Note: This review goes fairly in depth of the Hamilton Mixtape, and for the most part, song by song. I encourage you to gather your own opinions before reading mine. For a tl;dr scroll to the bottom
I’m going to start by saying I am fairly biased with this review because I love Lin-Manuel Miranda, and both of his major works(being Hamilton and In The Heights). However I think we can all agree that the Hamilton Mixtape was highly anticipated. So does it live up to expectations?
At first I thought that I would only like the rap songs, being more of a Hip-Hop fan than anything else(which is apparent with my other reviews and posts). I can safely say that for the most part the album as a whole was great, even the songs with just singing.
The mixtape starts with an intro by Black Thought, telling you this masterpiece is No John Trumbull(the artist who has painted works such as the well known painting of the Declaration of Independence signing). And then goes right into possibly the most played single(at the very least, I played it the most).
My Shot really sets the mood for the whole mixtape. A rap song with an East Coast sound(as most of the rap songs on the mixtape have), the song is easily one of my favorites, especially when you hear Busta Rhymes come in for his verse, the first verse he had done in a while(granted now he has been featured a lot on the newest Tribe Called Quest album). I also think most people had not heard of Joell Ortiz prior to this song, as I had not, and I was pleasantly surprised by his verse. His line “Must admit, i’m feelin, um, kinda, um lighter as a writer” was my favorite in that song.
One single followed by another great single, Wrote My Way Out is equally as amazing, and features a Nas comeback, his first feature in a while as well. Aloe Blacc comes out killing it (a phrase I will use often in this review) on his hooks, and Dave East, another fairly unknown rapper, surprised me as well. However, for me, Lin-Manuel stole the song. Maybe because it’s weird to hear him curse like that, even though it shouldn’t be, it took me off guard. Or maybe it’s the line I can’t get through without tearing up a little bit, “I know Abuela’s never really gonna win the lottery” which is a reference to Miranda’s first musical, In The Heights. My second favorite reference he made has to be “My mind is where the wild things are, Maurice Sendak”.
It was a pleasant surprise to hear Usher on the next song, Wait For It, and he has a fitting vocal range for this song. He has the ability to stay true to the original song, while making it his own, which is fairly common throughout the mixtape with different artists. The song starts out on the blander side, however it did on the original cast recording too. It definitely picks up near the end.
An Open Letter, the interlude with Watsky and Shockwave, I didn’t have high hopes for. I haven’t really ever been a Watsky fan. I’m happy to admit I was wrong in thinking it wouldn’t be good. It’s a weird song, but it’s cool, putting more story behind the line in The Adams Administration, “Sit down John, you fat Mother *expletive*”. A really cool concept, and a nice backing beatbox by Shockwave.
Satisfied was another single that I highly enjoyed, and it was the first one I enjoyed with minimal rapping, however I must say I am a big fan of Sia, and all that she does. She makes this song her own, and there is a great chemistry between her and Miguel on the song, which leads into a Queen Latifah return, which is as great as you would imagine. And Sia follows it up with a style she has mastered in songs like “Chandelier”, showing her raw passion in her voice.
The first Dear Theodosia song is great in it’s own way. I’ve always been a huge fan of the piano on this song in the original cast recording. Regina Spektor feels a little flat compared to the original, but she definitely makes it her own, which reminds the listeners they are listening to a mixtape, not a cover album. I like the song a lot more when Ben Folds comes in.
I’ll some up the demos in one paragraph, instead of going into each one. They show Lin-Manuel Miranda’s planned songs that may not have made the cut. Valley Forge is cool, because it has some lines that were used elsewhere in the musical, such as “They only take British money, so sing a song of sixpence” and the whole second half of the song was used in “Stay Alive”. I love Miranda’s style on Valley Forge. And in Cabinet Battle 3, Lin decided to cut it because it didn’t make sense to spend any amount of time covering a topic that wouldn’t be resolved for another 100 years.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Kelly Clarkson’s It’s Quiet Uptown when I first listened. I think it’s the synths in the beginning of the song that kind of kill the vibe for me. After a few listens, I started to really love the song, and what Clarkson brought to it. She really brought some passion towards the end that felt lacking in the beginning of the song.
