Album Review: ‘Hamilton’ Original Broadway Cast Recording

Jacob Judd, Features Editor

The revolution has been brewing in New York. Now the musical powder keg explodes worldwide. “Hamilton” is the new musical from Lin Manuel Miranda, creator of the Tony-winning “In the Heights”. An epic, biographical hip-hopera about the life of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, the show follows America’s most influential immigrant from his humble beginnings in the Caribbean, through his career as George Washington’s right hand man, to his fateful death in a duel with the nation’s third Vice-President.

But this isn’t your grandpa’s history class. Miranda’s stroke of brilliance is identifying hip-hop as the music of the revolution. The founding fathers that flow in and out of the narrative are brash, relatable, angry young men ready to change the world with their words.

They don’t sound like your grandma’s broadway records either. “We wanted to make a cast album that would rattle the trunk of your car,” Miranda said on the New York Times Popcast. And they’ve certainly succeeded. Miranda’s masterful writing is preserved in a stellar audio production courtesy of Questlove and Blackthought, founding members of hip-hop/soul group The Roots. Standout tracks like “Wait for It” and “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)” all but demand the best sound system you can assemble.

Over the course of two discs and nearly 2 and 1/2 hours Hamilton’s story is told primarily through rap, but also through R&B melodies, jazz, Brit-pop and exactly one traditional Broadway ballad. This is an album that credibly fuses references to Gilbert and Sullivan with Notorious B.I.G. samples. Despite the musical diversity, the entire thing feels artistically coherent.

At the end of the day, “Hamilton” shouldn’t be as revolutionary as it is. Hip-hop has been around for decades, dispensing lyrical density that’d make Stephen Sondheim blush. Still, not since “Hair” in 1968 has a piece of musical theater felt so fresh, relevant and ready for contemporary radio play.

“Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)” is available now on digital platforms, and releases on CD Oct. 16th.