As of Aug. 11, 2023, hip-hop welcomed its 50th anniversary as a genre. For those who love the music style, as well as the upcoming holiday season, "The Hip Hop Nutcracker," coming to Michigan State University's Wharton Center on Dec. 6 is the event to attend.
An adaptation of "The Nutcracker" by Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, "The Hip Hop Nutcracker" fuses the rap music genre with classical strings into a contemporary dance Broadway show.
Among the show's stacked cast is legendary rapper and singer Kurtis Blow. Blow, the MC for "The Hip Hop Nutcracker," called the role "another feather in (his cap)" over his over 40-year career.
He discussed what motivated him to get into theater and join the Emmy award-winning show.
"I was doing a show over in the Bronx one time and a friend of mine came up, his name is Bill Stefani," Blow said. "Bill came backstage and he said, 'man, man, you would be an awesome show, and you would be great to host this Hip Hop Nutcracker.' So I went out to NJ Pak over in New Jersey."
A big fan of musical fusions involving rap and hip-hop, Blow said he was "amazed" by the show's score.
"I heard this sound, this classical music and the funky beats under these classical tracks of Tchaikovsky," he said. "I said, 'man, I have to be a part (of this).'"
Since he joined "The Hip Hop Nutcracker" over a decade ago, Blow said the show has evolved and refined its spectacle.
"Jennifer Weber created it, and she always comes up (with things) throughout the years, you know, changes and transitions," Blow said. "I call it 'Evolution of Dance' to see how it grows and it changes from year to year. We owe that all to Jennifer Weber."
Blow also mentioned the "togetherness" of the cast and what it's like to work with so much talent. He said the collaborative atmosphere and constant love makes the group a family.
"That is what it's all about – the peace, love, the unity, having safe fun," Blow said. "We go out there and I see these kids out there, man ... they give 100% every night, you know. Actually, I dubbed them the B-boy, B-girl Dream Team. And it’s amazing – we have assembled the greatest dancers from around the world."
Blow has been involved in the hip-hop music industry for much of its 50 years; he became the first rap artist to record a certified gold single, sign with a record label and embark on an international tour. He touched on his longevity and what it’s like to perform in such an iconic year in music.
"Well, the one word that comes to my mind when you talk about the 50th anniversary of hip-hop is grateful," Blow said. "I am so grateful to still be here and be able to witness all of the love and all of the passion, all of the spirit and the unity and the fun that's happening right now."
Blow urged people to bring out their families to "The Hip Hop Nutcracker" for the holiday season.
"It’s a mashup of the whole hip-hop idea that we can fuse with classical music," he said. "The time is music of Tchaikovsky, and then you have the B-boy, B-girl Dream Team coming out there and doing their most incredible moves – power moves poppin' and lockin.' It’s amazing to see this classical music and hip-hop funky beats happening at the same time."
The "Hip Hop Nutcracker" will take place at MSU's Wharton Center in East Lansing on Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.
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