#1 album on the Billboard 200 chart, week of 12/24/16
What it is: A compilation album in which various contemporary rappers and R&B artists (as well as Jimmy Fallon, for some reason) offer up their own takes on songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical Hamilton.
I don’t really know how well-known the podcast Chapo Trap House is outside of the circle of people I follow on Twitter, but my guess is not very, so if you’re not familiar with it, it basically consists of irreverent political commentary from the Left, and that’s “the Left” as opposed to “liberals,” not as opposed to anyone less conservative than registered Republicans. Chapo crystallizes American progressivism’s current internal conflicts into a divide between “liberals,” meaning relatively centrist Democrats who rallied around Hillary Clinton, and “the Dirtbag Left,” meaning more radical progressives who found a champion in Bernie Sanders. Hamilton is a case study in this schism: “Liberals” adore it, while the Chapo hosts mock it as hopelessly lame.
I’m a Chapo listener, and while I don’t necessarily agree with its hosts’ views on everything, I think I more or less come down on their side here. Based on the partial listen I gave the Hamilton soundtrack, the project is cute enough but no cooler than you’d expect a hip-hop musical about the Founding Fathers to be. I know its author is Lin-Manuel Miranda, but I can’t help but picture Martin Prince from The Simpsons.
The Hamilton Mixtape is a less intensely nerdy experience, if only because the artists involved (such as Busta Rhymes, Regina Spektor, Jill Scott and Chance the Rapper) are sometimes free to let their lyrical subject matter wander outside the realm of 18th-century history. The production is fine but pretty generic; would’ve been interesting to see if this stuff sounded better over dusty old RZA beats or something. In any case, if you like Hamilton, I imagine you’ll like this. You’re also probably a big poindexter.