Poetry News

From Shakespeare to Jay-Z

By Harriet Staff

Kingsley Daley, who performs under the name Akala, believes the only thing standing between Bill Shakespeare and Jay-Z is 500 years, and he's probably right. According to an article from New Zealand's Otago Daily Times:

Daley, or Akala as he is better known, is the founder of London-based Hip Hop Shakespeare company and works with young people and at-risk youth.

Based on his belief that the themes, words and rhythms of Shakespeare and rappers such as Jay-Z are similar, he holds workshops and live performances that aim to build self-confidence and engage their creative and artistic sides.

"The moment that they see there's this commonality of metaphor, subject matter and a love for words, then they realise Shakespeare is not this irrelevant boring guy from 500 years ago that spoke posh," he says.

One of the first things they do in a Hip Hop Shakespeare workshop is a quiz which takes lines from a rap song and a Shakespeare work to see if participants can distinguish between the two.

"Everyone always gets them wrong," he laughs. Even actor Sir Ian McKellen, who is an expert on Shakespeare, sat the test and couldn't tell the difference between some of the raps and rhymes.

"It's about encouraging young people to be inventive, to not think that they have to play by the rules, and you can be an expert with words and make up your own rules.

Because many young people are completely alienated from Shakespeare, or don't have any entrenched attachment about what Shakespeare was trying to say, they come up with much more profound and human explanations of what they think he was saying."

There are only two rules in my class: You can't say I can't and you can't say I don't know because neither of those are true. If you've got an idea share it. Because a lot of the best writers ever have completely thrown out the grammatical rule-book."

Sounds like a great class. Find the entire article here.

Man, Akala really likes Shakespeare.

Originally Published: July 22nd, 2011