There are a lot of clichés about spoken word artists, especially those who rise up against all odds and make good with rhyme. Movies like “8 Mile,” “Slam,” and “Spoken Word” have turned Lemon Andersen’s life story into an institution, worthy of a spoof, and while Lemon clearly demonstrates his right to be on stage and respected, “Beautiful Struggle” doesn’t completely escape the trappings of its more saccharine siblings. “Beautiful Struggle” is a sparse show, a wise choice by Lemon, there’s a bench that serves as a proxy for various elements, and some tasteful lighting and then there’s Lemon, a short “white guy” talking big black street in some of the densest vocabulary I’ve ever heard, and that’s of course what saves the show. Lemon is no joke, his life was rough, and he knows how to hone a line like a shiv. I would’ve taken notes to offer an example, but you can’t stop to write about what he’s saying when he’s saying it, because every line matters with this guy.
The only things holding me back from completely gushing over Lemon, are that at some points the show, he fails to avoid some of the pitfall clichés of his (albeit niche) genre, or, come to think of it, every song by Jay-Z. That, of course may or may not be easy to avoid, as the show is autobiographical, and let’s face it, our lives can all be a little Jay-Z sometimes. The other elements that throw me are Lemon’s childlike voice, and his swagger. While the youthful tone makes sense in the beginning of the show as he recounts his childhood, as the show progresses, it seems like the voice never grows up. The voice, when combined with the hip hop swagger, seems to act as an emotional wall, the bravado standing in the way of honesty, it could be just be Lemon, but at several points he exaggerates the persona for comedic effect, and I would think (from my admittedly nerdy, Jewish perch) that no matter how hip hop you are, you don’t bare your soul by grabbing your nuts. I’m just saying there’s more here, beneath the surface, and I hope Lemon keeps digging, for as he and his contemporaries have discovered, there’s gold in them wounds, and if you’re going to display it, it ought to be clean.
- By Abe Ingle