scratch.

J.COLE

You shroud your meaning, Pusha,
And speak of my scratch
As though it were not upon my flesh,
But rather a mark upon your records,
And thus fully inconsequential.

PUSHA T

Though you say “Cole World”
You would be wise to be wary of heat;
heated words, of course.
Forgive the entendre.

J.COLE

You are modest in your estimation.
I fear no weapon.
But am wary of he who wields them.

(J.Cole leaves, an eye to Pusha.)

KANYE

This is heavy news to ponder.
Pusha, I require my jester

PUSHA T

Yeuch.

(Pusha T summons 2 Chainz enters in his jester gear.)

KANYE

Two Chainz,
my head is weary, as though two chains,
each heavy,
hung around my neck.
Tell me, oh Jester,
Is ruling yet a fool’s errand?

2 CHAINZ

If it were, your majesty,
you’d have sent me in your stead.
(Ludacris enters, in all his finery.)

KANYE

Hear, oh wise Ludacris,
That you are welcome in my presence.
Oh, wise Luda, hear how Jay-Z hath ascended
And left me to follow in his wake.
It is I, now, who must watch the throne
From King Richard the Ross and of Weezy F. Baby,
The occult swamp-man who threatens to devour us all.

LUDACRIS

Ay, and you have asked for my partnership.
A wise decision, Kanye.
For indeed, my clan of DTP is mighty
In the southern realms of this land,
And together,
We can rule this land as brothers.
Though shrouded in irony, we may keep the peace.

KANYE

Nay, Ludacris;
I cannot split my rule of this kingdom.
I ask not for your partnership, but for your service.

LUDACRIS

A knee?
Nay!
Wise Luda, you have called me,
Yet you play me for the fool.
I serve standing, never hunched like your jester.
He used to be a rapper, a man amongst us,
Though he ran from my service only to find your favor?
An outrage!
He hath 2 Chainz, oh Yeezy,
But no honor.

2 CHAINZ

Aye, take me for a fool?
Perhaps, and that path be quite oft taken to my benefit.
They laugh, oh Luda, but I do so to the bank.
Why, for me to be forgotten or broke,
Why, that would be Ludacris.

LUDACRIS

Knave!

(Ludacris draws his sword)

KANYE

Luda!
There shall be no violence in this halls.

LUDACRIS

Hear, Yeezy, how I work alone.
But for respect to you, I swear an oath of separation.
I will not be disturbing the peace.
Keep your clan-mates with you, but be wary, O Yeezy,
Some watch the throne
When they should watch their court.

(Ludacris exits.)

KANYE

Pusha!
Oh, my trusted advisor!
How might I handle a foe, oh Pusha?

PUSHA T

My liege?

KANYE

A foe.
In glorious battle, with the colors of banners
And the roar of my warriors, the clashing of weapons and diss-tracks-
What a spectacle!
But tell me, Pusha, who radiates a glory near mine?

PUSHA T

None, my lord.

KANYE

Indeed, Pusha, and this worries me greatly.
Jigga, the king before me,
rests amongst the greats
Having defeated countless foes.
But who may I face?
Who can match my luster?

PUSHA T

One may exist.

KANYE

You are kind, Pusha
But I doubt that.
Still, as I pursue greatness.
Can I trust you,
Pusha,
To do what is necessary?

PUSHA T

By Biggie’s Ghost,
I pledge my loyalty, now and forever,
To the ‘Ye.

KANYE
I sense in you the truth.
I retire gladly, Pusha.
I leave to examine leather skirts.

(Kanye exits)

PUSHA T

For truth, I am loyal to the ‘Ye.
The yeyo, cocaine, sweet white.
Hard white, they call you,
though you be soft in my embrace.
Kilo’s, soft as pillows,
how I long for you in my bed.
Caine, oh Caine!
It is for you, my love,
that I will ascend the throne myself.
Forgive me, Pac! Forgive me, Biggie!
I betray for love, of the game and of the game.
As Cain killed Abel, I too am able for ‘Caine.
Yuch.
See how I have come to loath the man Yeezy
For now the throne is watched
Observed by paparazzi
Bloggers and more
Nerds, hovering over us
Casting a shadow over rhymes
This doth provoke in me a malice
And such as Malice is my brother
I find it inseparable from my motivation.
That I may avenge Clipse with clips
And take the throne I have earned.
(Offstage he hears the click of heels)
Yea, for the strumpet approaches
I must keep my plans disguised.
Yuch, I say, Yuch,
For the Kardashian comes quick.

