In The Future of the Funk, playwright Najaa Young chronicles her 20-year passion for hip-hop. Its like that relationship that you cant figure out why youre still in it, she says. Some days, its just not good for you. The performance premieres this weekend as part of Cleveland Public Theatre's Big [Box] series.
Young, 34, says she truly grew up with hip-hop. She was a music-devouring teen when many of raps pioneers were revolutionizing pop music. She fell in love with the beats and rhymes of Public Enemy and Eric B. & Rakim. It was socially conscious, she says. Then something happened. Now, its odes to bitches, she says. The majority of todays hip-hop is about money and girls. It all sounds the same. And the really creative things never get on radios playlists.
The Future of the Funk, which the Clevelander wrote last summer, searches for old-school salvation, just as hip-hop marks its 30th anniversary. This is about the rise and decline of hip-hop and its globalization, says Young. Its impacted fashion and the way that we speak to one another. A DJ spins tunes onstage, while dancers, rappers, and poets take turns chronicling the history of the music. All the while, Young -- an actress whos staying behind the scenes this time -- wrestles with her love-hate relationship. I continue to listen to hip-hop, and I continue to purchase it, she says. But its so hard to find something thats unique.
Still, shes hopeful. And The Future of the Funk is an optimistic piece. Like a mother who pines for the return of a wayward child, Young -- a self-proclaimed pop-culture junkie -- looks forward to the day when raps bling era winds down. I still love hip-hop, and I still see all the redeeming qualities, she says. Thats why Im sticking with it.
Sat., Jan. 20, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 21, 3 p.m.