Hamilton (An American Musical and The Mixtape)
After five years with my blog, I am going to be writing my first music album review. Well, two, technically. To tell you the truth, I was never very much into music when I was younger. Movies, TV, and video games were my thing.
On top of that, if I was going to write about music, never in a million years did I ever think I would write about a Broadway musical. But this has been a long time coming. As usual, I don’t really know where to start. I don’t really “plan” these out as well as I should. I just always seem to “write like I’m running out of time.” But I do know that I have been listening to the broadway musical soundtrack of “Hamilton” since probably the very beginning, which was early 2015.
Now nearly two years later, a record-setting 11 wins of its 16 Tony nominations and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in drama for its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, just scratches the surface of the unforeseen accolade and pop-culture immortality “Hamilton” has achieved. On Friday, the much-anticipated “Hamilton Mixtape” album dropped featuring artists from nearly every spectrum of the pop and hip-hop genre going back twenty years. But before I get to that, and in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last two years, let me take you back to “the room where it happened.”
It’s 2015. I was already living in Los Angeles for two years at that point. I had moved there to chase my dream of being a screenwriter. I was already “writing like I’m running out of time” in my mind even before I had heard the term. Someone (and it’s killing me that I can’t remember who right now) tells me about a new play that is about founding father and $10 bill frontman, Alexander Hamilton. I’ve always been a fan of American History so I figured I’d look into it. I thought it was just your standard theatrical production. What I wasn’t told was that it was a musical written with original (and classic) hip-hop beats and freestyle rap battles inspired by the likes of legends gone too soon like Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. during the backdrop of the American Revolution. It tells a very powerful and rhythmic narrative introducing the founding fathers in a fleshed-out and relatable way better than any history book I’ve ever read.
“Hamilton” the musical is the genius brain child of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who (as the legend goes) read a biography of the founding father by Ron Chernow, which now displays the playbill logo proudly as the catalyst that catapulted the popularity of the man and his life into the stratosphere. (Both Miranda’s and Hamilton’s.)
Alright, enough gasbag ranting.
The music mesmerizes and is as diverse as the very immigrants the story revolves around. It more than “gets the job done.” “Hamilton” (Broadway) started a national tour and is evidently already sold out for the next few years!! Looks like I’m going to have to wait a while to see it.
But I’ll wait…
In the meantime, the “Hamilton Mixtape” takes an incredible blend of yet-again reimagined musical narrative told by artists like The Roots, Aloe Blacc, Sia, Busta Rhymes, Nas & Ashanti, Calle 13, Usher, Kelly Clarkson, and more. Of course, Lin-Manuel throws his rhyme-dropping chops into the mix(tape.)
I’ve gone on long enough and obviously cannot say enough good things about this. I haven’t even mentioned how this has also apparently energized the current American narrative in ways that I had never thought possible. It’s certainly not “quite uptown” anymore.
If you haven’t yet, I also highly recommend the PBS documentary “Hamilton’s America” that tells the whole story of how Lin-Manuel Miranda turned his crazy little idea into a worldwide phenomenon that has stayed relevant (and will likely stay relevant) for generations.