Was Shakespeare the world’s first rapper? In 2009 British rap artist and MOBO award winner Akala accepted a BBC challenge to stage Othello with a hip hop twist. The result was Othello Retold, with 50 Manchester based MCs, musicians, dancers and visual artists. Here is part of their creation:
The course of deception never did run smooth Yet Othello still had more to prove
Cold is his heart, shielded by a cage
His evilness never fades Like a blade with no size As sharp as a colour that blinds
Deception, manipulation, manifested in his creation To divide, step into and override
Faithfulness does not lie but doubt corrupts the mind
Othello’s lost inside his heart skipping the beat The rhythm of Iago’s defeat
Akala believes that Shakespeare and hip hop have a lot more in common that we may imagine. To demonstrate this he posed some quotations and asked if we could tell if they were from Shakespeare or Hip Hop:
HIP HOP OR SHAKESPEARE?
(1) I am reckless, what I do to spite the world.
(2) A dead bird flying through a broken sky.
(3) Hear my soul speak.
(4) Who inflicted this bitter sickness?
Click for answers
Michael Boyd, distinguished artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, has also joined in, stating: “The closest to Shakespeare in contemporary times are rappers”. He singled out Will.i.am and Jay-Z and talked of how Shakespeare and rappers, in comparison with films and TV, speak directly to an audience: “There is something missing with [films and TV shows] that maybe Jay-Z doesn’t miss in a live concert. He is in direct contact with his audience”.