The Hamilton Mixtape: The Phenomenon Continues

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On Friday, December 2, Atlantic Records officially released the much-anticipated Hamilton Mixtape, which had been available for pre-order since November 4.

“Hello hello hello! Been working on a mixtape for years. It’s finished,” announced Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton, on November 3 via Twitter.

As a devoted fan since March, I was one of many who has been waiting anxiously since this announcement. I bought the physical mixtape at Best Buy on the Sunday following its release and it has been my go-to album on my iPod ever since.

During my first listen of the entire album, I tried to enjoy it as what it was: a mixtape. Although I spent countless hours listening to the official Broadway soundtrack, I tried not to let my prior listening experience influence my enjoyment of the mixtape. I listened to each song as an individual piece and tried to picture the story that each one attempts to tell.

My favorite aspect, present in both the original soundtrack and the mixtape, is the continuity that ties the songs together. Played in order, the songs meld into a single work without pauses, creating the sense of a single story. Anyone who listens to the album must remember that the mixtape is the medium through which the original Broadway musical was meant to be expressed. The use of hip hop to tell the story of love, life, and struggle is only unconventional on the Broadway stage. Hundreds of artists have been using this medium of storytelling for years. The album features musical icons like Chance the Rapper, Usher, John Legend, Nas, Ashanti, The Roots, and many more. These individuals and groups have been using this mode of storytelling long before Miranda conceived the idea of Hamilton and served as a major source of his inspiration.

Two pages within the credits booklet that comes with the physical CD.

 

Most of the songs on the album, such as Satisfied (Sia ft. Miguel and Queen Latifah) and Burn (Andra Day), are covers of actual songs of the Broadway musical. Some, such as Immigrants (We Get the Job Done) (K’naan, Snow Tha Product, Riz MC, and Residente), are different takes on the Broadway favorites on the official soundtrack. Others are actually songs that were cut from the musical to keep it from being too long. These songs include Valley Forge (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and Cabinet Battle #3 (Lin-Manuel Miranda). Fans may have different opinions about whether these songs should have stayed in the musical, but most would agree that listening to these songs brings a new dimension to the beloved musical phenomenon.

Personally, after a couple of playthroughs, my favorite songs from the mixtape are Congratulations (Dessa), one of the songs cut from the musical, and Wrote My Way Out (Nas, Dave East, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Aloe Blacc), a different take on the song Hurricane from the original musical. I give the album a 3.5/5 for simple musical enjoyment but a 4/5 as a Hamilton fan because of the new dimension the mixtape adds to the story in Hamilton: An American Musical.

However, the most important effect of the mixtape and the Hamilton phenomenon is how it teaches appreciation to many groups of people. Like the way the use of hip hop in a Broadway musical helped a new crowd of listeners appreciate the history of America, this mixtape helped lovers of history and Hamilton appreciate hip hop as a storytelling medium.

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