Flavour caught up with Bashy and Akala to find out a little more about The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company and their participation in the First Direct Dialogue Festival.
The four-day festival took place took place in Notting Hill from the 2nd to the 5th November, showcasing a diverse selection of artists, fusing music, comedy, debate and rhyme, in a four-day celebration of the spoken word.
Tell me about taking part in the First Direct Dialogue Festival and of course working with The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company?
It’s cool because ive worked with The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company and Akala before but for me it’s a chance to marry both of my God given talents, my acting and rapping. You rarely get opportunities to put them both together and this is one of those times. Obviously Akala is a friend of mine so it’s good to work with him.
How did the collaboration come about?
Akala called me, (Laughs). Its supposed to be a network of sisterhood and brotherhood, your suppose to be able to pick up the phone or send an email and say I’d like to get you involved in this what do you think. You either say yes or no, nine time out of ten if you respect their artistry their supposed to be doing something good so you’ll end up saying yes.
Tell us about your Hip Hop Shakespeare Company?
The official tag line for The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company is about exploring cultural, social, and linguistic parallels to the works of William Shakespeare in modern Hip Hop. It’s about putting both those art forms into context, some people like to look down on Hip Hop; they don’t know how Hip Hop even came to exist; or having any in depth knowledge of the philosophical cultural lyrical content of Hip Hop music before they write it off. Some people look at the surface, couple music videos and say I’m not interested.
This is also a similar case with Shakespeare, a lot of people think they know about Shakespeare but they don’t know anything. We think that he spoke posh and he was this elite aristocratic guy. Well he didn’t go to Uni, 90% of his audience couldn’t read or write. The so called Queens English wasn’t invented, that way of speaking came 150 years after Shakespeare died. That kind of accent was only invented to differentiate rich from poor, it’s a manufactured accent. It’s not the Queens English, people spoke like Cornish people. The word hours would have been pronounced it like “huurs”, mood and blood used to rhyme.
What is it about Shakespeare that made you want to name the company after him?
He’s seen by many, as the most unattainable elitist intellectual entity that existed. It’s like wow, Shakespeare, gosh it’s so difficult! Don’t get me wrong I think he’s a genius I’m not trying to belittle it, but he’s a human, he’s a dude, and there’s been plenty of people throughout history with talent.
Don’t be fooled about this guy, firstly his stories weren’t even all his stories, half of them were copies from other peoples stories that he put his own spin on. For instance take Hamlet for example, it’s a Dutch story. What I’m trying to say is it’s all about bringing it back down to earth, enabling people who don’t have an academic mind, understand and relate to Shakespeare.
Shakespeare can get built up so much by academia, that they can almost become super human, and then you get people saying Shakespeare’s complicated. I can do a workshop with young kids, within three hours they’ve got a whole different understanding. Their like “Oh I never knew that, its simple then.” Shakespeare is perceived as difficult. Once you understand the words that you don’t understand- thou, art, thee, thy, thou and what they mean and how to use them, your pretty much sorted. I’m not saying none of it is deep but so is rap, take for instance Wu Tang Clan raps. All now as a big man I’ve gone back and listened and I’m like rah is that what he was saying. Rap isn’t any different. The point is to show you once you take away the image of what a rapper is and the image of what Shakespeare is most people despite what they may think immediately open up their minds.
Tell us about the lyrical night in the Dialogue Festival?
It’s a fusion, that’s what Hip Hop Shakespeare is all about; a mix of Shakespeare and music. We’ve got a quiz game called ‘Is it Hip Hop or Shakespeare’, we present little quotes and one liners, some taken from hip hop, some taken from Shakespeare and you’ve got to guess which comes from which. No one person has ever got it right! I did it with Sir Ian McKellen and he never got them all right, and he’s been acting Shakespeare for 35years. I’ve done this with English teacher after English teacher. It’s kinda like being blind folded and asked to guess whether it’s Coke or Pepsi and you can’t tell.
What can we expect from the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company in the future?
At the moment we’re trying to get a full scale play done, for TV as well as for theatres. We want to collaborate with other artists expanding Hip Hop music and Shakespeare; and of course continue to work with young people.
Bashy, you choose to name your new mixtape Crunchie, why?
Honestly you know why, when I was on tour with the Gorilla’s me and Kano kept on laughing at our anerican friend, he kept on saying Crunchie to everything, it was just a funny sounding word that he kept on saying. (Laughs) It just sounds funny to us so I just said im going to call my mixtape that because its fun, theres no deep meaning to it. A lot of things that I do are for fun. People take it a lot deeper, there like hes got an obsession with sweets. Nope its just fun.
Why did you decide to make it free?
Because sometimes I just like people to hear the stuff, I don’t think you should sell a mixtape, im voicing other peoples beats and stuff, and its me having fun, and that’s why it free, I jst want people to hear what im doing, ive spent a lot of time acting so here have some free stuff, the fans they appreciate it, as long as people appreciate they can have it.
What’s your favourite track on the mixtape?
Theres two that I really like, I like angels, cant fly which I sampled Ed Sheeran, and world lock with gappy ranks aswell.
What other projects are you currently working on?
I’ve got a channel four drama coming out that’s called Black mirror that I star in alongside Daniel colunya and Rupert everet, its set in the future about how people make money and live in boxes. A film called the man inside which comes out next year and stars david haywood, peter mulan and michelle ryan, one called cocknies vs zombies, one called my brother the devil. Ive got a album that finished that iom gonna piut out next year and it fts like a few 10ten artists number oners. Its good man. Exciting times!
Check out www.hiphopshakespeare.com and Follow Akala – @akalamusic @HHSHAKESPEARE
Bashy – @Bashy