“Hamilton” Creator Says Founding Father & Biggie Have Plenty in Common (Video)

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Lin-Manuel Miranda is a self-described “Puerto Rican from the Bronx” whose passion for both musical theater and Hip-Hop have made him one of the most exciting figures in the culture today. By now, Heads are familiar with his work as the creator of the surprise Broadway smash Hamilton, a historically focused musical play that tells the tale of Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Fathers in a way that has animated many who were otherwise uninterested in musical theater. By incorporating raps – and seriously dope ones at that – Miranda invited swaths of people into the audience who entered in apprehensive but left singing his praises. It’s nearly impossible to get tickets, and there were even reports that New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio nearly couldn’t see the show himself. However, the show isn’t all so exclusive. In partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, Miranda has opened up the show to thousands of New York area students who are now incorporating the play into their academic routine, connecting the worlds of Broadway, education, and Hip-Hop in truly powerful ways. Furthermore, it was recently announced that Hamilton will be heading out on a national tour, all but ensuring its run for many, many seasons ahead. But what is it really about this particular show that has hit such a cultural nerve in America? In a new interview, Miranda himself offers up a response.

In a chat with the Recording Academy ahead of the upcoming Grammys, Miranda expressed his views on how Hip-Hop and musical theater are not only similar, but also influenced greatly by one another. For example, the music he listened to at a young age not only influenced him back then, but continues to do so And, similarly, many at that age are also developing their fondness for other genres. For those exploring Hip-Hop, there then comes a frequent overlap. “I think the music you listen to between the ages of 13 and 20 is the music that means the most to you for the rest of your life. My adolescence was in the ’90s, and I think that was a real golden era for Hip-Hop,” he says. “I can’t help but have 1994 influence my work…so to that end, there’s Mobb Deep references in Hamilton, there’s Biggie references in Hamilton, there’s a DMX reference in Hamilton.” However, that doesn’t mean merging the two ostensibly unrelated cultures was simple. “Hip-Hop is the major challenge to any musical theater piece. You’re trying to adapt the music to this and put it in service of the story you’re trying to tell,” explains Miranda. After reading a traditionally structured biography of Hamilton many years ago, he came to the realization that Hip-Hop was “the only way to tell his story. It is a story about someone who rises and falls on their facility with words. Writes his way out of poverty, writes his way out of the Caribbean, writes his way out out of George Washington’s good graces and becomes his Secretary during the war, his Treasurer Secretary during the establishment. But he also writes about his first sex scandal, he catches verbal beef with every other Founding Father…so he’s also just as self-destructive as he is able to rise out of his circumstances.” Those characteristics, he says, made Alexander Hamilton’s life a cut-and-dry Hip-Hop story.

Hamilton is nominated for the Best Musical Theater Album at the February 15 Grammy Awards.

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