Who Knew the Founding Fathers Could Rap?

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Maggi Richard '17, Staff Writer

When you listen to the new Broadway musical, Hamilton, focusing on the life and liberties of Alexander Hamilton, you might hear something a little bit different.. The actor who wrote Hamilton, Lin Manuel Miranda, concocted a completely original style of music that combines traditional musical theatre with the fast-paced language and beat of today’s rap music. It may sound like a strange and unappetizing mix, but once you adjust to Miranda’s new style, the obsession is difficult to shake.

The use of modern rap was intentionally used by Miranda to symbolize the progressiveness of  Hamilton’s thoughts. Rap and hip-hop artists today are associated with progression and controversial topics, making infamous remarks about the world in which they live. In 1776, the featured characters of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton personified all these traits and more. Miranda drew this parallel between the Founding Fathers and modern singers by actually having each of these historical figures rap in their own clever styles. For example, instead of showing an ordinary Cabinet Meeting, there are high-energy rap battles between Jefferson and Hamilton. One song even features Hamilton rapping over top of and eventually overtaking a man singing about the “foolishness of a rebellion”. Hamilton, symbolizing the new American ideas, represents the ideas of the radical Patriots in the pre-revolutionary New York City.

Not only was the rap style symbolic but rapping also acted as a useful tool for Miranda to incorporate Hamilton’s speech pattern into a song. He took a man who wrote sentences the lengths of paragraphs, and put his words into couplets to be spoken faster in a rhythm previous untouched by any production. By using rap, Miranda encapsulated the eloquent, clever, and biting tone that seeped from the real Hamilton’s language. The frequent use of slant rhymes also plays into the rap genre. Several words sound very similar, almost like they rhyme, but don’t quite line up correctly such as “it’s unlawful, sir” and “British officer”. These slant rhymes develop a sense of wit and clever personality for the songs. If Hamilton has one thing, it’s personality. The combination of old and modern words and musical styles has certainly given Hamilton a stunning life of its own, unique to any other musical theatre production ever to take the stage.