Alicia Keys version of That Would Be Enough left me wanting more. It could be because I am just not a fan of her style. She’s very talented, and the song is definitely worth listening to, I just expected more.
Immigrants(We Get The Job Done) was released at a perfect time for our nation, with the election of Donald Trump into office. All of the artists on this song have a very unique style and I enjoyed all of them. I love the parts where they rap in spanish, despite not speaking spanish myself. Residente’s verse has a powerful meaning on it’s own. “Half of gringolandia is really Mexican terrain”, speaking about how the United States annexed parts of Mexico during the Mexican-American war. That line and it’s meaning are hit home with “here we come to look for the gold that was stolen”.
You’ll Be Back had me confused at first. I was in the car and didn’t hear it was Jimmy Fallon. So when he started with his joke of breathing techniques in his singing, I was confused. Now knowing what was going on, I think it’s hilarious, and he goes to prove himself after the intro. People can crap on Jimmy Fallon’s comedic style all they want, but he has serious singing skills.
Helpless is one of my top favorites from the album. Ashanti’s voice is beautiful, and her part of the track built up the anticipation for Ja Rule’s verse. She held you over well though, like chips and salsa at Buffalo Wild Wings before the wings come out. And Ja Rule is very much like the wings, amazing.
I’ve been a fan of !llmind since his work on Andy Mineo’s Uncomfortable. His work is equally as great on Take a Break, a fantastic interlude, with a nice remix of the original song, and a really sick drum beat.
Jill Scott really nails her part in Say Yes To This. The song, a twist on the original song Say No To This, putting the point of view on Maria Reynolds, is absolutely fantastic. Her lines are along the lines of “How you gonna say no to this?” where the original was “Lord, show me how to say no this.” (Spoilers: he says yes to that).
One thing that lacked in the musical was Angelica’s response to Hamilton royally screwing things up by screwing Maria Reynolds. Something Lin-Manuel had planned, but cut. However it shows light in Congratulations, featuring the lovely Dessa. Dessa has this amazing ability to rap and sing, and it really shows on this track. I love the style throughout this song, and is one of my favorites on this album.
My all time favorite track on the album however, is Burn, sung by Andra Day. Her voice is something magical. Something that makes you think you’ve heard this sound before, but at that same time, leaving you knowing you have not heard that sound before. I absolutely adore that style. I can’t place who she sounds like still, and I think that’s really cool. Definitely a must-listen.
The only interlude I thought didn’t belong was Stay Alive, with J. Period and Stro Elliot, it was very brief, didn’t really fit with the songs around it, and just didn’t feel needed.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Wiz Khalifa, but I enjoyed his style on Washingtons By Your Side. It did however feel like the only song that didn’t much relate to the musical. The only line that was similar was “It must be nice, to have washingtons on your side” but that extra S adds a whole knew meaning to the line, that doesn’t relate to the musical. Still a cool song, and a nice change from that classic East Coast sound that was apparent on the other rap songs.
History Has It’s Eyes On You has that feeling of starting to end the mixtape. John Legend has that very nice, slow, style and it is followed nicely by Who Tells your Story. Common sounds a bit like Nas on this track, and brings back that East Coast sound. Ingrid Michaelson has a very strong hook. Black Thought’s verse compliments Commons very well.
Dear Theodosia – Reprise with Chance the Rapper and Francis and the Lights is the perfect album closer. The music really has that Francis and the Lights feel. This song was one of the ones I was most excited for because I love Chance, and I have recently fell in love with Francis and the Lights(further referred to as just Francis). The song is definitely fitting for Chance because he just had a daughter, and you can tell this is personal for him. I like that Chance sings the song, instead of rapping. He doesn’t have the best voice, but it fits him and his style. Francis sounds a bit like Lin-Manuel at times, but you can tell on some notes it’s definitely Francis. Overall, a great end to the mixtape.
I would rate this an 8/10. Some of the songs aren’t exactly skippable, as much as they are a “one time listen” for me. For the most part though, the mixtape is solid. The album is available on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, and other music platforms. Interested readers can listen to the embedded Spotify link below.