9. Lupe Fiasco – The Cool
Once upon a time Lupe Fiasco was the Next Big Thing in "conscious" hip-hop. Immediately after The Cool dropped, an air of excitement just followed the man around -- much like the one that surrounded Kanye West after the release of The College Dropout. Except Lupe's lyrics were smarter, his attitude was more nuanced, his rhymes were both quicker and wittier. And for one album, he bested his colleague's theatricality.
There's no shortage of Faust retellings in pop culture (in fact there's another in this list), but Lupe's interpretation mixes in equal parts allegory and autobiography. Lupe's characters in The Cool all strive for greatness, and face a choice between different sorts of good and evil. Lupe becomes every aspiring rapper that has ever been or will be, and along the way writes some of his most heartfelt numbers; "Hip Hop Saved My Life" is so earnest that any lesser emcee would make it laughable. But the finest moments on The Cool come when Lupe goes bad. His stint as a mafioso cheeseburger in "Gotta Eat" stands out, as does his ice-cold Mephistopheles in "Put You On Game."
A staged version of The Cool could be as past-meets-present as its premise. Its multifaceted exploration of urban culture is reminiscent of Rent and Moving Out. Lupe's large cadre of male and female guest singers opens up diverse cast options. Many arrangements on The Cool sport lush string sections as well as big electric beats. This adaptation could even be a smart career option for Lupe if Food And Liquor II fails as a return to form.
The world has come a long way since the Who released Tommy in 1969. Tomorrow night, a stage adaptation of the Flaming Lips’ seminal 2002 rock opera Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots will premiere at San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse. It’s not Broadway, but it is an indicator that the era of the rock opera could make a comeback. And this is the perfect time for a revival of the style.
The musical industry is hungry for material, but if Spider Man: Turn Off The Dark was any indication, musicals cannot draw from the same material movies do. Consider, on the other had, how well Rock Of Ages did, even if its filmic adaptation fumbled — there is an appetite for familiar music onstage.
Fortunately for Broadway, the music industry has produced a wealth of legitimately good rock operas (and hip-hoperas), most of which remain unadapted for the stage. And no, most of them are not what you would call “classic rock,” although some are. The relative self-indulgence of Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Rush’s 2112 has ebbed, for the most part, in favor of coherent stories, and characters that develop with the plot.
Music and theater at their best stir something in an audience. There’s a swell of feeling produced in a live setting that can’t be replicated anyplace else. Here are the 10 rock operas most urgently in need of a stage adaptation, with some ideas for how such a production might be carried out. Make your case for My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade in the comments.