WELL, THAT HAPPENED: Founding Fathers Rap

By on October 27, 2015

Actors of color crush it summoning the spirits of ‘old, dead white men.’

‘Hamilton’ might just be the coolest American history lesson to date.

‘Hamilton’ might just be the coolest American history lesson to date.

Jackson, WY – “How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore

And a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot

In the Caribbean, by Providence impoverished, to squalor

Grow up to be a hero and a scholar.”

When I visited New York City back in April, there were plenty of things that I missed out on (seeing Mr. Big, weirdly enough, was not one of them). The biggest regret I have is not seeing “Hamilton” off-Broadway. I certainly saw some great shows during that visit, but people couldn’t stop raving about “Hamilton” and how difficult it was to score tickets. I knew it was a hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton (the good-lookin’ guy on the $10 bill), but I hadn’t thought much about it since.

Fast forward to last week when I uncovered a Vulture article where Talib Kweli was analyzing “Hamilton,” and commenting on how badass the musical was. Cue me jumping on Spotify and listening to the entire 2.5-hour-long, 46-song cast recording in one sitting. I will admit that I’m not very well versed on musicals; I know a handful and have been in a few more, but, up until recently, the name Lin-Manuel Miranda meant nothing to me.

Miranda, the brains behind the musical and the star of the show, picked up a copy of Ron Chernow’s biography “Hamilton” and was initially certain that someone had already written a musical about the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury. Upon finding out that he was headed into uncharted territory, he began working on what he initially called “The Hamilton Mixtape.” A Tony-Award-winner for the musical “In The Heights,” Miranda went full-speed ahead, completed the script, pulled together a cast and premiered “Hamilton” in February. The musical sold out repeatedly and was eventually transferred to Broadway in July, where it continues to sell out.

Even though I know I’m not going to be able to see “Hamilton” on stage anytime soon, I’ve been utterly obsessed with the music, to the point of rapping complete songs loudly while driving.

Beginning in 1776 and ending with Alexander Hamilton’s death at the hands of his friend-turned-rival Aaron Burr in 1804, “Hamilton” highlights the heroes and battles of the American Revolution with such precision and intelligence that it feels like the coolest history lesson ever. Not only is the music addictive and catchy, but also listening to the aptitude of the lyrics can be mind blowing.

During “Cabinet Battle No. 1,” a rap-battle between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, Hamilton raps:

“Thomas Jefferson, always hesitant

With the President, reticent,

There isn’t a plan he doesn’t jettison.

Madison, you’re mad as a hatter son,

Take your medicine.

Damn you’re in worse shape than the

National debt is in,

Sitting there useless as two shits.

Hey, turn around, bend over,

I’ll show you where my shoe fits.”

Blending hip-hop, R&B, rap and even cleverly sprinkling in some British Pop, “Hamilton” debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, the first cast recording to do so since 1963. I can’t recommend listening to the album enough. If you’re adverse to most cast recordings, this is one that will bust you open. If you only listen to a few songs, “Satisfied,” “My Shot” and “Right Hand Man” are some of the most impressive as far as utilizing the full cast and establishing a unique sound.

The cast, as you’ll hear on the recording, is very multicultural and black actors play characters like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Lin-Manuel Miranda himself is of Puerto Rican decent. “We’re telling the story of old, dead white men, but we’re using actors of color, and that makes the story more immediate and more accessible to a contemporary audience,” he said.

Familiarize yourself with this incredible musical before it wins more Tonys than Betsy Ross could sew stripes on the flag. PJH

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