Verb’s Top 5 Hype Men: Bobby Byrd

“But my last choice –my favorite—all time Hype Man—
Bobby Byrd
Listen to them James Brown records from the 60s—On Sex Machine–he’s the guy sayin’
“Get on up” after James says “Stay on the scene” –“Get on up”
Sex Machine don’t work—none of these old James songs work without him
“Stay on the scene! Get on up! Like a sex machine! Get on up!”- Verb from HYPE MAN p. 84

Verb’s last and favorite of his top 5 hype men is Bobby Byrd!

Bobby Byrd was long time Hype man, and co-vocalist to James Brown.  He is best known for his performances in Licking Stick – Licking StickGet Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine and Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved. Bobby Byrd and James Brown met in a Georgia youth detention facility where Byrd’s local baseball team played the prison team of which Brown was a member. It was Bobby Byrd’s family that sponsored his release and took him in afterwards

Check out the video of James Brown and Bobby Byrd performing “Sex Machine” and you will get a great picture of what Verb is describing in the play:

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Music Appropriation: White Rappers Respond

The stylistic appropriation of black music by white artists, like Pinnacle, is one of the main thematic threads that weaves throughout Hype Man. Appropriation, as defined by Cambridge English Dictionary, is “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.” In the play,  Verb directly challenges Pinnacle on his responsibility to black culture as someone who benefits from their cultural innovations. Rappers in the commercial hip hop scene have wrestled with these same concerns and many have spoken publicly about how they approach the issue as artists. Here’s a selection of some of those comments:

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Mackelmore in Concert

“You need to know your place in the culture. Are you contributing or are you taking? Are you using it for your own advantage or are you contributing? I saw a tweet that said, “Hip hop was birthed out of the civil rights movement.” This is a culture that came from pain and oppression. It was the byproduct [of white oppression]. We can say we’ve come a long way since the late Seventies and early Eighties, but we haven’t. Just because there’s been more successful white rappers, you cannot disregard where this culture came from and our place in it as white people. This is not my culture to begin with. As much as I have honed my craft…I do believe that I need to know my place.” – Macklemore,  Rolling Stone Magazine 

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Yelawolf (Left) and Eminem (Right)

“Eminem: We make jokes about it, but I don’t think we talk about it in depth. As I was listening to his music, I am not even thinking about any of that shit. It’s just the music. That’s one of the things that’s great about it. I’m not even thinking about it when I hear the music.
Yelawolf: We do poke fun of it because it’s funny. Like, he calls me White Dog.
Mikey Fresh:
Oh, you called him that on the BET Awards Cypher. I didn’t realize it was an ongoing joke?
EM: Yeah, or Beige Sheep. [Laughs]
YW: Cracker Nuts. Whatever, I think it’s kinda unspoken.
EM: We deal with it enough as it is. So now, let’s make music.
YW: Let’s make great records. At the end of the day, that’s all there is to do.”

-Eminem and Yelawolf, VIBE interview

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G-Eazy

“At the end of the day, I fell in love with making music at an early age, I’ve been doing this for 10 years and it comes from a genuine place. I didn’t grow up around all white people, I never wanted to gentrify hip-hop, I’ve never wanted to speak to an all-white audience. I’m just making music and I’m paying my bills.”

– G Eazy, The Guardian 

 

 

 

When considering these rappers’ points of view, and Pinnacle’s own point of view throughout the play, it’s clear that white hip hop artists have varying levels of understanding and complicity in the way they handle questions about musical appropriation. Is there a way to borrow from another culture while also respecting the folks who created it? As Pinnacle and Verb grapple with this question in Hype Man, it’s clear that real world rappers also have a lot to consider regarding their place in the industry.

Verb’s Top 5 Hype Men: Sen Dog

“Sen Dog from Cypress Hill
“Feelin insane got no brains!”

— Verb in HYPE MAN, p. 84

Verb’s fourth favorite hype man is Sen Dog from the rap group Cypress Hill, who first came up in the West Coast rap scene of the early 1990s.

