I was first introduced to Lin Manuel-Miranda’s Hamilton musical earlier this year by my girlfriend, and it became the soundtrack to my summer, listening to album on repeat for weeks on end, just fully becoming immersed in this show, putting together an epic movie in my head that won’t compare to the actual musical I’m sure if I ever get lucky enough to see it performed. Even though the play started last year, this year was truly the year of Hamilton. It’s my favorite musical, and it’s also re-awakened my passion for history, as well. Despite the controversy now surrounding the play, it continues to be sold out for the immediate and near future. Everyone loves this play, well 95% of the population does at least, including a lot of talented musical artists, who have come together to collaborate on this, The Hamilton Mixtape, which was also going to be the original title of the project when Lin Manuel was putting the project together, as a mix tape before the show idea came into being.
But, on to the album itself, how does it hold up as it’s own work? Well it starts out with an intro from Philadelphia hip hop legends, The Roots, “No John Trumbull”, painting a picture in the audience’s head that this story, isn’t as clear and as stoic as the classic John Trumbull paintings of the Continental Congress signing the Declaration of Independence, no, much like the real history, this story is far messier, more personal, more real, than any painting.
So many talented artists contribute to this album, artists like Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, Wiz Khalifa, John Legend and Jimmy Fallon, all putting their spin on songs from the play. Though my favorite tracks on the album are the version of Satisfied from Sia featuring Miguel and Queen Latifah, who handles the rapping portions of the song. Immigrants (We Get The Job Done) From K’Naan, Snow Tha Product, Riz MC, and Residente takes the iconic line from the Battle of Yorktown and turns it into a very timely track for the world we live in today. Speaking of timely, Watsky’s cover of “An Open Letter” could also be very timely given our current political situation in America, which makes me love it even more.
Alicia Keys’ cover of That Would Be Enough and Chance The Rapper’s Dear Theodosia reprise bring the feels in ways I didn’t think possible outside of the original versions of the song.
One of my favorite tracks over all though is Nas’ “Wrote My Way Out”, which brings the story full circle, from Lin Manuel reading the Alexander Hamilton biography and seeing hip hop in his life’s story and turning that into music to Nas’ own life story and how he turned his story into music. Also the track has an unexpected Lin Manuel Miranda cameo verse on there which was killer.
I will say that it’s not a perfect album, but it comes close to it. When Lin Manuel Miranda wrote “Helpless” he was channeling Ashanti and Ja Rule’s early 00’s hits, so it only makes sense that they cover the song on this album. And I was a huge fan of those initial hits, but compared to Phillipa Soo and Lin Manuel Miranda in the original version there’s something about the track that falls semi flat to my ears. But the album’s biggest sin, in my book is there’s no cover of “The Schuyler Sisters”, the Destiny’s Child-like super catchy song from the musical, which would have made perfect fodder to be covered or remixed by some talented artist. Still though, maybe there’s more mixtapes in the future to be made. Hamilton is timeless, so maybe in a later volume we could get that. As it stands if you’re a fan of the musical, you’re going to love this album. If you’re just a fan of good music, you’ll like it and there’s enjoyment to be had here regardless.
There’s also a few demos of songs that were cut from the play as well, including a third cabinet battle about slavery in the country, and Valley Forge, some of the lines of which ended up in a different format in the play, and it’s nice to see how the show evolved from idea to stage.
Key Tracks- “Immigrants (We Get The Job Done) ” “Wrote My Way Out” “Satisfied” “Dear Theodosia (reprise)”
Album Rating **** out of 5 Stars.