Top Ten Shakespeare / Hip-Hop Analogues
trutting and fretting their hours upon the stage, rap acts have more vibrant personality traits than pretty much anything else in the recent American pop consciousness. They inhabit good, evil and the delightful grey areas in between. Shakespeare is the master of vivid characterization; it’s an organic leap to see that the roles our favorite rappers play are often figures and icons we’ve been already read in literature classes. English majors of the world unite: you now have reason to incorporate Mobb Deep into discussion section. A huge shout out to this magnificent blog post whose ability to synthesize two seemingly divergent worlds (rap/college football) was an inspiration. Here’s a list of ten rap acts and their analogous characters in the Shakespearean catalogue.
Henry V – Jay-Z
Apollo could be the third person in this trinity. Totally the captain of everything around him; he can play the audience anyway he wants. Longevity (two Shakespearean Histories = the consistently excellent rap catalogue) and moments of pure transcendence (The St.Crispin’s Day speech/most of The Blueprint). No matter what’s happening, if he’s captain of my team, we’re not losing.
Lady MacBeth – The Game
Sure they get a moment in the sun, but who the hell did they sell to their soul to? So cocky, so unwilling to do any of the dirty work. Yeah, they took losses early in life (L. MacBeth’s infertility = getting accidentally shot), but no one should think they could have done anything on their own.
Richard III – Suge Knight
Complete dictators, capable of betraying everyone around them.
Hamlet – Eminem
Done in by the women around him. Responds in kind with pure misogyny. He’s focused on the past, obsessed with his mind, and only acts on half of his thoughts. At his worst he’s pure ego, but eventually he fleshes himself out without losing his one irreplaceable skill: a pure sense of language.
MacBeth – 50 Cent
You’ve got power, great. But do you have any idea how many people have their swords (literal and metaphoric) drawn against you?
Hippolyta (Midsummer Night’s Dream) – Young Buck
A character so charismatic, great, and powerful should not be under the thumb of a petty, petty ruler (G-Unit/Thesus) who doesn’t know how lucky they are. Never given enough lines.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern – Mobb Deep
Witnesses to something far more powerful and memorable than themselves. As crafty and resourceful as they may be, they’ll always be something of a footnote. Their stage was the largest of all time, and they did arguably as good a job as anyone could in their position (Tom Stoppard’s treatment/The Infamous).
Feste (Twelfth Night) – Snoop Dogg
The aged fool, the juiciest dialogues, impervious sinister charm, seemingly the narrator of their respective stages.
Caliban (The Tempest) – Three 6 Mafia
Surreal, grotesque monster mash that teaches us more about style and the dark side of (in?)humanity then we ever realize.
Portia (The Merchant of Venice) – Dr. Dre
Now this one may have fans up in arms, but I ask for a few more lines. Both are the ultimate dream of young men. Both are a collaborator and partner whose prestige, wealth, and pure beauty can hardly be measured. What would you risk to make it happen (pound of flesh/selling out your old crew)?