 

 

Cuban-born Senen Reyes, or Sen Dog, is most known for his performances in the Cypress Hill tracks “How I Could Just Kill a Man,” “Rap Superstar,” and “Insane In the Brain,” which Verb quotes with Sen Dog’s famous line above. While B-Real led on vocals, Sen Dog’s deep voice added a contrasting element as he barked ad-libs that went on to become memorable earworms.

Hear Sen Dog’s iconic line in the music video for “Insane in the Brain” below:

Sen Dog took a hiatus from Cypress Hill in the late 1990s to form the rap/rock group SX-10, which blended Funk and Latin influences. More recently, he’s also released music with his heavy metal band Powerflo. Check him out as the front man in Powerflo’s music video for “Where I Stay”:

The World of Hype Man: Costume Inspiration

As the team explores the musical influences and contemporaries for the characters in Hype Man, we’ve also looked at the way these influences might manifest in the costume design for the characters. Below are some of the images and cultural inspiration we’ve been referencing when thinking about Verb, Peep One, and Pinnacle’s personal style.

Kdot, Bryson Tiller, and Chance the Rapper have served as useful reference points for the casual, layered look we’re exploring for Verb.

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Some possible style influences for Peep One include Amandla Stenberg, Venus X, Slim Woods, Willow Smith, and Princess Nokia — people who feel effortlessly fashion forward, or who blur the sartorial lines between masculine and feminine.

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A leading style inspiration for Pinnacle is G-Eazy, whose look is refined and put together, but still relaxed and based on simple pieces and muted colors.

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Friday Playlist – Vol. 3

During our rehearsal process, we’ve been checking out a variety of music videos and clips of live performances as we develop ideas about what Pinnacle, Verb, and Peep One’s performance styles and stage presence might be like. Each week we’ll compile a few selections here on the blog — here are this week’s links!

Kendrick Lamar is incredibly dynamic onstage — the way his body becomes the beat makes for a high energy live performance, and his use of the mic stand as a tool to focus and ground him in the space is worth noting.

Yelawolf has command of his stage, whether he’s walking around the stage during a break or spitting raps at the mic:

Bruno Mars might not be the first artist that comes to mind when you think of Hype Man, but the high energy, the sense of joy, and the use of levels and specific movement to punctuate beats in this performance are all things worth exploring:

This clip of Rezz provides a few different examples of how a DJ might be present onstage — the video is super long, so skip through a bit, but note the way her movements and vibe respond to the changes in the beat:

Dr. Dre: The most influential producer in hip hop history

“So many dope women out here. I can put on for em. I can build a movement just like Dr. Dre did. That can be my brand.” — Peep One in HYPE MAN, p.56

In rehearsal, the team has been exploring the intricacies of Peep One’s character journey throughout the play, including the way she begins to find her voice as a female beat maker in the hip hop industry. Peep One mentions Dr. Dre multiple times throughout the play, suggesting that his career success and influence in hip hop is something she aims for in her own work. Verb also references Dr. Dre’s song “Deep Cover” while telling a story about a high school party later in the play.

So who is Dr. Dre, and what innovations has he contributed to hip hop?

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“Initially known to the world as an MC for gangsta godfathers N.W.A., Dr. Dre went on to become the single most influential producer in hip-hop history. With 1993’s The Chronic, he married breezy funk samples to hardcore imagery, creating the G-Funk style and inspiring a host of imitators. He would later discover and nurture some of the best rappers ever, including Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and 50 Cent.” — Rolling Stone

Not only is Dr. Dre a groundbreaking music producer and beat maker that discovered some of the most famous rappers in history, but he also popularized rap by marrying early gangsta rap’s commercial sheen with the grit of the neighborhoods from which the genre came. This is the legacy Dr. Dre has carved in the hip hop industry, and what Peep One would like to model for women in hip hop.

For a deeper look at Dr. Dre’s sound and career highlights, check out “Dr. Dre’s 16 Greatest Contributions to Music, Ranked” on Vulture. The list includes the aforementioned song “Deep Cover,” which features a lot of Dre’s stylistic hallmarks, as well as tracks from his groundbreaking album The Chronic and other collaborations and high points spanning his career.