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Company One’s ‘How We Got On’ is a musical lesson in hip-hop history

July 18, 2013
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Published in Metro

When one thinks about the birth of hip-hop, a Midwestern suburb isn’t exactly the first place that springs to mind.

“We think of a Bronx or Brooklyn or Compton sort of story,” says Summer Williams, director of Company One’s new production “How We Got On.” “But this play looks at how hip-hop has become part of American culture and how that’s happened.”

The story revolves around three teenagers — Hank, Julian and Luann — who are working through their suburban teen angst by becoming immersed in hip-hop and rap music. The play takes place in 1988, the year MTV’s now-defunct “Yo, MTV Raps!” premiered, pushing the genre to the forefront of our pop culture consciousness and quickly turning hip-hop culture into a national phenomenon.

“The play uses hip-hop and rap, and rhythm and rhyme, to tell this story,” says Williams. “There’s a DJ on stage who is literally mixing and remixing the play as it’s happening.”

Veteran hip-hop heads who’ve been fans since the late ’80s will recognize many of the well-known songs of the era, but the play also features a number of original raps penned by spoken word artist Idris Goodwin, the show’s playwright.

“At its heart, it’s a coming of age story,” says Goodwin. “It looks at three very different 15-year-olds and how their lives intersect through the vehicle of hip-hop and rap.”

Goodwin believes that anyone can relate to this play, regardless of their musical tastes.

“It reminds you of the time when you’d stay out super late with your friends on the playground and you’d share some of your secret self with them,” she says.

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