Hamilton Questlove Black Thought Lin-Manuel Miranda Square
Hamilton Questlove Black Thought Lin-Manuel Miranda Square

Questlove & Black Thought Discuss 'Hamilton,' Broadway's "First Authentic Hip-Hop Show"

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

When the news broke that The Roots would be stepping in to help produce the official soundtrack recording for Hamilton, the hip-hop American history musical that's taken NYC by storm, to say we were pleased would be an understatement. In the short six months since its debut at the Public Theater in Manhattan, the musical has garnered nothing but rave reviews and quickly become one of the most in-demand tickets on the East Coast. Hamilton, which was written, scored and starred in by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is a story of the American Revolution told through kinetic hip-hop and R&B songs, tightly-choreographed dances and a decidedly diverse racial lens; it jostles the staid, stodgy narrative of typical history courses and injects a bit of modernity into ye olde revolutions.

In a new interview with Billboard Magazine, Questlove, Black Thought and Manuel sat down to together to discuss the production as it continues to change and grow. We learn that Hamilton was born out of an impromptu performance at the White House, one in which Manuel spat delicately-practiced bars about Alexander Hamilton for the President himself after asserting that the founding father, who was an immigrant orphan frequently in conflict with his surroundings "embodies hip-hop."

"To be hip-hop is much more than just rapping in the production," Questlove told Billboard. "It is more in the attitude. A couple of years ago, when the musical Fela! was first out, I was amazed that something that raw, that uncut got past the guard and actually got made. And I thought, similar to Obama, 'This is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

"And then along comes Hamilton. Like, dude, finally a reason to come to Broadway. First authentic hip-hop show."

As the interview proceeds, Miranda reveals that the play almost had a special rap battle built into it--an anti-slavery number that would have paid homage to Tupac:

Yeah, that we cut, and it was sort of our homage to "Hail Mary" [by Tupac Shakur]. There was a moment when there were two Quakers from, I think it was Pennsylvania, who tried to ban the importation of slaves and brought it to the house floor. And [James] Madison let them talk about it for two days and then set a gag rule -- "We're not talking about slavery until 1808" -- basically saying, like, "We don't know how to solve it." They knew it was a problem. Even from the racist perspective, it was, "There's going to be more of them than us!" But no one knew what to do about it, and they all kicked it down the field.

Later in the interview we're treated to keen observations from Questlove as to how productions like Hamilton can help bridge gaps--ones between different generations of hip-hop fans, theater goers' conflicting political positions and even ideological divisions over what our understanding of America's birth should look like. It's a fascinating interview and can be read in full over at Billboard. Watch video of Questlove, Black Thought, and Miranda below, as well. Stay tuned for more information on The Roots' work on the upcoming cast album of Hamilton.