KIM

Oh Pusha,
hath thou seen my husband?

PUSHA T

Kris Humphries is out,
m’lady.

KIM

Rouge! My husband, my love,
the famed and talented-

PUSHA T

Ray J?
KIM

Yeezy. Oh Pusha, push me not.
My plans move beyond you,
With rapid steps measured in weeks and years.
My wealth exceeds yours, as does my wit.
You pushed cocaine?
I too sold poison-
Myself!
Loved, loathed and consumed
By every fiend across this country.
Do not doubt me, Pusha.
Keeping up with the Kardashians is a fools errand.

PUSHA T

Such that your viewers are. I am inclined to agree.

KIM
You are an ass, Pusha
And one that rivals even my own.

(Kim moves beyond Pusha to the kingly chamber, her eyes at the mirror behind the throne)

You can read the rest of Act I, Scene 1 here, Act I, Scene II  ( ft Drake, Nikki Minaj, Lil Wayne & Tyga here

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Posted by on June 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Memoir Of A Hip Hop Nerd

The earliest insight I can recall that I had into Hip Hop as a culture was from the popular nineties sitcom Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. Will Smith’s character the Fresh Prince was the first Hip Hop personality that I tried to mould myself after. He was everything that I wanted to be. Whether it was his attitude, flambouyant dress sense or his lingo, the Fresh Prince, to my young impressionable mind was the epitome of cool. I remember very clearly the day my mum bought me my first school blazer in primary school. I was so thrilled that I could finally get to dress like my idol i.e wear my school blazer inside out with the cap worn back to front. Man, I thought I was so fresh! Little did I know then that, that was the genesis of Hip Hop’s enduring influence on my dress sense.

The sitcom Fresh Prince embodied so many elements of Hip Hop culture that resonated deeply with the my middle class sensibilities. Side bar: Before I continue I must take this opportunity to state for the record that I am aware that at the time they were more respected and more significant influences in Hip Hop such as KRS-One, Erik B & Rakim, Akrika Bambaataa & The Zulu Nation, , Scarface, NWA, Public Enemy, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and The Beastie Boys. While I have grown to appreciate these pioneering acts in Hip Hop over the years it was my fascination with the Fresh Prince that opened the door for me to the broader world of Hip Hop. So much so that the theme song to the Fresh Prince is the first rap song I was able to karaoke along to. The simple raps where all my young mind could fully comprehend at the time. The lyricism and subject matter of the other above mentioned artists I only appreciated as my mental faculties developed and I began to lose the childlike innocence of youth. By the time the music and untimely deaths of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur took centre stage in the main stream consciousness I was a budding Hip Hop aficionado.

As a teenager Nas’ ‘Hate Me Now’ is one of first Hip Hop songs I had a visceral reaction to. Never mind I did not have any hater’s at the time (I was 14). But as you do at that age I was convinced that the world was against me and that nobody really understood me. And in that sense Nas’s self assertion as well as the vitriol he was spitting at his detractors spoke to me. For an angsty teenager overdosing on testosterone that had grown up on a staple of Michael Jackson songs and colonial British inspired literature raps incongruous mix of lyricism, braggadocio, social commentary and pseudo revolutionary themes that often touched on black pride evoked a strong sense of belonging in me. This coupled with the storytelling; struggle and aspiration themes that are deeply embedded in the culture reverberated with a young black African man trying to find himself in a world, that didn’t think much of him.

No rap artist I had encountered up to that point embodied everything I loved about Hip Hop as much as Nas himself.  Nas made me close my eyes and imagine an experience I had only previously been able to mine from books. When he rapped he painted vivid pictures in my mind, but more importantly he forced me to think critically and analytically about the world I lived in. We shared a common fascination with ancient Egyptian civilizations and African history and heritage. Subjects he weaved seamlessly and eloquently into his raps. When I listened to his raps I had to let them marinate over a few repeated listens before I completely felt the gravity of the messages that he was sharing. And even after the fact every new listen always brought with it new a-ha moments and the accompanying streams of consciousness. His lyrics were multi layered and his awe inspiring story telling abilities continued to stoke the flames of the aspiring wordsmith in me.

