Will Hip-Hop Truly Become a Broadway Fixture in the "Post-Hamilton" Years?

Chris Peterson

  • OnStage Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Now that the over-exposure dust of Hamilton has settled a bit, we can start discussing the musicals' actual impact on musical theatre and the Broadway industry. Last year everyone(including myself) praised it and stated how it would change the course of how Broadway can broaden its horizons and start to produce more hip-hop musicals. But will they? 

Other than the two smash hits from Lin-Manuel Miranda, Broadway hasn't exactly been eager to bring hip-hop to its audiences who usually prefer the more Jazzy show tunes they're used to. In fact, in the years since In the Heights, only one true hip-hop musical has made it to Broadway. That was Holler If Your Hear Me, a jukebox musical based on the musical of Tupac Shakur, which also starred Christopher Jackson. While it featured some incredible music, the musical was problematic and closed after only 38 performances in 2014. 

Before that, there hasn't really been a true hip-hop musical on Broadway. Some might suggest Bring in the Noise, Bring in Da Funk, but that was more of a dance showcase featuring hip-hop and R&B music. 

So given the critical and commercial success of In the Heights and Hamilton, why haven't producers jumped at the chance to feature more hip-hop on Broadway? 

Well it's a complicated answer but it really boils down to the fact that there is a mass population that doesn't understand what hip-hop is and won't acknowledge it as actual "music". 

In most comments I see on the subject, many theatre goers reject hip-hop as music fit for Broadway because it's not technically music and most of the time they contain expletive and sexual references. To believe either is incredibly ignorant and borderline racist. 

For those who think hip-hop or rap music is just about drinking, objectifying women and doing drugs, clearly haven't listened to rock or pop music in the last 60 years but also haven't listened to the works of KRS one, Nas, Common or Tribe Called Quest. For every song that does fit the stereotypes of what hip-hop is, there are dozens more with themes of social commentary, inequality and hardship.

This is why I believe mainstream Broadway audiences doesn't truly embrace what hip-hop is, because its themes seem foreign. Not for nothing but given the demographics of who attends Broadway shows, not many can claim they fully grasp hip-hop culture. 

Regardless, I do believe that hip-hop has a place on Broadway stages. As we move through the "Millennial" generation, hip-hop has become more and more apart of mainstream culture. If musicals are a reflection of the times, as Hair was in the 1960's, then hip-hop should have a place as well.