Saul Williams: Tupac Musical Failed Because Iggy Azalea’s Winning
Star actor/poet takes issue with "an Australian girl rapping with a southern accent"
Though Tupac Shakur musical Holler If Ya Hear Me outlasted initial reports of its demise, the Saul Williams-starring show was forced to close on Sunday (July 20) after only one month and 55 performances. Producer Eric Gold blamed the “financial burdens of Broadway” for the musical’s early closing, but the show’s lead thinks there might be a broader sociological reason at play — namely the cultural ascension of a certain caucasian female Australian rapper.
“There is no disconnect between this and Iggy Azalea, an Australian girl rapping with a southern accent, being number one on the charts,” said Williams in a new interview with Rolling Stone. “It’s all related to where we are right now as a culture and within the culture of the arts.”
It’s hard to see the direct impact of “Fancy” on the failed Broadway show, but the rapper/poet/author/actor blames other factors too: “Broadway or America prefers their stories packaged like Rocky at this point. So when we’re onstage with this thing, we knew that it was going to be a struggle and an uphill battle.”
The narrative arc of Holler If Ya Hear Me, which featured Williams as a Midwestern ex-con and dealt with themes of gun violence, certainly wasn’t the same sort of uplifting story that marks shows like Rocky the Musical, and that apparently prompted some ticket-sellers to warn potential customers it was a “downer.”
An Azalea-celebrating society could somehow be to blame for this, sure, but the neutered Tupac tracks that we heard as previews a few months ago certainly didn’t raise a lot of hope. Still despite the cultural climate that Williams is trying to pin down, he’s optimistic about the future of hip-hop on Broadway.
“Who are we fooling? More hip-hop musicals are inevitable if Broadway wishes to survive.”
To be sure, In the Heights was quie a success: