russell simmons is making the next big hip-hop musical

'The Scenario,' which takes its name from a track by A Tribe Called Quest, will chart the rise of hip-hop over 30 years of tunes. Simmons is considering music by Kurtis Blow, Kendrick Lamar, and the Sugarhill Gang.

by Hannah Ongley
06 February 2017, 11:52pm

Russell Simmons is moving in a new direction: musical theater. The pioneering co-founder of Def Jam, which he launched along with Rick Rubin in 1984, has finally detailed plans for the hip-hop musical he announced back in 2015 — when Hamilton was still debuting Off-Broadway. The Scenario takes its name from a track by Queens hip-hop heroes A Tribe Called Quest, and will pack three decades of the genre into a massive run of dynamic performances kicking off later this year. Simmons has paired with Def Jam parent Universal Music Group for the musical, tracking rap's rise via artists from the music giant's eclectic catalog.

"I want everyone to see it," Simmons told the New York Times. "I want kids in the 'hood in Detroit to see it. I want sophisticated theatergoers in New York to see it. And they're going to love it whether they're 50 or 14."

So far Simmons has hinted at tunes by Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Kurtis Blow, and the Sugarhill Gang. "The difference between Rakim and Kendrick Lamar is minimal," Mr. Simmons said, referring to Lamar and one half of the golden age hip-hop duo Eric B. & Rakim. Their seminal debut album Paid in Full celebrates its 30th birthday this year.

Anyone interested in seeing The Scenario will have more than one reason to re-familiarize themselves with Universal's rap catalog. Simmons says he's exploring "a lot of technology" to push the boundaries of Broadway productions, hoping to create something closer to a concert than a traditional musical. One of his ideas is using a call-and-response style tactic to get the audience playing a role. Someone better tell hip-hop musical buff Mike Pence to start polishing his bars. 


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