Season: 2011

What is hip-hop Theater?

Posted on Sep 24th, 2012 in Artists & Company

Date: August 7, 2011 Author: Claudia Alick

The essence of hip hop truly is the transformation of
existing objects and forms.- KRS-One (Hip-hop Emcee)

• DJ
• MC
• Breaking
• Graffiti art

DJ: The art of hip-hop deejaying or turntablism. We include in this the art of musical composition. In Nexthetics (the term for hip-hop and spoken word aesthetics created at 2003 Ford Foundation Future Aesthetics conference) this element is evidenced not only in sound design, but formal compositional elements of text, as well as choreography. Just as the DJ samples and mixes so does the Nexthetics playwright and performer.

MC: Master of Ceremonies. Emceeing is the job of the rapper. This includes Freestyling (an improvisational form of rapping, performed with few or no previously composed lyrics), rhymed language, and the use of narration.

Breaking: Breaking is a high-energy combination of complex footwork, spins, kicks and 'freezes' - holding a position balanced on hands, head or shoulders. There are four basic elements that form the foundation of breakdance: toprock, downrock (also known as footwork), power moves, and freezes. There are many different variations of hip-hop dancing which include popping, locking, krumping, etc.

Graffiti Art: The visual element of hip-hop. It exists on the streets as, tags or burners: beautiful, complex, illegal signatures and images. Graffiti Art has informed and invaded the worlds of formal art, advertising, and fashion. In theater it is often used in set and costume elements. Sometimes the stories of graff artists are told.

Theater: Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. 

What is hip-hop theater? Who can say? Some people define it by content, others by form, and others by authorship. We are generous and inclusive with our definition.

A Nexthetics Play is one that is based in hip-hop or spoken word poetry culture and actively claims and explores this relationship. This includes plays about hip-hop or spoken word culture (CONTENT), those that use the four elements or spoken word poetry devises (FORM), and those written by hip-hop and spoken word writers (AUTHORSHIP).

This definition is provisional.
The form is still in the midst of creating itself.
Maybe you will write something and
turn this definition on its head.
We invite you to!

“I think the word “hip-hop defines it in and of itself. It’s hip. It’s what’s happening right now. It’s hop—which means, essentially, it’s dance, it’s movement. If this is a movement, it’s not a movement set in stone. So essentially, hip-hop: the movement of the dance of now.” (Chad Boseman, Bling or Revolution)
Danny Hoch defines “Hip-hop theatre” as one that “must fit into the realm of theatrical performance, and…must be by, about, or for the hip-hop generation, participants in hip-hop culture or both.”
(Here we Go Yo: A manifesto for a new hip-hop arts movement)

What is Hip-hop theater to you?