Orlando Fringe Review: Tap Me on the Shoulder
“So many raps I have written grew out of the soles of my feet,” says Erika Kate MacDonald at the start of her self-written solo show Tap Me on the Shoulder. And whether you are an old-school aficionado of Nas’ Illmatic (like her) or the complete opposite of a hip-hop expert (like me), you’ll swiftly start to pick up the rhythm MacDonald is laying down after walking a mile in her perpetually-moving shoes. As a self-described queer white woman, MacDonald is about the most unlikely emissary one can imagine for urban music, yet the journey to emcee-dom that she recounts could make the most hardened anti-rap audience member melt.
MacDonald shares the story of how she started rapping, encouraged by a roommate to explore the art form despite her utter unfamiliarity with the genre, and inspired by uncomfortable encounters on the streets of her no-man’s-land neighborhood. Her musical odyssey involves Indonesian gamelan music, alternative theories of time and an Indigo Girls tank top, along with an intriguing intellectual examination of how rap lyrics can be as exciting to unpack as Shakespearean sonnets.
Confronting issues of misogyny and violence in art while battling her own sense of invisibility, MacDonald embodies the “fearless intimacy” that is the essence of Fringe, even inviting her audience on stage to stand inside her tiny Brooklyn living room (recreated with blue tape outlines on the floor) for her house party finale. Whether showing off her lyrical dexterity and grammatical flexibility on one of her songs, or simply sharing how rap helped her “craft a response to the world,” it’s thrilling to experience up close the presence and intensity MacDonald generates when she’s “in the flow.”