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.
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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