HipHop News

Russell Simmons Hopes ‘The Scenario,’ Has Mass Appeal

The hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons is teaming up with Universal Music Group to produce “The Scenario,” a musical set to three decades of hip-hop. The show, originally announced in 2015, is to premiere in New York during the 2017-18 season before embarking on a 30-city tour of “traditional and nontraditional venues,” according to the Universal Music Group.

“I want everyone to see it,” Mr. Simmons said in a phone interview on Saturday. “I want kids in the ’hood in Detroit to see it. I want sophisticated theatergoers in New York to see it. And they’re going love it whether they’re 50 or 14.”

Mr. Simmons, 59, emphasized the intended cross-generational appeal of “The Scenario,” which he said would include songs from Universal’s catalog that cover rap’s ascension as a dominant pop-culture force.

“The difference between Rakim and Kendrick Lamar is minimal,” Mr. Simmons said, referring to two hip-hop artists whose rises occurred nearly three decades apart. Tracks by Drake, Mr. Lamar, Kurtis Blow and the Sugarhill Gang are among those being strongly considered for the production, Mr. Simmons said.

Universal owns Def Jam Recordings, which Mr. Simmons founded in 1984 with the producer Rick Rubin. The label, whose artists have included Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and Kanye West, is credited with helping to bring hip-hop to the mainstream.

Named for a song by A Tribe Called Quest, “The Scenario” will follow a few artists as they “struggle and evolve,” according to Mr. Simmons, and he said the production would more closely resemble a concert than a Broadway musical. The audience will have a sizable role, playing on a call-and-response tactic often used in hip-hop.

“There’s a lot of technology that we’ll be using to connect the audience and the stage in a way that Broadway hasn’t done,” Mr. Simmons said.

“The Scenario” will pair Mr. Simmons with Universal’s Scott Landis, Def Pictures’ Jake Stein and the “Rock of Ages” producers Scott Prisand and Jamie Bendell. The author and hip-hop historian Dan Charnas (“The Big Payback”) is writing the show’s book.

“The Scenario” follows the breakout success of “Hamilton,” the hip-hop musical that set a record for the most money ever made in a single week by a Broadway show. On Saturday, Mr. Simmons said that he loved that show and was thrilled about its success, but he bristled at the idea that its popularity has been surprising given the omnipresence of hip-hop in American life.

“There’s a lack of insight on the part of the gatekeepers and the producers of content,” he said. “I can go anywhere and hear hip-hop. I think ‘Hamilton’ does help them buy in, but it’s overdue. It’s long overdue, and I’m excited that I’m part of it.”

nytimes.com

 
 

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