by Joseph Ratcliffe
Rappers and hip-hop performers may attract their fair share of negativity because of the violent and sexualised culture that often surrounds the genre, but a group of performers based in Sydney’s inner-west is using rap and hip-hop as a tool for comedy and performances that advocate talent and skill.
‘Sketch The Rhyme’ is comprised of rappers, graphic artists, and musicians who perform musical games together on stage. Their show has its roots in rap battles, a competition format where two rappers freestyle against each other using insults as rhymes.
Rapper Rapaport is the creative director of ‘Sketch The Rhyme’ and a regular rapper for the show. “A couple of months after I stopped doing battle rapping, I wanted to do something different with free-styling. I had an idea that it would be fun to have someone drawing and rap about that,” he says.
“I came up with the concept and then, with everyone, else we came up with all the games together. The actual ownership of the concept is split between 16 people with me being the majority member. But it’s a shared creation.”
The show was then developed over two weeks during the 2008 Underbelly Festival at Carriageworks in Eveleigh. “It went better than anyone imagined,” Rapper Rapaport says. “I thought it would work, but no one else did. At one of the first rehearsals everyone was looking at me like I was a crazy person.”
‘Sketch the Rhyme’, described as being influenced by Mr Squiggle and Pictionary, is appealing to all ages with three performances at the 2013 Sydney Fringe Festival.
It incorporates 17 people on stage with a projector displaying the works being drawn by the graphic artists. There is a conductor, pianist, guitarist, bassist, drummer, four rappers, and four graphic artists. To demonstrate that the show is improvised, the rappers ask the audience to suggest words that they then turn into rap rhymes.
“It’s a very difficult show to put on. It’s not just rock-up and plug-in. It is not the sort of show you want to take to different venues. We’ve done that for years and it’s not ideal because at every venue you have to re-imagine how it’s going to work staging wise,” Rapaport says.
“We’re trying to keep on developing the show over the next period of time,” he says. “It’s a lot of work spending all day setting up just for a pub gig. That’s what we’ve done, but we are trying to move it toward a theatre show and having more time to prepare.”