Verses at Work is the story of a young man become grown. That journey hits a snag, when Malik leaves the power to control his destiny, in others’ hands. Through his hopes, dreams, loves, and losses, we experience one constant variable: his verses. The rhythms and content of his texts become the rhythms expanding and retracting throughout the journey. The tension and release of said rhythms serve as the perfect vehicle to navigate the ups and downs of life.
Verses at Work explores the nuances of Black masculinity. What role does self-determination play in achieving manhood? What roles are already constructed for Malik? Which ones does he reject? Which roles does he accept? In this piece, Malik finds he must reconcile the expectations of the world with his expectations of himself. Navigating that treacherous terrain becomes a road map to making a life. Every ‘verse’ in the play is a conversation about that struggle.
Verses at Work poses questions about the insidious role institutionalized racism plays in the trajectory of a life. Whether the effects of said racism are perceived internally or actualized externally, the results are the same: lowered expectations and frustrated ambitions. Along his way, Malik realizes that it is not only as an actor, that he is being typecast.
Malik Work’s struggle also encapsulates the struggle of the developing artist in cities all over the world, especially the United States. How does one survive, while staying creatively sharp and available for preferred artistic opportunities? Many artists end up dabbling in the service industry, or the nightlife economy, and summarily never make it back out.
Malik Work’s autobiographical narrative takes us back to a different New York City. Gentrification is just beginning to impact historically underserved communities. Hip Hop music and culture is reflecting the city’s changing landscape. Just ‘pre’ and ‘post’ 9/11, New York is the epicenter of urban renewal. New nightclubs are opening up, as old ones are closing down. The city’s nightlife is vibrant and fluid. Sensing an opportunity, Malik and his cohorts look to make their mark on the world of live music. In this distinctly original format, his verses testify to and narrate a quite remarkable tale: the transformation and evolution of both Hip Hop and himself.