Alexander Hamilton was a stud. Yes, he served as George Washington’s aide-de-camp during the Revolutionary War, wrote a majority of the Federalist Papers, became the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and was the father of American finance—but he was also a quick-tempered, egotistical flirt who caused America’s first political sex scandal and died tragically in a duel against Aaron Burr in 1804. And he’s the only founding father to inspire his own hip-hop album.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Tony Award-winning creator of Broadway’s In the Heights, is currently working on The Hamilton Mixtape, a concept album that tells Hamilton’s life story through rap. Miranda performed parts of theMixtape at the White House in 2009 and at Lincoln Center in New York City last year. “When I first read about him, I couldn’t get the stories of Tupac and Biggie out of my head,” says Miranda, whose new project coincides with a growing cultural fascination with the founding father.
Ever since the 200th anniversary of Hamilton’s death in 2004—which saw the release of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Ron Chernow’s Hamilton biography and a well-attended reenactment of the Weehawken (N.J.) duel, in which Hamilton and Burr were played by their own descendants—Hamilton’s fan base has been steadily increasing. He’s been embraced both by Tea Party members (who champion the Federalist Papers) and on the left (who highlight his support of a strong federal government). In the past few months, his name has been invoked by economists in the U.S. and Europe as a source of wisdom on the federal debt and the euro zone crisis. “Europe is at an Alexander Hamilton moment,” former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker declared in January, “but there’s no Alexander Hamilton in sight.”