Sylk E Fyne Takes Stab Bards Romeo
These days, rappers frequently eulogize their late friends and colleagues in songs and
remixes, but Sylk-E. Fyne has taken her tribute to another place by turning her attention
this time to drama's best-known doomed lovers.
The first single from Fyne's debut album, Raw Sylk , has an unlikely inspiration:
playwright William Shakespeare's classic 'Romeo and Juliet.' But Fyne's HREF='http://www.addict.com/music/Sylk-E._Fyne/Romeo_And_Juliet.ram'>'Romeo and Juliet'
and Juliet'(RealAudio excerpt), which is currently in the top 10 of
Billboard 's Hot 100 pop singles chart, isn't quite the chaste tale spun by the Bard.
'We took the original version with the balcony and all that and what we did was make it an
urban update,' Fyne said last week from Atlanta. 'It's our interpretation of passionate love
for the '90s.'
In fact, the chorus of 'Romeo and Juliet' refers to Shakespeare's original tale of ill-fated
lovers torn apart by their families, but that's where the similarity ends: 'It's like Romeo and
Juliet/ Hot sex on a platter just to get you wet/ Youz about to give me something you will
never regret/ And it's gonna be the bomb, this is what I bet -- yup!'
The song also goes on to talk about other things not mentioned in the classic play, such as
AIDS, 'an overdose of the bomb ass poonanny' and creating alliances in the music
According to Francesca Myman of the Yale Undergraduate Shakespeare Company, the
Bard is probably less likely to be rolling over in his grave over the song than grooving to it.
'He was a down-and-dirty, sexy kinda guy, arguably the rapper/pop culture icon of his
age,' Myman wrote in an e-mail. 'If we were to update Shakespeare into modern, instead
of Elizabethan, slang, he'd shock the pants off people.'
Fyne (a.k.a. Lamar Johnson), a 24-year-old Los Angeles native, expressed dismay that the
jurors who contribute to MTV's video-review show '12 Angry Viewers' didn't see it that
way. But she has taken criticism of the song in stride. 'This is the '90s,' she said, 'and no
disrespect to Shakespeare, but I was just trying to be relevant.'
Raw Sylk manages to be both relevant and accessible. It works as a soundtrack for
intimate moments with a loved one or as background music. But, Fyne said, the best time
to listen to Raw Sylk is when taking to the open road.
'It's best to have a clear head when you're driving,' she explained. 'I'm not kicking any of
that radical rap that's going to send you off the edge. You're not going to hear much on my
album about shooting people and smoking blunts or whatever. I've got a very laid-back
While the grooves on Raw Sylk may sport a 'laid-back,' West Coast g-funk
flavor, they are far from lazy or even relaxed. The album's 11 tracks clock in at just under
47 minutes and are pushed along by Fyne's rapping style, a flow that segues with ease
from the slow delivery style of rapper Too $hort (who guests on the album's first track,
'Keep It Real') to the hyper-quick style pioneered by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.
And with the album completely recorded in just 12 days, Fyne says she was able to
perform raps inspired by real-life situations. 'I wasn't thinking about a concept with this
album,' she explained, 'I was thinking about real experiences and what was in my heart
right then.' These real experiences include being an abused girlfriend ['Love No More
(Look Into My Eyes)'], suffering police harassment on the way to the recording studio ('I
Ain't Down With The System') and mourning the deaths of her grandmother and the man
who got her started in the business, Eric 'Eazy-E' Wright [ HREF='http://www.addict.com/music/Sylk-E._Fyne/I_Missed_My_Loved_Ones.ram '>'I Miss My Loved Ones'
'>'I Miss My Loved Ones'(Real Audio excerpt)].
In fact, 'I Miss My Loved Ones' turned out to be her favorite song on Raw Sylk ,
she said. 'It's not typical of other 'dead homies' songs,' she explained. 'When you hear
this record, it lifts you up and makes you feel good about the people you've lost. It's not
about pouring liquor on the street, it's about remembering your loved ones. I can see this
song getting played at funerals,' she concluded.
As for Fyne's song about a couple that also met an unhappy end, Yale Undergraduate
Shakespeare Company member Steven Klein, a fan of Shakespeare and rap, thinks
Sylk-E. Fyne does Shakespeare's work justice in spirit. 'I think that the hip-hop scene in
general is producing the closest we have to Shakespeare's innovative use of language,'
Klein explained. 'Although I wouldn't say the song is in any clear way adapting 'Romeo
and Juliet' directly,' he continued, 'the implication of Shakespeare's imagery is entirely