Syncing Ink

(L-R) Elisha Lawson, Kara Young, McKenzie Frye, Nsangou Njikam, Nuri Hazzard, Adesola Osakalumi and DJ Reborn explore the essence of freestyle rap in Njikam’s "Syncing Ink" at the Flea Theater in Tribeca. Photo by Joan Marcus.

By Andrew Andrews

What we’re gonna do right here is go back, way back, back into time. 

To the time when hip hop was born from freestyle rappers spitting fire in the streets. To the time when you were in high school, desperate for respect and admiration and the attention of a beautiful someone. To the time when you were a freshman in college, reinventing yourself according to radical ideas, the likes of which you had never heard before. To the time when the Spirit called out to you, and waited for you to respond.

Everything about Syncing Ink, NSangou Njikam’s new coming-of-age story, takes us back to the old skool. From the simple, circular stage recalling the arrangement of freestyle rappers as they tried to out-rhyme each other on the street corners back in the early 1980s (as well as the circle that breakdancers form to protect their performance space), to the Kangol hats and shell-toe sneakers and Adidas sweat suits, to the posturing of high school adolescents, to the grandiose personas of college professors trying to convince their pupils that their word is bond. Njikam stars as Gordon, the goofball teen who can recite the great Black poets with ease but couldn’t bust a rhyme if his social status depended on it—and of course, it does, or we wouldn’t have a story here. Nuri Hazzard is his nemesis Jamal, not only the reigning fire-spitter but also competition for the attention of Mona Lisa (McKenzie Frye), the new girl with a coy smile and curves that all the young men can’t help but notice. Ice Cold (Elisha Lawson) straddles the line between friend and foe, wanting to help Gordon but afraid that doing so will affect his own position in the precarious pubescent pecking order. But perhaps the most powerful character here is actually Feminini-Tea (née Nefer-Tea-Tea, née Queen Tea, née Sweet Tea) played by Kara Young, the tiny giant who recognizes Gordon’s potential and has a bone to pick with Jamal. Adesola Osakalumi provides further encouragement as Gordon’s father (complete with a sweater and demeanor reminiscent of Cliff Huxtable) while DJ Reborn drops the beats and oversees the plot’s unfolding from above the stage as The Mutha, Oludumare, the supreme creator.

Syncing Ink will do much more than take you back, however. It will make you dance in your seat. It will make you laugh—a lot. And it will make you throw yo’ hands in the air, and wave ’em like you just don’t care! All of which makes this not only the most energetic performance we’ve attended since MAKBET, but also the most fun we’ve had at a show since The Play That Goes Wrong—and given the much lower price of admission, that makes Syncing Ink the far better value! So check it out, then come back here and let us know what you thought. Whether it takes you back like us or you simply can’t relate, your reviews help others decide whether they should attend, and your ratings help us help you find events and activities you’ll love!

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Andrew Andrews attended Syncing Ink at Flea Theatre in New York on Friday, October 6, 2017 @ 7:00pm to write this review.

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