Tupac musical star blames racism for failure of ‘Holler If Ya Hear Me’

Saul Williams also states the musical was too adventurous for Broadway

The star of the Broadway musical based on Tupac Shakur, rapper/poet Saul Williams, has blamed racism for its failure.

Holler If Ya Hear Me closed yesterday (July 20) after just six weeks. Williams, who played the lead character John, said the musical was bound to fail because theatre critics “played into the hands of the American race psyche”.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Williams explained: “There’s actually a generic response when I don’t think critics realise they’re playing into the hands of something that runs deeper than how this made you feel. I am speaking to that American race psyche; that thing that Harry Belafonte said to me after he saw the play, which is: ‘You took an Afrocentric-themed play and placed it on a Eurocentric stage. The problems you’ll face are larger than you think.’”

But Williams said that Holler If Ya Hear Me – based on Shakur’s lyrics and life, rather than a straight biography – would go on to survive after its 55 Broadway performances. Williams claimed producer Eric Gold knew it would fail after opening on Broadway, rather than building up audiences with a tour of smaller theatres first. “They wanted that Broadway stamp,” said Williams. “This is the cost of that stamp… When you do something fresh and new, you’re going to face obstacles and I promise you this story isn’t over.”

Williams, who is now filming romantic drama Dreamscapes, has released seven albums. The most recent was 2011’s ’Volcanic Sunlight’.