The Star Of Hamilton Freestyles For President Obama At The White House (Video)
From day 1, it has been clear that Barack Obama was the nation’s first Hip-Hop President. That status had nothing to do with his biracial ancestry. Instead, it was the product of his coming of age at the same time that the most influential cultural force of the last 40 years came to prominence. President Obama was a mere 17 years old when The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” took the nation by storm, and he was a young twenty-something living in New York City when seminal records like Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s “The Message” and Run-D.M.C.’s “Sucker MC’s” were released.
That Hip-Hop lineage revealed itself throughout his campaign for presidency. While in interviews, he made comments like “I’m old school, so generally, generally, I’m more of a Jazz guy, a Miles Davis, a John Coltrane guy, more of a Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder kind of guy,” he also acknowledged that he was “current enough that on my iPod I’ve got a little bit of Jay-Z.” And, as MCs do, he often used coded references that only insiders would fully understand, such as when he brushed off his shoulders during a speech, which was a nod to one of Jay Z’s most popular songs.
In the last few years of his presidency, Obama has been explicit about his appreciation for Hip-Hop and his understanding of its power in effecting change. Last year, he named Kendrick Lamar’s “How Much A Dollar Cost,” from his critically acclaimed album To Pimp A Butterfly, as his favorite song of 2015, and earlier this year he had Kendrick join him in the White House and enlisted the artist’s services in his “Pay It Forward” initiative. In fact, Obama’s connection to Hip-Hop has grown so deep that he was almost subject to his first Rap beef, as he drew the ire of Drake after declaring that Kendrick would vanquish the Toronto MC in a Rap battle.
Yesterday (March 14), Obama tied all of these things together–his appreciation for Hip-Hop and his recognition of its power to effect change. He invited Lin-Manuel Miranda, the writer and star of Broadway theater sensation Hamilton, for an unprecedented performance in the White House’s storied Rose Garden. For the first time ever (publicly), an MC freestyled, creating an impromptu rhyme, for the President of the United States. As Obama held up flash cards with words that Miranda had not seen previously, the playwright created a verse, “off the top.” He did not simply sting together words that rhymes. Instead, as he does with Hamilton, he used the occasion to both entertain and educate. When shown words like “NASA” and “Constitution” he rapped about both historical issues and those facing us present day, such as carbon emissions. It was an incredible display of not only an awe-inspiring talent, but also how deeply interwoven Hip-Hop has become in the fabric of our country.