by Joanna Rutter
Every time I pitch it to friends or coworkers, it sounds more ridiculous. But I’ll try again here; Hamilton is a three-hour Broadway hip-hop musical about the founding fathers. Most of the actors are people of color. At one point Thomas Jefferson spits, “When Britain taxed our tea we got frisky/ Imagine what gon’ happen when you try to tax our whiskey.” Also, Billboard named the soundtrack as the 2015 rap album of the year.
Still sounding ridiculous? I’d better relay how I got sucked down the Hamilton spiral. Since I can’t afford the $700 tickets — it’s sold out until August anyway — the bandwagon process my friends prescribed was very internet-culture-du-jour.
Last month I was ushered down a black hole of listening to the soundtrack on loop via Spotify, digging through fan blogs and interviews with cast members, watching choppy clips of numbers anywhere I could find them.… Somehow around 1 a.m. that first day, I had inexplicably ended up knee-deep in Library of Congress archives of Alexander Hamilton’s letters. I had 20 unread Wikipedia tabs open. There was no going back.
It’s hard to quantify why this musical is so magnetic. It’s certainly carried by its talent: writer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda’s energy as the lead is undeniable, though rapper Daveed Diggs as a cocky Thomas Jefferson upstages him in every cabinet rap battle. But their performances aren’t the heart of what makes the musical great.
About 100 listens in, I can confidently say my love for Hamilton is rooted in how perfect it feels to revisit the rebels’ fight for independence through polysyllabic hip-hop lines. The diverse cast makes this old story of a young country in a way that’s accessible to America as it’s comprised today. Lyrical case-in-point after the battle of Yorktown: “Immigrants: we get the job done.”
I suppose at a time where a multi-billionaire is a contender for the presidency, it’s encouraging to remember my country’s unique and humble beginnings and celebrate being a part of that story in a fresh way.
And I doubt quoting genius lines like, “We hold these truths to be self-evident/ that all men are created equal/ And when I meet Thomas Jefferson/ I’mma compel him to include women in the sequel!” will get old anytime soon either.