Listening to Hip Hop is and always has been a uniquely personal experience for me. Even though it has its critics who despise for its explicitness, excess, misogyny and glorification of violence it is still a genre I am intensely passionate and protective about. I am truly, madly, deeply and unashamedly in love with Hip Hop. Not only that but I fancy myself quite the Hip Hop nerd. I am always trying to learn as much as I can about the culture. Hip Hop appeals to the logophile in me. I am drawn to the wordplay that is the bedrock of many of my favourite Hip Hop songs. If you can weave magic from words while they sit on an awesome beat you have my ear and my heart. I also love Hip Hop because, it inspires me. What! Hip Hop inspiring? YES! Hip Hop in many ways feels like the big brother I always wanted but never had. Hip Hop as a culture was often my compass as I navigated my way through the uncertainty of my teenage year’s all right through to my early adulthood and the present day. I looked up to Hip Hop in the way I can only imagine I would have looked to a big brother if I had one.

Because of Hip Hop I love American summers. This despite the fact I have never set foot on American soil. Why? The answer is simple. It is the time of the year that most of my favourite rappers tend to release some serious heat in the form of albums. And thanks to the democratization and globalization of Hip Hop afforded by the ‘internets’ access to these releases is instantaneous. This is very welcome as it allows me to feel their heat during the southern hemisphere winter. Around this time of the year you are likely to catch me wildin’ out by my damn self as I get jiggy, marinate and just vibe out to my favourite rap albums.

This particular ‘American summer’ has already proved to be no exception. J. Cole an artist whose career I have followed closely has already released his much anticipated sophomore in album titled Born Sinner. Of the albums released so far this has been my personal favourite album, a huge compliment considering that his album is juxtaposed against a long time favourite of mine Kanye West who released a visionary, eclectic and largely experimental album that pushes the boundaries of Hip Hop,Yeezus. Yeezus’ main weakness for me is Kanye’s rapping. Going for minimalist and sparse production as he did, elements which make it such a polarizing album exposes the fact that his rapping isn’t quite up to par on this album. The lack of lyrical astuteness, depth, agility and strength in Yeezus is the reason it’s the sole Kanye album the word nerd in me finds hard to marinate on. Despite the ferocity with which he spews his lyrics, Kanye fails to make a compelling argument for himself throughout the record. This is Yeezus’ biggest surprise and let down for me. A man who has historically had so much to say, suddenly seems to have no clue how to communicate it in a manner that means his arguments have gravitas and compel me as the listener to think, question, draw conclusions and then move beyond those conclusions. That isnt to sayYeezus isn’t void of magical music moments, unfortunately the words never match up with the intensity and contradictory beauty of the sound.

Lyrically Born Sinner estues many of the same virtues that I fell in love with in Nas’ music and sonically you hear the influence on the the J.Dilla’s and No I.D’s in terms of the production style. J.Cole’s comparisons to Nas are more than justified. It is fitting then that on the album Born Sinner is a strong contender for my favourite rap song of the year so far in ‘Let Nas Down’ by J.Cole. an abridged memoir of Cole’s relationship with Hip Hop. By extension the subsequent remix by Nas himself in which he symbolically hands over the crown to J.Cole is my Hip Hop moment of the year. In the original song ‘Let Nas Down’ J. Cole narrates the story of how he was inspired by and looked up to Nas as well as his subsequent disappointment when Nas didn’t like his first hit single Work out. He justifies sacrificing his (he)art in that he wanted to draw attention so that a wider audience has an access to it, at the same time acknowledging  Nas’ influence on his career as  well as crediting Nas’ criticism for getting back on track artistically. The reason I love Born Sinner is because I feel like it was written with me in mind and at its best it sounds like something I feel I could have written. J. Cole like me is a young black man with a university degree and in many ways he is rapping the theme songs to this part of my life.

There are still a lot more hip Hop albums to come,and and at this point I am in love with Hip Hop as much as I have ever been. Today it feels good to be a Hip Hop fan.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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