Will Power, playwright, rapper, teacher, and possessor of a name you always hope exists but never know for sure, just released a "Tempest"/hip hop mashup. All the warning signs were there for it not to be good: the song was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company to coincide with the Olympics, meaning, to hit the imaginary sweet spot where "British" enough, uplifting enough, and universal enough meet (and Power's American, so strike one), it wades into thorny lit crit debate territory over whether Caliban, the play's "half-man" antagonist, is a good touchstone for black culture, and, finally, setting anything to a generic hip hop beat is usually a surefire route to making an educational video for 6th graders.
But this is Will Power we're talking about. He's got that name! And he's a rapper/playwright/activist/teacher! Who else to make a "Tempest"/hip hop mashup? In a making-of video, Power explains how he dug into the assignment by focusing on rhythm, fusing Shakespeare's iambic pentameter (which he compares to a heartbeat) with the front-loaded meter of classic hip hop.
Power and producer Justin Ellington (nephew of Duke) stripped the final track into three versions, all available via SoundCloud ahead of tomorrow's official drop. You can listen to them below: a pure instrumental version, stripped of lyrics, another with just the lyrics, and the actual track. There's definitely a little 6th grade video in there, but hey, that's kinda nice. And the beat and lyrics synch surprisingly well, getting across how enthralled Power is by Shakespeare's musicality. If you're watching the opening ceremony tomorrow, keep an ear out for the lyrics: they're taken from Caliban's "The isle is full of noises" speech, which will be incorporated into the ceremony, and features as text on the Olympics bell (despite the apparent contradiction).
Stream the track below, courtesy the RSC. And let us know what you think!
WATCH Power explain how he and Ellington wrote the song: