Commentary on the Broadway show about Tupac, ‘Holler If Ya Hear Me!’ by Dr. Mutulu Shakur
In these times, we must demand something from the culture. Over the years, the mainstream culture has forced the pop culture to use unthinkable maneuvers to try to destroy Tupac’s essence and the success of his legacy. From objective observation, the mainstream culture hasn’t been successful.
The media has been a tool and a sidekick of political order to destroy, characterize and quiet a voice they oppose. Thus far, Tupac and his legacy, with the help of his fans and family, have defeated their strategy. The death of his persona should not be left in the hands of those who rejected him.
Broadway is an important indicator of any artist’s legacy. It’s a place where the world recognizes such. It’s not a question that Tupac must make it on Broadway, not only for his legacy, but for the endurable spirit of the hip-hop culture and, yes, the struggle. Tupac personifies both aspects.
It is said on Broadway, “If you can make it on Broadway, you can make it anywhere,” but in truth if you are loved everywhere, Broadway should want you there. As the caravans and theater workshops spread his legacy and contributions of the culture that he represented around the shantytowns, favelas and ghettos of the world, his story told on Broadway must be wholeheartedly supported as a symbolic worldwide recognition of his importance and contribution to the art and the struggle.
Broadway is known as the vehicle theater where tragedies, joys, triumphs of events, extraordinary people and extraordinary accomplishments have prevailed.
The tradition of doing a play on his birthday is distinguished by the Broadway play. Broadway theater does not diminish the very real importance of the grassroots and street theaters all over the world but, as we say, “His fans and admirers must overwhelm the Broadway venue as an act of protest – yes, protest!”
We have encountered the manipulation of his legacy and maintained that his work and his life has a universal acceptance, thereby memorializing his legacy in that venue. Tupac wanted change and the mass media resisted that change, because:
- some couldn’t understand it,
- many were afraid, and
- a small conglomerate wanted it silenced.
We, the dreamers, the hopers and the have-nots, understood it, embraced it and were all the way down with it. Tupac’s special ability to be self-revealing through his art is what made him uniquely qualified as an artist to express our desires, fears and vulnerabilities.
Tupac represented the tragedy of change, the triumph of change and the joy of change. He gave us hope, he gave voice to not the voiceless, but to the voices that were rejected, crying out for comprehension and a new tomorrow. He truly felt that pain.
Tupac’s art and his lyrics represented those who wanted in and, yes, those who wanted out, and to be left in their own space. He moved the people in a free-spirited direction, searching for answers to represent us all from the chains of the struggle.
Tupac’s direction was positive, unified, and the task was herculean, especially in light of his own admitted faults, vulnerabilities and unconventional thinking. He was exposed to the world through his lyrics, his performance and songs – a triple threat capability, consequences be damned – and we loved it.
Pac said, “Lace me with the words of destruction and I’ll explode, but supply me with the will to survive and watch the world grow.” And he also said, “Shattered Black talents style thoughts I throw; if it remains in your brain, then of course it grows.”
The new generation must know who he was, what he represented and see the impact that he has left today all over the world. Tupac was not an aberration, a fad or a trend. He was a healer, he was a continuation of a spirit, he was a voice, he was love, he was the struggle and a painter through the manifestation of his art.
He believed we would follow him through his art as he painted the world before our eyes. He saw nothing but his dreams coming true while staring through the world from his rearview. He had found the answer to his question, if dreams come true, by leaving behind his legacy and paving the way for our future of having the first Black president.
He screamed, “Never forget those locked down who fought for our freedom that we enjoy today. They are our political prisoners.”
“Never forget those locked down who fought for our freedom that we enjoy today. They are our political prisoners.” – Tupac Shakur
As with Bob Marley, Hugh Masekela and Nina Simone, when your voice remains as powerful as Tupac’s, the challenge to discern its different forms and genre can seem dyslexic. In fact, for many navigating the presentation of his art and his different forms, venues, various angles and colors begs for intense examination while being forever nimble in its tasks; that is essential for the appreciation of his essence.
The same has been true for the hip-hop culture overall as it arrived to a permanent footprint in the artistic landscape. In the past, someone or some great event ushers in the transition; in this instance, we cannot deny that Tupac was a major contributor in our third eye.
We watched him stubbornly, with severe sacrifices, resist stereotypical typecasting; yes, he braved the expansion, gave his body and soul to save the culture he loved from being kidnapped into the abyss, and had the audacity and the ability to inject into our DNA the real purpose of hip-hop culture that is a vehicle of change. With that, we became whole.
This is a man’s work now integrating the Great White Way. For Tupac, it is ripe to seize the time. In our lives, we define who we are through struggle. We never know if time is precise; we depend on other indicators to guide the way.
The ethereal callings – not to be over-metaphysical, but we come from a different place; we survive off of different laws of the universe. The “stars” – a special ensemble – emerge to transmit this play/legacy into the rightful place in our cultural passage.
Afeni Shakur, his mother, believes in this play. It continues her ever consecrated devotion to assure the memorialization of Tupac and his art and to give it to us. She acknowledges and understands how germane and imperative it is for this era.
Tupac, like Pablo Neruda, performed in his other self. His voice gave the defiant silence of the masses of Chile the courage to resist the oppressive state apparatus. He became the beacon not only for Chile but for Latin America.
So too has the phoenix of Tupac, our true renaissance artist of his generation, gave voice to a jettisoned and ignored culture and demanded respect. We are hip-hop and relevant; this manchild, gone too soon, served us well.
Tupac, the invisible man Curtis Mayfield predicted will come, is still here. Whether he becomes “invisible” depends entirely on us. I prevail on you to support this play now for what it would mean for the future renaissance.
“Right on to the darkness!”
Long live the words of Tupac!
Send our brother some love and light: Dr. Mutulu Shakur, 83205-012, Victorville USP, P.O. Box 3900, Adelanto CA 92301. This story originally appeared at http://mutulushakur.com/site/2014/07/fight-for-the-legacy/.
“Holler If Ya Hear Me” closed after only one month on Broadway, but 26,000 people saw it in 55 performances. And the star, Saul Williams, told Rolling Stone: “I just hope more people find the way to bring it back, because it was the shit! …
“Harry Belafonte said to me after he saw the play: ‘You took an Afrocentric-themed play and placed it on a Eurocentric stage. The problems you’ll face are larger than you think.’ …
“Most people I saw were like, ‘Yo “Holler”; I’ve heard about it, man. I’m going to come check it out in August or September.’ … I didn’t really experience hate. It was just that sense of ‘Oh, it’s there; it’ll be there.’ People don’t necessarily realize that actual support is needed at the beginning of a new idea.”
Asked by Rolling Stone, “Can you imagine a future for ‘Holler If Ya Hear Me’ in a different form?” Saul Williams responded: “It’s clear that Tupac is never going to die. I have no idea what Eric (Gold, the producer) is up to, but they went into this knowing that they could have started with a tour before Broadway, but they wanted that Broadway stamp and this is the cost of that stamp. Anything that involves struggle involves finance. America’s been on the wrong side of history lots of times. We were allies with Germany until Charlie Chaplin came out with ‘The Great Dictator’ and then we were like, ‘Holy fuck’ and we switched sides. When you do something fresh and new, you’re going to face obstacles – and I promise you this story isn’t over.”