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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Hip-hop meets opera in student production debut

Kobe Arriaga
(Left) Music studies sophomore Josh Nepote performs hip hopera for the audience alongside (Right) music graduate Jay Nava, Friday, April 19, 2024, at Evans Auditorium.

A hush rolled over the crowd as Jay Nava, a music graduate with a concentration in composition, walked on the stage in Evans Auditorium on April 19. Nava debuted his production “Realize For Real Here’s,” an original hip hopera.

Nava’s production centered around his personal experiences with a focus on the importance of living life to the fullest. “Realize for Real Here’s” is a concept hip-hop album and a quadruple entendre, or a phrase that has four different interpretations. The term “hip hopera” popped into Nava’s head during summer 2022 before he began graduate school at Texas State.

“By no means was I the first to use [the word hip hopera], but I’d certainly never consciously heard it before,” Nava said in his program notes. “To me, hip hopera had a ring to it that was so resonant, so powerful, so suave, that I instantly knew it was my calling to create whatever a hip hopera was.”

After his idea of combining hip-hop and opera for his production, Nava spent almost two years composing the songs for the production, which will eventually be available on streaming services. “Realize For Real Here’s” debut ran for about two hours and involved 22 musicians to make Nava’s hip hopera concept come to life.

“My dream was to have [the musicians] actually write parts of their own music,” Nava said. “But, just for time constrictions and because it was really too hard to explain what I was trying to do, I just went ahead and wrote all of the music.”

Nava’s first performance of “Realize For Real Here’s,” only skimmed the surface of what he plans to do with the production in the future. Due to a lack of funding and time, Nava had to get creative with his first performance and play the parts of an actor and a DJ. Ideally, Nava would solely perform as an actor and have the recorded instrumentals played by live players.

“It’s hard to have [the musicians] learn all of that music and then practice it with me,” Nava said. “My vision is to perform [hip hopera] top to bottom, which is about 44 scenes [lasting] three and a half hours with completely live players.”

Ixchel Betancourt, a music and jazz performance graduate student, played the flute in the production and said she would perform in “Realize For Real Here’s” again if given the opportunity.

“It was a very symbiotic relationship [with Nava] because I know this was the first massive work that he’s done like this,” Betancourt said. “To combine … live instrumentalists and electronic music … and pre-recorded things in one go, it’s a lot of moving parts, but it went really well.”

Nava wrote most of the music for “Realize For Real Here’s,” besides some lyrics contributed by a few of the musicians in the performance. Nava’s band, Royal Regiment, also played for the production. Hannah Bradley, a music composition graduate student and member of Royal Regiment, played the violin for the performance.

“[When learning Nava’s music], there were a few challenging parts, but that was mainly because of the register that he was having me play in,” Bradley said. “But all around, I learned it pretty easy and especially the recorded parts.”

Since Nava began taking music lessons at 14 years old, he knew that he wanted to combine hip-hop and classical music, which later turned into the hip hopera concept.

Nava takes pride in “Realize For Real Here’s” because he included his friends and loved ones in the performance while achieving his dream of combining hip-hop and opera.

“I went into the writing process with the mindset that I must do justice by both traditions [of hip-hop and opera],” Nava said in his program notes. “Through this process, I explored the marriage of rap and recitative (rapative) and also combined backbeats with … neo-Riemannian transformations and organicism to create the musical content.”

Nava’s first performance is available to view on channel 3 of Texas State Presents on YouTube.

For updates on “Realize For Real Here’s,” an original hip hopera, follow Nava’s Instagram.

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