Finally, it’s a beautiful day for America: The Hamilton Mixtape was released Friday. It can probably be assumed that by now a) the Hamilton Mixtape is already the hot item on your holiday wish list, or b) You don’t live in 1773 and have already started streaming it on Spotify. But you may be curious about what the best new songs on the Hamilton Mixtape are. Because, among all those fabulous covers from your hip-hop faves (and Regina Spektor?), there are plenty of new goodies to unwrap.
I mean, I know you want to plow through the entire album. You’re excited hear fresh renditions of your favorite songs from the musicals, to swoon at Usher’s take on “Wait For It,” to bawl hard at Kelly Clarkson’s “It’s Quiet Uptown.” But you also know those songs by heart. Now you can judge if certain demos should’ve made the final cut, or if certain lyrics can be refitted and expanded on in a thoroughly modern way. Now you can listen to a whole bunch of interludes, if you want to do that.
Taking everything with a grain of salt, these are all the new songs from the Hamilton Mixtape, ranked by their message and musicianship alike.
12. "Stay Alive - Interlude" — J. Period, Stro Elliot
There's actually nothing wrong with this musically, the piano is beautiful, the record-scratching is a nice touch. It is a decidedly lovely interlude. But the key word there is "interlude." This is 33 seconds long. Are you, at any point, going to seek this out on your iPhone and listen to it as an isolated track? I mean, you could, but it would feel a bit weird.
11. "Take A Break - Interlude" — !!!mind
Ditto this, plus another 10 or so seconds. There's an attractive mix of modern beats and... what, mock-harpsichord? No complaints there.
10. "An Open Letter (Feat. Shockwave) - Interlude" — Watsky Shockwave
So I do appreciate the rapidfire pace that the rapping escalates to at the 30 second point. That is impressive, hands down. But there's something about this that reminds me of a stripped down, sophomoric Linkin Park demo, which feels... wrong.
9. "No John Trumbull - Intro" — The Roots
"No John Trumbull" manages to sound heart pounding and gigantic despite its lack of length. But again: less than a minute long. Ultimately, the interludes and the intro are too short to truly be considered anything but wonderfully done bridges to other songs. Therefore, they're mostly ranked lowest based on their lack of actual song credibility, not their overall quality. Moving on...
8. "Valley Forge - Demo" — Lin Manuel-Miranda
This early version of "Stay Alive" from the musical's soundtrack is smooth, light, and... underwhelming. Definitely the best part is, "Hamilton, tone it down," when Hamilton is speaking (OK, cursing) at a perfectly normal volume. In my mind, I can only hear that exchange as a lulz-worthy, "Hamilton, bring it down to a dull roar." The rage doesn't quite get across in the demo.
7. "Cabinet Battle 3 - Demo" — Lin Manuel-Miranda
A simple, straightforward rap about potentially ending the slave trade (with serious shade thrown at Jefferson's plantation liaisons). Interesting and sad in the larger context of our American history, since the founding fathers never thought of a better solution and it took a whole other war to end slavery. As an independent song, though, it still underwhelms by its curse of being a demo.
6. "Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)" — K’NAAN, Snow Tha Product, Riz MC, Residente
It's really interesting to see Hamilton's and Lafayette's line in "Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)" repurposed as the backbone of this track. That, paired with the running commentary about the difficulties and prejudices facing immigrants in this country (one can't help thinking of the gigantic wall Trump keeps promising), drives home an interesting dichotomy. We forget all too quickly how our country was founded and fought for by immigrants. But politics and message aside, it's just fine as a song. Maybe there are too many cooks in the kitchen?
5. "Congratulations" — Dessa
What do I want from this forgotten Angelica Schuyler song? Maybe a bit more rage, maybe a bit less droning? That said, it's really, really, good. It just falls short of actual greatness.
4. "Say Yes To This" — Jill Scott
It's essentially Maria's side of the Hamilton affair, and it comes across as surprisingly strong and unsurprisingly sexy. Very, very, sexy. Your appreciation of this song will ultimately depend on your tolerance for sexiness.
3. "Washingtons By Your Side" — Wiz Khalifa
There isn't anything deeply revolutionary about this track, and that's perfectly OK. It flows along beautifully like a casual Christmastime journey across the Delaware River with your best brothers in arms.
2. "Who Tells Your Story (Feat. Common & Ingrid Michaelson)" — The Roots
This is just a solid track all around; there isn't anything I don't appreciate about this arrangement. Except... maybe within the lyrics. The lyrics independent of the hook, I feel like the actual ties to Hamilton do eventually get lost. Somewhere around the mention of "Hennessy."
1. "Wrote My Way Out" — Nas, Dave East, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Aloe Blacc
"Wrote My Way Out" is simply a masterful trap, and Miranda's support on this song definitely elevates it to the next level. Really, it's a perfect homage to the entire legacy of Hamilton, someone who has a journey similar to many hip-hop greats: he came from a low-social standing, he wrote his way to the top, he became a magnet of scandal, and he the party early in a body bag. Phenomenal.
OK, by the time you've reached the end of this, you've probably now listened to the full album five or six times. I get it. You had to wait for it and your eagerness overcame you. But if you somehow haven't streamed the Hamilton Mixtape, feel free to give both new and new-old songs a listen... it's worth the wait.