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STUDY GUIDE TOP FIVE: The Hamilton Mixtape

Top songs to help your finals grind

Music is a cyclical art form. Artists find inspiration from their predecessors, and in turn, those artists become influences on other generations.

“Hamilton: An American Musical” was a product of that same cycle. Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical draws heavily from the work of Busta Rhymes, Dessa, and The Roots, fusing his hip-hop heroes with musical theatre and U.S. history.

With its mass appeal and fresh take on our nation’s foundation, “Hamilton” opened up the world of Broadway to people who otherwise would have found it inaccessible.

With the release of “The Hamilton Mixtape,” Miranda gets a chance to feature his influences on the tracks they inspired. Questlove’s Roots, Nas, Common and Jill Scott all offer redone versions of now-classic “Hamilton” tracks alongside up-and-comers like Wiz Khalifa, Chance the Rapper and Watsky.

Here’s a list of the top five tracks featured on the mixtape:

1. “Wait For It” by Usher 

Usher’s silky voice is a perfect match for the song originally sung by Leslie Odom Jr. The ramped-up tempo and steady beat makes this one of the most radio-ready songs off “The Hamilton Mixtape” and fits right in with Usher’s dense, between-the-sheets discography.

2. “An Open Letter” by Watsky feat. Shockwave

I was really surprised to see rappers like Watsky and Chance on the album, since I figured these artists were too fresh to have inspired Miranda’s style.

I was wrong. Watsky does better than any of the featured artists at matching his vocal persona with the characters from the musical. He doesn’t seem out of place at all, and reminds me of Miranda if I wasn’t listening closely.

3. “Satisfied” by Sia feat. Miguel & Queen Latifah

Sia nails those riffs and crescendos on one of the most complex and moving songs in the musical. I loved hearing Queen Latifah — the First Lady of old school rap — spitting rhymes again, and Miguel’s smooth cadence makes the trio’s effort a rendition that wouldn’t sound out of place on “101.1 The Beat.”

4. “Dear Theodosia” by Regina Spektor and Ben Folds

Spektor and Folds reunite again on a duet originally sung by Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton’s characters at the end of Act I. This song reminds me a lot of the artists previously recorded duet, “You Don’t Know Me.” The juxtaposition of the two versions lends to different interpretations and symbolism.

5. “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)” by K’NAAN, Snow Tha Product, Riz MC, Residente

This is the most powerful song on the album for me. All of the artists on the collaboration did a great job on each verse. Having an all-immigrant artist base for the song makes each lyric all the more impactful. Hearing Snow Tha Product and Resident rap bilingually is moving, and the context of the rhymes keep you coming back for more.

Bonus: “Helpless” by Ashanti feat. Ja Rule

Wow. Never thought I’d hear this pairing again. “Helpless” is one of the most upbeat songs in the musical, and hearing Ashanti bring soul into the track — paired with Ja’s husky baritone — transports the audience to the early 2000s era of rap music.