10 Things We Learned From Lin-Manuel Miranda's Rap Radar Podcast Interview

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File
Lin-Manuel Miranda arrives at the 2016 Governors Awards in Los Angeles.

Miranda explains why the 'Hamilton' cast addressing Mike Pence wasn't a 'partisan thing.'

Lin-Manuel Miranda had a better year than most. After his play Hamilton: An American Musical won the hearts of Broadway critics and hip-hop heads, he seamlessly crafted the star-studded The Hamilton Mixtape. By teaming up with some of the genre's most celebrated stars like The Roots, Nas, Queen Latifah, and Chance The Rapper, the project scored the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 earlier this month. 

Miranda sat down with the Rap Radar Podcast to discuss a slew of topics ranging from his decision to link up with Nas on the mixtape highlight "Wrote My Way Out", bringing Ja Rule and Ashanti back together for a collaborative effort, and his love for hip-hop. Check out some of his standout quotes from the interview below. 

On Memorizing the Lyrics to Black Sheep's Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Stealing my [sister's] copy of Wolf in Sheep's Clothing and that was the first album I made myself memorize beginning to end. That was like the first big one for me.

Channeling '90s New York Rap and Big Pun for the Making of Hamilton

When you listen to Hamilton [and] the references you'll hear, it's a lot of 90s New York [rap]. Hamilton is my best [Big] Pun impression most of the time. It's how many syllables - I'm not just gonna rhyme at the end of the sentence - it's can I squeeze seven rhymes in there. Can I squeeze eight rhymes in there?

On Rapping With Nas on "Wrote My Way Out"

I wasn't going to be on it until I heard that beat. When I heard that beat, because you know, I'm a playwright. I don't think of myself as a rapper. I think of myself as a playwright, a performer, and I'm not trying to take anyone's spot... 

Who's been more vulnerable than Nas on the track? What I was thinking about a lot when I was writing that was one, the notion of writing, and the notion of salvation through writing, which Nas talks about a lot. I was also thinking about his verse on Scarface's "In Between Us", which is one of my favorite opening lines ever in hip-hop. 

On the Creative Process behind The Hamilton Mixtape 

Our mutual friend Riggs Morales can tell you, I wanted to do the mixtape before the show even came out. That was my original idea. When I was reading the book for the first time, I was thinking, 'What rapper or what R&B artist is most like George Washington?' Not what he's physically, or sound like, but who's that spirit?' You know, that was the fun for me; casting the founders as our hip-hop founders. 

What ended up happening was we finished the show and the show took off so big. We said, 'Let's wait,' because the heroes that we were gonna chase and have to pitch this weird pitch are gonna see the show. We made a wish-list. I was like, 'The people I was thinking about as I was writing this are: Common, John Legend, Nas.' Like, I just sorta of made a hip-hop heroes wish-list and then Riggs job was to get them to the show. 

On Reuniting Ja Rule & Ashanti in the Studio 

They've never lost touch. They're still very tight. They went to see the show together. They came into the studio and I think it was Ashanti's mom's birthday. So they came in like, 'Whoooooo!' 

On Getting Bullied in Elementary School  

Before I went to the school that I went to in elementary school, I was in a school where I was the first kid who knew how to read and got the crap beat out of me for it. 

On His Relationship with Joell Ortiz 

That Brick Bodega Chronicles knocked me the f--k out! I hadn't heard anyone really rhyme like that since Pun. I think him and Black Thought are really underrated. 

On Busta Rhymes Being the Louis Armstrong of Rap

I think he is to hip-hop, what Louis Armstrong is to jazz. Like, that voice to me, it represents [hip-hop] in a very real way. 

On Meeting the Descendants of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr 

It was surreal. Listen, my parents were both born in Puerto Rico. I can point back a couple of generations, but to have a group of people that are really united and defined by what their ancestors did 200-something years ago, that's like really crazy. That's not something I have a lot of experience in. One of the other crazy things, as I was writing it, I learned - I was living all the way Uptown. I was living on 218 Street and one of my next door neighbors was a descendant of Burr. Antonio Burr. He's a really great dude. There was another person in my building who knew what I was writing about was like, 'You know Antonio Burr lives in this building, right?' And he's a great guy. He really helped inform my thinking on Burr because this is a guy who lived on the other side of it. 

On Hamilton Cast Talking to Vice President-Elect Mike Pence 

We found out he was going to be there at 2 in the afternoon that moment. We have always spoken to the people who come to our show. And that's not even a partisan thing. When I was at the White House with Obama, I talked to him about Oscar Lopez Rivera, who is a prisoner that means a lot to a lot of Puerto Ricans and we really want to see him freed, especially now with Obama leaving office. I think that's the best chance we're gonna get. I talked to Obama about that when I was at the White House. So, the fact that Pence was there, we weren't trying to make some partisan anything. The goal was, there's a lot of people scared as a result of this election. We hope you lead all of us. 

Listen to the full podcast here.


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