Hey yo, I’m just like my country.
I’m young, scrappy and hungry.
That verbal fusillade delivered by Lin-Manuel Miranda, playing Alexander Hamilton, began the sensational performance of Mr. Miranda’s project, “The Hamilton Mixtape,” on Wednesday evening at the Allen Room, where it opened the new season of Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series.
“I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory,” continues a rap in which Hamilton, a student who bluffed his way into King’s College (present-day Columbia University) after growing up an orphan in the Caribbean island of Nevis, goes on to speculate that death is “a beat without a melody,” and that he never thought he would live past 20.
Who would have thought of comparing America’s founding fathers to contemporary rappers? But “The Hamilton Mixtape,” inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton, finds him furiously quarreling with Thomas Jefferson (Jon Rua), James Madison (James Monroe Iglehart), and Aaron Burr (Utkarsh Ambudkar), in cabinet debates moderated by George Washington (Christopher Jackson).
The notion of America’s founding fathers as proto-rappers is not far-fetched. The show depicts Hamilton as a revolutionary rebel and volatile genius whose hopes for the presidency were dashed by one of America’s first sex scandals, an extramarital affair. His fatal duel with Burr echoes the kind of verbal and territorial skirmishes that preceded the deaths of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur
In performance at the White House some time back, Miranda explained and performed: