Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Kajikawa, Loren. “‘Young, Scrappy, and Hungry’: Hamilton, Hip Hop, and Race.” American Music 36 (Winter 2018): 467-86.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s engagement with the history, culture, and aesthetics of hip hop in Hamilton: An American Musical contributes meaningfully to its retelling of the Founders story and its role in the ongoing struggle to define American identity. The reception of Hamilton as a hip hop musical is vitally important to its widespread appeal, but Miranda borrows from a broad swath of American popular music styles to create a diverse sound. In the musical, the character of Alexander Hamilton undergoes a rags-to-riches arc similar to how many hip hop artists present themselves. Hamilton is differentiated musically by his polysyllabic flow, similar to rappers like Big Pun and Rakim. In addition to stylistically borrowing from various hip hop artists, Miranda explicitly references specific lines from famous tracks. For example, the “Ten Duel Commandments” number in Hamilton is modelled on and borrows the opening countdown from the Notorious B.I.G. track “Ten Crack Commandments.” In interviews about this number, Miranda commented on the similarities between Hamilton and Notorious B.I.G. both rapping about the unwritten rules of illegal activity, framing the hip hop “hustler” trope as the embodiment of American enterprise. The intersection of hip hop, multiracial casting, and framing of American history in Hamilton is further contextualized by the neoliberal politics surrounding its creation and premiere. By focusing on politics of diversity and largely ignoring class and economic politics in favor of a message of success following hard work, Hamilton was able to appeal to liberals and conservatives alike. While its message of diversity gained urgency during the Trump administration, Hamilton remains uncritical of neoliberal power structures.

Works: Lin-Manuel Miranda: Hamilton: An American Musical (468-76)

Sources: Mobb Deep: Shook Ones, Pt. 2 (473-74); Notorious B.I.G.: Ten Crack Commandments (474)

Index Classifications: 2000s, Popular

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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