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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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I’ll Never Let My Son Have An Ego

iTunes shuffle is the best thing since sliced bread. There. I said it. Now that we have gotten that out the way , back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Earlier I was contemplating what exactly I was going to write about for this series of blogs I have been doing this week on the lessons my father taught me. There are so many lessons and I was struggling to pick one particular lesson to share today. But whilst listening to the song ‘New Day’ by Kanye West and Jay Z I knew I wanted to talk about my father’s legacy to me and the legacy I hope to one day pass on to my own son should I ever be fortunate enough to have one.

‘New Day’ is one of the more emotional and introspective tracks off Jay Z and Kanye’s collaborative album ‘Watch The Throne’. In the song both Kanye and Jay have conversations with their unborn sons. A constant theme in both rappers lyrics is a desire to give their future sons better opportunities and a better life than they had growing up. They are not necessarily speaking about material wealth. Their wish is that their sons become better men than they were. They want their sons to not have to make the same mistakes they did.

‘And I’l never let my son have an ego. He’ll be nice to everyone, wherever we go. I might even let him be Republican so they know he loves white people …. Don’t want him to be hated all the time. Don’t be like your Daddy that would never budge’ – Kanye West ‘New Day’

Most fathers are accused of trying to make their son’s into miniature versions of themselves. If it’s not that then they are accused of trying to live out their broken hopes and dreams vicariously through their sons lives. some mistakenly believe providing their kids with material wealth will suffice. But there is also another narrative. Father’s whose aim is that their son’s become their own man and best possible man they can be. Father who spend time and make an effort to nurture the character of their sons.These father’s are more focused on the legacy that they live their sons. That legacy is often some aspect of their character or lessons learned from their own mistakes. The values that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

‘Sins of a Father make your life ten times harder. I just wanna take you to a barber, bonding on charter’s, shit I never did. Teach you good values so you cherish it…. Took me 26 years to find my path, my only job is to cut your time in half …’- Jay Z ‘New Day’

My dad’s personal career success meant very little to me as a child. It is his character and the man that he is that has had a greater impact on how I approach my life. That is what I believe is his legacy to me. From an early age my dad taught me that people will treat you the way you allow them to. He also taught me that I should never let anyone tell me that I couldn’t achieve anything. It was very important to him that I became my own man and that I learn to make my own decisions from a very early age. He afforded me a great deal of autonomy on my life. This is not to say he let me just be. Whenever he thought I was losing my way he would never hesitate to gently guide me back onto the right path. And all the time he managed to make feel like I was in control and in charge of my life but I knew if I ever needed any help he was always there. My dad gave me the greatest gift anyone could ever give another person. He always believed in me, even when I doubted myself.
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Whenever I tell my dad any of my plans he always says the same thing. I remember when I first told I wanted to write a book. Despite my trepidation he was true to form and said to me” Make sure you follow through with it. Whatever you start, you must always finish.” Anything my dad has ever started he has always seen it to the end. So in that regard he has led by example. And that is probably one of his greatest legacies to me. Because for all the things he has taught me the greatest lessons I have learned have been from following his example. I just hope by the time I have a son I will be able to do the same for him.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2014 in Lessons From My Father

 

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Why I am Breaking Up With Kanye’s Ego

If you ask most people who know me to tell you something about me, I’m willing to wager that most people would probably mention something about me being either a Manchester United fan or a Kanye West fan. Both have shaped different stages of my life in one way or the other. With Kanye I am not just a fan of the music but also a fan of his story. A story about turning a near fatal car crash into the catalyst for his biggest triumph – a brilliant career in music. I am drawn to his passion, drive and self belief.  It is a self belief and confidence that (most of the time) balances delicately on the edge of the egoistic. Kanye’s confidence in himself and his abilities is often misconstrued as arrogance, but that’s only if you look on the surface. When I listened intimately to his lyrics I heard a charming and playful braggadocio.

Kanye not only made me believe I could touch the sky, but the story he shared on ‘Last Call’ , on his College Dropout album, is one of the most inspiring stories the dreamer in me repeatedly runs back to when the going gets tough. In the College Dropout Kanye came across as the relatable confident underdog with a stubborn determination to make his dreams a reality no matter how ludicrous they might have appeared to those around him. He believed in himself more than anyone else believed in him. Kanye taught me not only to believe in myself, but to trust myself and also showed me the importance of passion and hard work when it comes to achieving your goals.

