Presentation Title

P-13 The Limits of Generic Hybridity: Comedy Meets Hip Hop in the Q Brothers’ Othello: The Remix

Presenter Status

Associate Professor, English

Preferred Session

Poster Session

Start Date

26-10-2018 2:00 PM

End Date

26-10-2018 3:00 PM

Presentation Abstract

The Q Brother’s Othello: The Remix (2012), debuted as part of the Globe to Globe Festival, with this reimagining of Shakespeare’s Othello as a rapper on the rise destroyed by a jealous member of his crew serving as the U.S. production. The Q Brothers applied a genre that, though global, has long been associated with black America as a way of making Shakespeare accessible to modern audiences. Consequently, this entry positioned U.S. national identity as progressive, multiethnic, and irreverent via hip hop, a hotly debated and racialized genre. Othello: The Remix thus pushed back on both Shakespeare and the Globe as high-status national symbols of British identity imbricated in a white, colonial history and reputation. Indeed, anxiety over this radical approach informs the performance, which contains a purpose-written prologue explaining the Q Brother’s mission and justifying their approach, which they shortened and altered in subsequent U.S. performances. In it, they identify two strategies for making Othello relevant: the use of hip hop to reframe the play, and an emphasis on the comedy they locate in Shakespeare’s tragedy. Though effective regarding audience appeal, when the genres of comedy and hip hop intersect in this performance, they create competing racial narratives. The comedy skews toward stereotyping even as the hip-hop framing gestures towards the difficulties pervasive in a black man’s rise “to the top.” Ultimately, the push and pull ceases; comedy takes center stage, thereby muting the performance’s exploration of racial identity and racial representation. Indeed, because of its heightened humor, the performance marginalizes hip hop’s potential for progressivism and racial polemic. What the audience is left with instead, then, in The Globe’s authorizing space, is an operetta progressive in its Shakespearean appropriation but one that says little about race and identity—an often decidedly un-humorous topic. The effective hip-hop framing is therefore neutered, functioning simply to uphold common critiques of hip hop as a genre—namely, an emphasis on violence, glorification of gangster culture, and rampant misogyny—without the dialectic of its most valued feature: its ability to potently reframe and communicate the cultural experience of blackness.

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Oct 26th, 2:00 PM Oct 26th, 3:00 PM

P-13 The Limits of Generic Hybridity: Comedy Meets Hip Hop in the Q Brothers’ Othello: The Remix

The Q Brother’s Othello: The Remix (2012), debuted as part of the Globe to Globe Festival, with this reimagining of Shakespeare’s Othello as a rapper on the rise destroyed by a jealous member of his crew serving as the U.S. production. The Q Brothers applied a genre that, though global, has long been associated with black America as a way of making Shakespeare accessible to modern audiences. Consequently, this entry positioned U.S. national identity as progressive, multiethnic, and irreverent via hip hop, a hotly debated and racialized genre. Othello: The Remix thus pushed back on both Shakespeare and the Globe as high-status national symbols of British identity imbricated in a white, colonial history and reputation. Indeed, anxiety over this radical approach informs the performance, which contains a purpose-written prologue explaining the Q Brother’s mission and justifying their approach, which they shortened and altered in subsequent U.S. performances. In it, they identify two strategies for making Othello relevant: the use of hip hop to reframe the play, and an emphasis on the comedy they locate in Shakespeare’s tragedy. Though effective regarding audience appeal, when the genres of comedy and hip hop intersect in this performance, they create competing racial narratives. The comedy skews toward stereotyping even as the hip-hop framing gestures towards the difficulties pervasive in a black man’s rise “to the top.” Ultimately, the push and pull ceases; comedy takes center stage, thereby muting the performance’s exploration of racial identity and racial representation. Indeed, because of its heightened humor, the performance marginalizes hip hop’s potential for progressivism and racial polemic. What the audience is left with instead, then, in The Globe’s authorizing space, is an operetta progressive in its Shakespearean appropriation but one that says little about race and identity—an often decidedly un-humorous topic. The effective hip-hop framing is therefore neutered, functioning simply to uphold common critiques of hip hop as a genre—namely, an emphasis on violence, glorification of gangster culture, and rampant misogyny—without the dialectic of its most valued feature: its ability to potently reframe and communicate the cultural experience of blackness.