Viewers of the Tony Awards this summer probably wondered why Lin-Manuel
Miranda decided to ad-lib his acceptance speeches for "In the Heights."
But that's where Lin-Man feels at home. Freestyling his lyrical rhymes.
And he gets to go home again with his friends and colleagues in Freestyle
Love Supreme, who host a sold-out celebration of hip-hop harmonies and
humor every month at Comix – this coming Monday's shows (7 and 9:30
p.m., Dec. 8) will raise funds for the New Orleans VideoVoices Project,
inspiring otherwise marginalized communities by gathering and
celebrating their collective voices (tickets $50-60, but deep discounts
The cast of characters includes Lin-Man and fellow MC's Chris "C-Jack"
Jackson, "UTK" Utkarsh Ambudkar, Bill "King Sherman" providing keyboard
accompaniment, Chris "Shockwave" Sullivan throwing down the beats and
sound effects, direction by "TK" Thomas Kail, and leading the
proceedings, Anthony "Two Touch" Veneziale.
Here is a promo video showing a taste of what you'll hear in an FLS show:
Four of the guys met at Wesleyan University, where Lin-Man wrote the
first draft of "In the Heights" — Two Touch helped make the show a
reality, with TK directing, and Sherman winning a Tony for best
orchestrations. C-Jack also plays Benny in the Broadway musical.
Universal recently bought the movie rights. And last night, Lin-Man and Sherman saw their names added to the list of Grammy nominees.
The success doesn't stop there. Shockwave is part of the new cast
bringing "The Electric Company" back to PBS children's TV in January.
Other members J-Soul and Arthur the Geniusess have had their own
Broadway and movie roles.
But no one has become too big for Freestyle Love Supreme. "That's the great thing about it now," Shockwave said. "We have a supergroup now." And
when they reunite each month, Two Touch said: "We laugh. It's just. We
catch up. During the sound check it's like, what have you been up to
the past two to three weeks? Tell me in a rap! That's our warm-up."
When they hit the stage, they improvise their way through a show based
on audience suggestions and a template that works. A typical FLS show
includes three of the MC's rapping about a celebrity, musician and a
country named by the audience in a song called, "What You Don't Know
About Me." How does that manage to work every time? "UTK calls me Two-Touch-apedia!" Two Touch said. "And Lin's very
Zeitgeisty, pop culture. You can throw anything out and he's got
often then trade true stories based on a one-word suggestion, then
ad-lib an elaborate sketch off of a vague intro provided by Shockwave,
and follow it all up with a 20-minute finale in which the guys
re-create the day in a life of an audience member. It all flows right
off of their tongues as if they'd been rapping it all of their lives.
"This vocabulary, this vernacular is so second nature to some of us,"
Two Touch said. "Most of the stuff we do is grounded in stories…story
telling. We're looking for more people who can do that."