Recently Closed Tupac Musical ‘Holler If Ya Hear Me’ Wasn’t Welcomed By Broadway
But then again, if the theater is hip-hop's final frontier—having already taken over as the mainstream's genre of choice and proven successful in the film and television worlds—then who better than Tupac to bridge that gap? He's one of the most celebrated poets the game has ever seen, and his message stood for more than just the street life; 'Pac was an artist in every sense of the word, and his appeal crossed demographics and coasts to the point where today, nearly 20 years since his death in 1996, he still stands as a titan in hip-hop.
It was that broad appeal that attracted Eric Gold, a veteran television and film producer, to Holler If Ya Hear Me, which starred Saul Williams and told the story of a street-weary youth trying to break free of the violent cycle bred by the streets through the lyrics and songs of 'Pac. Gold, along with 'Pac's mother, Afeni Shakur, and fellow producers Jessica Green, Marcy Kaplan-Gold, Chunsoo Shin and Anita Waxman, brought ticket prices down to an affordable $40, plastered the NYC subway in banner ads and otherwise did what they could to bring awareness to the ambitious project. The show was the first of its kind to be centered completely on the world of hip-hop, with rap music as the basis of the musical's entire palette.
Its premise was bold from the start, but the project wound up failing miserably. Early positive reviews—Time and Rolling Stone among them—couldn't fend off the less favorable opinions of Billboard and, particularly, the New York Times. It was dogged by accusations of a shallow storyline and a lack of depth, but the more damning issue that arose was surprisingly low ticket sales that couldn't sustain the $8 million production, and stuck the show with the ignominy of being one of the worst-selling musicals in recent memory.
Before Holler If Ya Hear Me's final performance Sunday night (July 20), XXL spoke with Gold, one of the show's most vocal producers, to talk about the goals of the production, what went wrong with the execution and what this means for the future of hip-hop on the Broadway stage. —Dan Rys
Previously: Everything You Need To Know About The Tupac Biopic
Review: Holler If Ya Hear Me Tries To Bring The Words Of Tupac To Life
Tupac-Inspired Play Holler If Ya Hear Me Isn’t Selling Well On Broadway
Tupac Broadway Musical, Holler If Ya Hear Me, Is Shutting Down Early