Tupac Shakur means a great detail to many a hip hop fan but homages to the rapper usually centre on his expansive body of work, his untimely death at 25 or his status in relation to Biggie and the East Coast-West Coast rivalry. In He’s Dead, Malik Nashad Sharpe (aka Marikiscrycrycry) takes a divergent approach, using dance to interrogate the complex poet and artist, asking the question: ‘was Tupac depressed?’
With dry-ice, tartan, leather and punk attire in abundance, the four dancers move with great intensity; pulsating and jerking movements coupled with recognisable references to Black popular culture. Whether alone or dancing side by side, there is an affinity in each segment and a uniformity that allows the four bodies to coalesce or remain distinct, depending on the sequence.
Marikiscrycrycry’s choreography is entrancing and though there is real beauty here, what enables the entire concept to be moving, joyful and frenzied all at the same time is the emphasis on Tupac in relation to wider discussions around mental health within the Black community.
There are direct references to Tupac, in a projection at the back of the stage and in flags waved triumphantly by the dancers. But it’s not just about the show being a tribute to the rapper. In a particularly poignant moment, where Marikiscrycrycry stands solo and sings of being suicidal, we experience a visceral cry from the artist, laying bare the effects of marginalisation and dehumanisation. When you remove the emo-punk costuming, the hip hop dance moves and the visually striking concept, you’re left with a solo body engulfed by sadness.