It was just under a year ago that we first reported that a Tupac Shakur musical was in the works. Back in April, it was revealed that singer/poet Saul Williams was cast in the musical, and with Holler If Ya Hear Me set to start preview performances next week, a sample of how a 2Pac-inspired musical sounds like has been released. BuzzFeed has three tracks from Holler If Ya Hear Me — the title track, “California Love,” and “Unconditional Love” — and… it’s definitely a more digestible version of Shakur’s music.
On “Holler If Ya Hear Me,” the grittiness and echoing police sirens that adorned the original are scrubbed clean, transforming the track into the catchy number that lends its name to the musical. “California Love” starts off with a slam poetry intro – Williams’ expertise – before turning into a call-and-response between “Tupac” and the chorus, watering down the G-Funk in the process. Finally, “Unconditional Love” turns into a bluesy track you’d expect to hear Prince perform at one of his after-hour lounge gigs. Would any 2Pac fan rather listen to a Holler cast recording than All Eyez On Me? No way, but at least Saul Williams does a decent job of channeling Tupac his own way instead of blatantly mimicking him. Still, what would Tupac say about the show if he were still alive? He’d probably repeat his now-famous last words.
Previews for Holler If Ya Hear Me begin June 2nd at the Palace Theatre. The Kenny Leon-directed musical itself only uses Shakur’s music; it’s not biographical in any way, much like the use of ABBA in Mamma Mia!. For more info, check out the musical’s official site.