The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra announced last week that rapper and actor Ice-T will join the orchestra in a performance of Langston Hughes's poetry, known as the Langston Hughes Project, next month. On June 18, the Grammy winner will read Hughes's twelve-part poetry collection Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods for Jazz (Random House, 1961) as the orchestra, joined by the McCurdy/Wright jazz quartet, performs original music composed by Ron McCurdy, founder of the project and chairman of the jazz department at the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music.
The event, held at the Hilbert Circle Theater in Indianapolis, marks the first time the music will be performed by an orchestra. McCurdy originally composed the score for a jazz quartet, using musical cues suggested by the poet, who died in 1967.
A slideshow of photographs and artwork by Hughes's Harlem Renaissance contemporaries, including Gordon Parks, Jacob Lawrence, and Romare Bearden, will accompany the reading. According the Langston Hughes Project Web site, McCurdy created the multimedia presentation to illuminate "Hughes's vision of the global struggle for freedom in the early 1960's."
Ice-T was instrumental in developing "gagsta rap" in the late 1980s and early 1990s; his OG: Original Gangster (1991) is considered to be a defining album of the subgenre. Since 2000, he has played a detective on NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In addition to his music and acting career, he has lectured to prisoners, students, and general audiences on topics such as race and the importance of reading. He is quoted as saying in the orchestra's press release, "It is a great honor to perform with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Ron McCurdy for this landmark event celebrating the brilliance of Langston Hughes."