Rise up Theatre Nerds! The long-awaited “The Hamilton Mixtape” has finally arrived! Believe it or not, “Hamilton” was originally planned to be a concept album, similar to the origins of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Aida.” The compilation features a ton of artists, including several mainstream superstars and underground artists, as well as some surprises, such as…Jimmy Fallon?
In no particular order, here are our 10 favorite tracks from “The Hamilton Mixtape:”
1. ‘My Shot,’ Featuring The Roots, Busta Rhymes, Nate Reuss and Joell Ortiz
This cover features verses from Black Thought (from The Roots), Ortiz and Busta Rhymes. Black Thought’s verse criticizes teachers who limit black children’s future to a life of crime or a stereotypical path of basketball. Ortiz’s verse emphasizes breaking the status quo by shutting down respectability politics, while Busta Rhymes reminds his fans that his silence from the rap world is not permanent. This cover parallels Alexander Hamilton’s insatiable drive to be greater and work to his fullest ability.
2. ‘Wrote My Way Out,’ Featuring Nas, Dave East, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Aloe Blacc
This new track contains various samples from the “Hamilton” score. It corresponds with Hamilton’s letter on the devastating storm that hit his island of St. Croix, which eventually sparked his move to New York. Miranda, the only member of the original Broadway cast featured in the album, wrote his verse based on personal experiences from growing up in Upper Manhattan.
3. ‘An Open Letter,’ Featuring Watsky and Shockwave
This interlude, used in the Off-Broadway version of “Hamilton,” is a thread of insults Hamilton makes toward the highly unpopular John Adams. Watsky, a rapper and performer of slam poetry, is known for his fast lyrical delivery and is friends with Miranda
4. ‘It’s Quiet Uptown,’ Featuring Kelly Clarkson
This cover removes all references to the characters and instead contemplates unfathomable suffering. Clarkson, who was pregnant with her son when she first heard the original version, said she was a “complete mess” afterward.
5. ‘Immigrants (We Get the Job Done),’ Featuring K’naan, Snow Tha Product, Riz MC and Residente
This other new song interpolates a lyric from “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down).” Notably, each of the featured rappers has an immigrant background, and some of them even perform verses in their native language of Spanish.
6. ‘You’ll Be Back,’ Featuring Jimmy Fallon and The Roots
Complete with a brief spoken introduction from Fallon, this version builds on the song’s original British baroque-pop sound, featuring strings, horns and jazz organ.
7. ‘Say Yes To This,’ Featuring Jill Scott
Portraying a more confident, controlling Maria Reynolds than in the musical, songbird Scott unleashes an ocean of soul on this new spin of “Say No to This.” This version also expands on the ‘90s mid-tempo jam sound implied by the original version.
8. ‘Congratulations,’ Featuring Dessa
The original version, sung by Angelica in the Off-Broadway show, is placed between “The Reynolds Pamphlet” and “Burn.” Dessa, a member of the hip-hop collective Doomtree, covers the song for the mixtape.
9. ‘History Has Its Eyes On You,’ Featuring John Legend
The gospel-inspired ballad version of this number features Legend in his soulful niche singing at the piano. We sure never imagined a gospel version of this tune was possible, but Legend blew us all away.
10. ‘Dear Theodosia (Reprise),’ Featuring Chance the Rapper and Francis and the Lights
As one of today’s most successful independent musicians, Chance the Rapper lays down an intimate, syrupy vocal here. Francis, who also sings on the track, provides sparse chill-out production, and is a far cry from the other mixtape cover of this tune from Regina Spektor and Ben Folds.