That Girl At The Party was thrilled to be invited to the new Broadway show, Holla If You Hear Me, which uses the music of Tupac Shakur to tell a universal tale of Love, loss, and redemption. Call me Bougie. But I’ll admit that while I like Neo Soul and hip-hop, like Mos Def or Common, I have never been much of a rap fan. With constant talk about guns, sex, violence, and over consumption by folks that can’t afford it, I found most of the rap genre to be unlistenable negative drivel. Thus, despite many activists and intellectuals, like Michael Eric Dyson, telling me that Tupac was different, except for “California Love” (still one of my favorite rap songs ever) and “Dear Mama”, I remained indifferent to most of his music.
In fact, right up until the opening curtain, I was not sure how I would feel about this show. Would it be a negative ghetto mess, like so many films and shows with “urban” settings? But never in my Life, have I been more moved and I was happy to be completely wrong on this one. My eyes were opened for the first time to the amazing poet that Shakur was. This new revelation made me sad for my own ignorance in not recognizing his genius while he was still alive. It also made me sad that I had not met him when I had an opportunity to, while working in the music biz.
From Saul Williams as John, a recently released inmate to Tonya Pinkins, as a grieving mother to the supporting chorus, the performances are excellent on every single count. Saycon Sengbloh, (who is currently the most successful musical actresses on Broadway, having gone straight from Hair to Fela to Motown to this show) positively shines as Corrine, John’s former girlfriend.
Holla If You Hear Me is not a biographical show, it is far more clever than that. It instead uses Tupac’s lyrics to weave a story of Any Urban Neighborhood, USA. It speaks of all the hardships and plights of low income people from gentrification to loved ones in prison to the loss of loved ones from gun violence and more. Sadly, with twenty shootings in NYC, just this past weekend, the show could have easily been set here in NYC. I wish I could just scoop up every kid in every city in America, especially those prone to violence, and get their little butts in the seats of this show! I would love to see this show made into a film in the style of Spike Lee’s of “The Huey Newton Story”. Hey, maybe Spike can even make it! The one small change I would’ve made to the staging is the inclusion of more video projection in the production design.
I was moved to tears at several moments throughout the show when I thought of all the unnecessary loss that has happened in the African-American community due to senseless violence. I want everyone to see this show and learn about this fallen prophet. I want every young person to be brought to this show to introduce them to both Broadway and Tupac’s vital message.