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Mace & Crown | April 30, 2017

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'The Hamilton Mixtape' Hits Hard

‘The Hamilton Mixtape’ Hits Hard
T.J. Thompson
Staff Writer

“The Hamilton Mixtape” just dropped and it is a beacon shining bright in the world of popular music. The lineup is a who’s who of hip-hop, R&B and pop.

The album is inspired by the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.” The premise of the musical is an idea from the biography of founding father Alexander Hamilton, by historian Ron Chernow. The story is told through hip-hop, rap and R&B, creating an engaging historical account. The musical has received numerous accolades, including 11 Tony Awards, a Grammy and a Pulitzer Prize.

The Mixtape is a collaboration from “Hamilton” writer and original star, Lin Manuel Miranda, and Questlove from The Roots. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Miranda stated he originally wanted an album like “The Hamilton Mixtape” released, and then expected someone else to turn it into a musical.

Busta Rhymes was the first hip-hop artist to see the musical, per Miranda in the interview with Vanity Fair. Busta also knocks the song, “My Shot,” out of the park when he rhymes alongside of Black Thought of The Roots and Joell Ortiz on “The Hamilton Mixtape.” This is by far the hardest hitting track on the album.

Other rappers on the album include Nas, Queen Latifah, Wiz Khalifa and Chance the Rapper. The Wiz track, “Washington By Your Side,” drops hard, right in line with what is expected from him and a project such as this.

Lin Manuel Miranda showcases his own talents on the album as well. There are several tracks featuring his lyrical skills. Miranda is recognized as an ultimate hip hop fan and matches his skills up against those of Nas on “Wrote My Way Out.” Miranda also has a couple of solo raps on the album.

If you are searching for other genres of pop music, such as R&B or Top 40, this album is also for you. Jill Scott, John Legend, Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson and Regina Spektor are some of the singers belting on the record.

Regina Spektor teams up with Ben Folds on the number, “Dear Theodosia.” Folds’ rocking style of piano playing pairs perfectly with the sweet tones and rhythms of Spektor’s vocals. Their voices meld as if they were meant to be together.

On “History Has its Eyes on You,” John Legend strips down to a piano, his velvety smooth voice and backing vocals worthy of a heavenly angelic choir. Legend transports the listener into his tale.

The man who helped land Questlove and his band The Roots a headlining gig on late night television lends his vocal talents to the album as well. Jimmy Fallon sings along with The Roots on “You’ll Be Back,” which is complete with a jovial introduction from “The Tonight Show” host.

Fallon showcases a swinging and sing-song approach to the song with an excellent vocal range. His version of “You’ll Be Back” invokes memories of a happy-go-lucky Beatles sound. This song also showcases the versatility of The Roots as they expand from their normal hip-hop style.

With an all-star lineup of performers and producers, the album is bound to be an epic success, just like its parent project “Hamilton, An American Musical.” The “Hamilton: Original Broadway Cast Recording” is certified double-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. Miranda’s Broadway success is sure to spill over to “The Hamilton Mixtape.”

Overall, the album is an excellently produced, well thought-out project. Miranda is seeing his hard work and knowledge pay off and surrounding himself by those who influenced this melding of American history, hip hop and popular culture. “The Hamilton Mixtape” is sure to be award-winning – to be expected from a team such as Miranda and Questlove.