Home / Arts & Life / Review: A Student of the Classics, Hip-Hop Variety, in ‘Syncing Ink’

Review: A Student of the Classics, Hip-Hop Variety, in ‘Syncing Ink’

Over the course of the show — and it is an unnecessarily long course, at nearly three hours on Saturday evening — our hero gains the confidence necessary to face Jamal.


From left, Kara Young, Nuri Hazzard, McKenzie Frye and Elisha Lawson as friends and rivals of the lead character in “Syncing Ink.”

Joan Marcus

First, Gordon’s friend Ice Cold (Elisha Lawson) instructs him in the ways of the M.C., complete with a tutorial in Shaolin lore. Sweet Tea’s role becomes more critical in college, where she has renamed herself Nefertiti and grooms Gordon for the Cypher, an invitation-only underground competition “where the illest M.C.s go to battle.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Njikam’s lyrics don’t have the wit or verbal dexterity of their old-school influences (DJ Reborn provides the live mix), and the story bogs down, despite flashes of satirical inspiration — while Gordon goes to a black college, Jamal attends Georgetown, where he creates a blend of conscious and trap music called “Crap.”

What matters here is not the predictable destination, but how we get there — and that the system is pumping loud, as LL Cool J once wisely said, a requirement Niegel Smith’s high-octane production fulfills. The show has an infectious energy and benefits from a superb cast that rises to the athletic hip-hop choreography by Gabriel Dionisio, a.k.a. Kwikstep.

“Syncing Ink” climaxes, naturally, with a confrontation between Jamal and Gordon that the actors freestyle. Our newly silver-tongued freshman gets a little support from Yoruba culture, in a magic-realist touch that is part of Mr. Njikam’s plan to honor what he sees as hip-hop’s cultural roots.

When the time comes for Gordon to woo his girl at the very end of the show, though, only Method Man will do.

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