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Shakespeare Hip Hop Music

May 01, 2017 2017-05-01

Digital Learning • Learning Support

Parallels Between Shakespeare and Hip-Hop Artists

Founded in 2009 by BAFTA and MOBO award-winning UK hip-hop artist Akala, The Hip-hop Shakespeare Company (THSC) is a music theatre production company aimed at exploring the social, cultural, and linguistic parallels between the works of William Shakespeare and that of modern-day hip-hop artists. Both Shakespeare and hip-hop stretch and shape the usage of the English language, using imagery and especially rhythm to tell a story in a powerful way. The company’s website presents a small selection of videos produced by THSC, along with music from a live event and a video learning tool, Richard II – “Being So Great.” In a recent TEDx Talk, Akala gave multiple examples of hip-hop songs that mimic the iambic rhythm (de-DUM de-DUM) that Shakespeare used for the vast majority of his verse—the language and rhythm fused together in a style so similar that the audience had difficulty deciphering which verse was Shakespeare’s and which was hip-hop. Watch Akala perform “Sonnet 18” at 5:20 in the video.

Plus: Brooklyn hip-hop artist Devon Glover (“The Sonnet Man”) raps Hamlet’s “To Be, Or Not to Be” soliloquy, first in Shakespeare’s language and then in today’s “speak.” The Sonnet Man travels the world rapping Shakespeare’s sonnets and teaching children of all ages The Bard’s words.

Reading/English/Language Arts Music Humanities Cultural Awareness

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