(CBS NEWS) – On a Broadway stage in the middle of Times Square, the music of 2-Pac has been reinvented.
Seventeen years after Oakland Rapper, Tupac Shakur was killed in a drive-by shooting, his gangster rap has become Broadway show tunes in the musical, “Holler If Ya Hear Me.”
“If you look at his music written on paper, it’s like, ‘Wow, look at the phrasing of those words. Look at that poetry. You know, this is Shakespearean,'” said Kenny Leon, the show’s Tony Award-winning director.
Using 21 songs that Shakur wrote, the play tells the story of an ex-con freshly released from prison who wants to turn over a new leaf. But when a friend is gunned down, he’s forced back into gang life.
Although it is a story told through the music of Shakur, “it is not an autobiographical story about his day-to-day life,” said Leon.
Of the 21 songs, two of them were not originally songs. “‘The Rose from Concrete,” for instance, was taken from a poem that Shakur penned.
“This was a kid that wrote every single day — every single day he is writing something about the world in which he lives,” Leon said. “You put his lyrics in the context of a story where you care about the people, and then the songs take on a greater meaning.”
The idea of turning a commercial artist’s music into a Broadway musical is nothing new; “American Idiot” featured songs by East Bay band Green Day, and jukebox musicals are among the Great White Way’s most popular.
But no musical has ever converted gangster rap to the stage before.
Leon said, “To the real hardcore Pac fans it’s like, ‘Wow, yeah, I’m in the groove, it’s good.’ For those people who are traditional Broadway followers and never knew Tupac, they’re like, ‘This is a great story.'”
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