The curtain was drawn on the stage at Richard Rodgers Theatre, revealing the set for a scene from Hamilton, with wooden structures and hanging rope on display. Eager attendees — who waited in line for hours and were let in on a first-come, first-served basis — found any remaining velvet seats to occupy as music from producers Illmind and J.Period floated through the open space.
The theater wasn’t packed for a matinee, though: Those in attendance — or tuning in to the live stream — were about to witness the live debut of the highly anticipated and star-studded Hamilton Mixtape, which officially drops Friday.
The arrival of the mixtape, which features the show’s original soundtrack reimagined and recorded by genre-spanning top-tier talent, only solidifies that the Hamilton hype shows no signs of slowing down. Miranda started working on the Hamilton Mixtape a year ago, and since then, a wide array of artists and producers, including J.Period, Questlove, Chance the Rapper, Sia, Alicia Keys and more, have crafted their own versions of each song from the play. The result is an impressive mixtape that serves as an accompanying — or, in the case of some, a more accessible — element to the Broadway success.
Tariq Trotter, more commonly known as Black Thought — The Roots‘ lead MC — served as host for the “special mixtape edition of #Ham4Ham,” as he called it. #Ham4Ham is a tradition Miranda started back in July 2015, when he was still performing in the show, in which he and other cast members would greet the crowd huddled around the theater’s front doors to deliver a short and somewhat spontaneous sidewalk performance — free of charge. The same general structure applied here, only this time the performances took place indoors.
Black Thought kicked things off as he tore through the aggressively charged “My Shot,” which featured a handful of verses from Brooklyn rapper Joell Ortiz. Prior to the performance, Ortiz told Billboard, “I wanted to write an inspiring verse to everyone who might listen to the song, not just people who go see plays or people who listen to hip-hop, but anyone who might hear this verse or read this verse somewhere. I wanted to make sure I express how important it is to be American and express how you feel and take the credit. That was the line I used, because I was like, ‘Who do you owe most? You.'”
Other performances saw the soft-spoken and syrupy sweet vocals of Regina Spektor, who delivered “Dear Theodosia.” She was followed by powerhouse Andra Day, who offered her sassy and soulful rendition of “Burn,” momentarily converting the theater into a church, before the dynamic duo of Ashanti and Ja Rule, who sang their collaborative track “Helpless” and brought the audience to their feet, closed out the mid-afternoon show.
Questlove, who played a large part in shaping the mixtape and who is also featured on three songs, didn’t perform but did briefly stop by to join his bandmate onstage and introduce a short video clip from Miranda himself, who was in London and earlier in the day had tweeted about his “vicious FOMO.”
This is happening in NY today and I am in —- and the FOMO is VISCOUS AND TANGIBLY FORMING IN CLUMPS AROUND MY HEART https://t.co/P0e2dkfL6x
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) December 1, 2016
Even without Miranda in attendance, seeing these performers take his music and his vision to the next level, it’s clear the story of Hamilton is still being written.