Of the handful of arias recognisable to the general public, Largo al factotum from Rossini’s Barber of Seville is undeniably one of them. With its upbeat melody and catchy refrain of ‘Figaro’, it’s an earworm no doubt difficult to shake off. But it’s safe to say that few who have attempted the challenging aria in a moment of solitude have also successfully blended it with rap.

A YouTube clip that has gone viral depicts Nigerian-American baritone Babatunde Akinboboye doing just that. Driving in his car, he gives listeners a demonstration of his serious operatic chops as well as his ability to blend genres seamlessly, singing Figaro’s aria over rapper Kendrick Lamar’s hit song Humble.

Akinboboye, who has performed with Los Angeles Opera, Opera San Jose, Opera Santa Barbara and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, spoke to TIME about the mash-up that’s delighted the internet. “I’ve always noticed similarities between the two. I generally kept this to myself and played with them in my head or in the car because the opera culture can be very conservative. But the few times I’ve slipped and sung some opera to a hip-hop beat, it’s been well-received… People love the dichotomy.”

The baritone also told TIME he first came across the aria when watching Robin Williams perform it in Mrs. Doubtfire, adding that Kendrick Lamar is his favourite hip-hop artist. For many of those watching the video, it’s a match made in heaven.


Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine