Jean-Michel Basquiat is one of the most influential African American artists in history. His work as a neo-expressionist has been immortalized on canvas.
Likewise, his image as a bad-boy with a rags to riches story lives on in hip-hop culture.
Even with a story as intriguing as Basquiat’s they’ll never be able to bridge the gaping void between hip-hop and broadway music and culture.
Here are a thousand words from the man himself on the subject of Broadway.
Basquiat’s life story is fascinating. A teen runaway, mentored by Andy Warhol, dead by the age of 27 and still one of the most successful African-American artists in history. It’s so fascinating, in fact, it’s already been the subject of both a documentary and a film. What does a musical hope to uncover through song about this troubled and gifted young man that can't be observed through his own art?
Not all musicals have happy endings. Take The Phantom of the Opera or RENT as examples. The only difference is both of those musicals were written in the 80s and 90s. The Broadway audience didn’t need happy endings then. Now, like in the Great Depression days of Rodgers and Hammerstein, we’re going to the theater to find relief from everyday life. The Book of Mormon satisfied this desire, but I don’t think mention of or singing about Basquiat's unfortunate heroin overdose will serve to bust our recession blues.
With roots in graffiti art, and his escape from the ghetto through overnight success as an artist, Basquiat’s name has long been affiliated with hip-hop. After the 2010 release of documentary, Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, he was referenced in songs by Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Nas to name a few. Jay-Z can sample show tunes all he wants, but can Broadway dare to share its subject material with rappers and artists from across the Brooklyn Bridge?