"Othello: the Remix" Shows That Hip-Hop is Taking Over the Mainstream Theater Scene

Show-Score | By Samantha Dupler | Oct 31, 2016

GQ raps as Iago about "why [he] hates the Moor", featuring Jackson Doran as Emilia, JQ as Roderigo, Postell Pringle as Othello, and DJ Supernova

"Verse is definitely back," JQ—one half of the Q Brothers—tells me. And just moments after witnessing the above performance, a sampling of a hip-hop reinterpretation of Shakespeare's classic text, I can only agree in awe.

With shows like "Hamilton" and "Vietgone" making rap and hip-hop accessible to a whole new audience, it's only natural that the work of Shakespeare would follow suit, proving that "the Bard himself was the original master of rhyme and rhythm."

Hip-hop's influence on theater only seems to be growing, the mediums merging to create a whole new genre of rhyme and performance. And if you ask the Q Brothers, they see no signs of this trend slowing down.

"In Shakespeare's time, verse was at its peak, and I think that's where we're headed again," JQ continues. "People just like things better when they're in rhyme: Spike Lee movies are in rhyme, Broadway is in rhyme. They're the first kind of stories you hear: I have a two-year kid, and all of the stories I read to him are in rhyme."

The story of "Othello: the Remix", presented by John Leguizamo and created by the Q Brothers, reimagines Othello as a hip-hop superstar, who slights fellow rapper Iago over a record deal, choosing to promote the super-slick Cassio instead.

(The cast of "Othello: The Remix")

The Q Brothers aim to eventually produce their own versions of the entire Shakespeare canon, but started with Othello for one very specific reason. The play was commissioned by the Globe Theatre as part of the 2012 Globe to Globe Festival, which sought to produce all of Shakespeare's plays in different languages.

"They obviously weren't going to let Americans use the Queen's English," actor Jackson Doran explained. A longtime collaborator with the Q brothers, he plays both Emilia and Cassio in the production. "So they said, 'Why don't you use the language of American hip-hop?' And this was the play that they wanted us to do."

  • What do you think about hip-hop's growing influence on mainstream theater? Tell us in the comments!