By Jason Chen
“Hamilton” fans rejoice! The music label Atlantic has finally released Lin-Manuel Miranda’s long-awaited “Hamilton Mixtape,” a collection of assorted songs and raps from the Tony-award winning Broadway musical “Hamilton.” Various artists have participated in the production of this mixtape album, including Alicia Keys, Busta Rhymes, Wiz Khalifa, Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Chance the Rapper, Ashanti, Andra Day, Usher, Sia, Lin-Manuel MIranda himself, and most notably, Jimmy Fallon.
The very first rap in the mixtape is Busta Rhymes’ “My Shot,” with collaboration from The Roots, Joell Ortiz and Nate Ruess. This track is super upbeat and very motivating and is definitely a surprise performance from Busta Rhymes, who obviously put a lot of thought into its production. “My Shot” is a very interesting mix between Revolutionary-era flute and modern rap and hip hop, and its verses seamlessly convey the meaning of the original Hamilton song in a dramatic yet inspiring way. This is probably the highlight of this album; it’s passionate and exhilarating, but it also puts a fresh spin on the original rap.
A particularly interesting song in this mixtape is “You’ll Be Back,” which Jimmy Fallon performs. It begins with a comedic monologue in which Fallon basically explains his minimal “classical” training and outlandish singing techniques. In “You’ll Be Back,” Fallon takes on the role of Great Britain’s King George III, who he portrays to be very creepy and obsessive, but in a humorous way. It’s actually really hilarious, and Fallon puts his own spin on the song by purposely singing silly while still sticking to the source material. His amusing performance of the song almost makes it sound like an 80’s tune, though The Roots’ comforting jazz adds another dimension to the otherwise comical song.
The first in the album to be released was Kelly Clarkson’s “It’s Quiet Uptown,” which details the life of Alexander Hamilton and his wife Elizabeth Schuyler after the death of their son. However, it seems that Clarkson may have taken out some of the lyrics from the original “Hamilton” soundtrack, which somewhat detracts from the song’s story. It has a bit of a melodramatic quality to it that is very characteristic of Clarkson’s style, so it’s pretty obvious she really put herself into putting her own spin on producing this song. Out of all the tracks in this mixtape, Clarkson’s definitely stands out as the most emotional and passionate.
One of the most interesting songs in the mixtape is “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done),” performed by K’naan, Snow Tha Product, Riz MC, and Residente. The song title is actually borrowed from a line of the actual “Hamilton” musical, which is repeated throughout the remix itself. This musical number is very politically charged and makes statements that are especially relevant considering the ongoing debate regarding border security and undocumented immigrants. However, despite the strong message, this track’s weak verses and rap lessens its impact.
However, the track that sounds most Hamilton-esque is “Cabinet Battle 3,” a rap centered around the Founding Fathers’ conflicts over slavery that is produced by the Lin-Manuel Miranda himself. Unlike traditional rapping, Miranda’s rapping style isn’t as dramatic and focuses more on storytelling than emotion. In that way, this rap probably appeals more to the average intellectual than the average hip hop fan. “Cabinet Battle 3” has some really nice beats and great rhymes, which Miranda uses to pack a number of references and loads of other historical content into this rap. At some point, there’s even an amazing burn on Thomas Jefferson regarding his not-so-secret relationship with his slave, Sally Hemmings.
Fans have waited years for the “Hamilton Mixtape” to be released, and they will not be disappointed with the result of these various artists’ work. This album has an eclectic mix of humor, emotion, politics, and real American history. There are also definitely some surprise performances from Busta Rhymes in “My Shot” and rather humorously, Jimmy Fallon in “You’ll Be Back.” The new “Hamilton Mixtape” is perfect for those looking for a low-cost but refreshingly new take on their favorite songs of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.”