The College Dropout is still my personal favourite particularly for its timing and the nostalgia high it takes me on every time I listen to it. The release of the College Dropout also coincided with the start of my twenties and rather ironically the beginning of my university (college) education.  It was the perfect soundtrack for that part of my life. A time in my life I was actively and desperately seeking for something to relate to. It spoke eloquently to what and who I wanted to be. I related more to Kanye’s  story than I had ever with any other artist prior.

When Kanye released College Dropout I was at a crossroads with my relationship with Hip Hop. I was feeling disenchanted and disconnected from most of Hip Hop.  As much as I enjoyed listening to 50 Cent’s Get Rich Or Die Trying album it didn’t move me, well except for when I was In Da Club. Kanye’s  College Dropout album saved my relationship with Hip Hop. It was such a soulful and refreshing sound. It was light hearted. It was uplifting. But more significantly it resonated and moved me and the timing couldn’t have been better. Thanks to the College Dropout I fell in love with Hip Hop all over again.

Further releases of Late Registration, Graduation, 808’s & Heartbreak and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy continued to provide the soundtracks to my twenties. I was not alone in this as most of my friends at that time also related to Kanye’s music in a similar way. So you can imagine my surprise when one of friends messaged me randomly and said “Dude, I think I need to break up with Kanye.” This particular friend might just be a bigger Kanye fan than I am. At some stage he used to style his outfits based on Kanye’s own personal style. That was how far reaching his influence was. So when he said that to me I won’t lie, I was stunned. And then just as quickly I was intrigued. What followed next was in depth discussion in which we both chronicled the influence Kanye has had over our lives over the last decade. How we both have also grown into our own people and how that influences our relationship with Kanye the man and his music.

My friend’s argument was this (and I’m paraphrasing here)

 ”Kanye’s music is still on point, but dude has really become a douchebag. Dude is always angry, complaining and being a diva. Dude rants most of the time now. The thing now is his douchiness  is starting to overshadow  his talent for me. Dude used to be funny, his early albums had a lot of humour and there was a light heartedness and optimism to his music. Now he comes across as super intense, and, he is always wearing his screw face these days. He doesn’t have the class and grace of his big brother (Jay Z). His music has lost its soul. Worse still I don’t think he has anyone on his team telling him when he is being an asshole.”

He also brought up how Kanye went from singing Jesus Walks on College Dropout to him embracing his inner douchebag in Runaway off the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Album as an example of that evolution into a douche. However that was not the tipping point for him. What cemented his decision to ‘break up’ with Kanye is an incident that happened a few weeks ago. Kanye called the New York radio station Hot 97 and ranted about not being on higher up on their hottest Emcee’s in the game in list. He mentioning in that rant that he gave Sway( a presenter) a TV back in the day. He felt you can’t air a dude out like that. He thought it unnecessary and petty.

The more I thought about our discussion the more I found myself reflecting and analyzing not only my relationship with Kanye, but how he has evolved as an artist and a person. This is just my opinion, but I think when his Mum died at the peak of his career something snapped. A part of him died. The albums he has put out since have had darker themes. The light heartedness of his earlier efforts has gone AWOL. His music became more melancholic than melodic.

All through 808’s & Heartbreak and to a lesser extent in My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy he was dealing with that pain of loss, his personal demons as well as the fallout from some of his less than flattering and maybe even misguided public outbursts. His genius was that he managed to channel all that angst and upheaval in his life into his music. The end product was a brilliant work of art. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is not only a critically acclaimed album but arguably his best album to date. As fans we gained from his loss. The assumption also was that he was dealing, so it was a win/win right? Well I’m not sure about that, the evidence seems to suggest otherwise.

So what does all this have to with me breaking up with Kanye’s ego? Allow me to explain. As I have grown I have made my own mistakes. Mistakes I have had to be accountable for. I have also had to deal with loss and heartbreak. In the process I have begun to despise ego because of the things it has cost me. Ego has cost me relationships and has at times stunted my personal growth by not allowing me to learn the lessons I needed to. The layers I have added to the person that I am make it difficult for me to continue embracing ego.

So that’s why I am breaking up with Kanye’s ego. Kanye’s ego is something I have always embraced and it has always enabled my own ego. I have so many of my own experiences to draw from and that has made me more comfortable in my own skin. I am leaning more on my own experiences to define myself more. When I think about the rants and outbursts I see an ugliness the man I aspire to be finds very uncomfortable with. Kanye is still is one of my personal heroes, but his ego can’t be my imaginary friend anymore. Me and his music, we good. I just hope that now that his current girlfriend is pregnant having a kid will renew and reinvigorate him and perhaps fill the void his Mum left as well as bring back some of the soul and jokes back into his music.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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