Hamilton Cast Recording Cover Art
Hamilton Cast Recording Cover Art

Questlove Pens A New Essay On The Hip-Hop x Broadway Brilliance Of 'Hamilton'

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

The world has been singing along to the cast album of Hamilton ever since it dropped late last month. Seriously--we've been belting in the car, in the shower, at home and even at work (sorry, OKP bosses). Gratitude is owed to the Broadway play's writer, director and former star Lin-Manuel Miranda, but just as much goes to the man who manned the boards during its recording: Questlove.

With Hamilton, the worlds of hip-hop and high art theater are almost seamlessly integrated; race is a key topic of its narrative, hard-knocking beats underpin almost all of its songs, and the cast is almost entirely comprised of black and brown-skinned actors. All of these are deliberate choices, made in the hope of coloring in the chalky-white origin story that America tells itself. By all accounts, it's an uproarious success.

Questlove homes in on these points and expands on many others in a new personal essay, which appeared this week in Rolling Stone. It opens with the Roots bandleader acknowledging the disconnect between, say, Broadway ave in Manhattan and Broadway ave in Brooklyn:

Broadway had its Chorus Line, Cats and West Side Story. Hip-hop had its Ready to Die, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and 3 Feet High and Rising. But the two worlds turned independently of one another. When there was a seismic event on Broadway, the citizens of hip-hop nation didn't feel the ground move under their feet. And when there was a major release or retrenchment in hip-hop, the dancers and directors and dramaturges didn't experience an inner reawakening. Until now.

The piece goes on to extol the vision of Miranda, and conveys a strong sense of personal gratitude for being able to get involved with Hamilton on a very deep level. But here's where Questo really seals the deal:

[Miranda] has brilliantly re-presented American history through the use of race-blind casting. Roles played in history by white people are, in Hamilton, played by Latino or African-American performers, without any explanation. Or rather: the lack of explanation is the explanation. That's been the creative move that has powered much of the show's critical attention, and it's easy to see why: It's audacious and funny and serious all at the same time. It's radically democratic: The only thing that's elitist is how hard it's become to get a ticket. (Yes, even for me, and I work for them.)

Read the entire piece over at RS. The official cast recording of Hamilton is available now on iTunes.