Alexander Hamilton: Hip-Hop Hero at the White House Poetry Evening

Recently we brought you the story of the Alexander Hamilton-Aaron Burr duel, as told in a drunken stupor by Mark Gagliardi and starring Zombieland’s Michael Cera as Hamilton. Now we have another unusual narrator of the life of America’s first Treasury Secretary. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tony award-winning writer and star of the Broadway musical In the Heights, composed “The Hamilton Mixtape,” a song detailing the founding father’s rise from humble beginnings as (in the words of John Adams) “the bastard brat of a Scottish peddler,” to the upper echelons of the American Revolutionary government. Born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, Hamilton’s story is as bootstrap as they come, and Miranda took his version all the way to the top. In the video above, he performs “The Hamilton Mixtape” for Barack and Michelle Obama at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word, held on May 12, 2009.

To learn more about Alexander Hamilton, visit

And check out Miranda’s lyrics below the jump.

“The Hamilton Mixtape”

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore
And a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot
In the Caribbean, by Providence impoverished, to squalor
Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?
The ten-dollar Founding Father without a father
Got a lot farther
By workin’ a lot harder
By bein’ a lot smarter
By bein’ a self-starter
By fourteen they had placed him in charge of the trade and charter
And every day while slaves were being slaughtered
And carted away across the waves
Our Hamilton kept his guard up
Inside he was longing for something to be a part of
The brother was ready to beg steal borrow or barter
Then a hurricane came and
Devastation reigned and
Our man saw his future drip drippin’ down the drain
Put a pencil to his temple
Connected it to his brain
And he wrote his first refrain
A testament to his pain
When the word got around, they said, “This kid is insane, man!”
Took up a collection just to send him to the mainland
Getcha education, don’t forget from whence you came
And the world is gonna know your name!
What’s your name, man?

Alexander Hamilton. His name is Alexander Hamilton
And there’s a million things he hasn’t done
But just you wait. Just you wait

[Verse 2]
When he was 10, his father split
Full of it, debt-ridden
Two years later, see Alex and his mother, bed-ridden
Half-dead, sittin’ in their own sick
The scent thick
And Alex got better but his mother went quick
Moved in with a cousin. The cousin committed suicide
Left him with nothin’ but ruined pride
Somethin’ new inside, a voice
Saying Alex, you gotta fend for yourself
He started retreatin’
And readin’
Every treatise on the shelf
There would’ve been nothin’ left to do
For someone less astute
He would’ve been dead and destitute
Without a cent of restitution
Started workin’
Clerkin’ for his late mother’s landlord
Tradin’ sugar cane and rum and other things he can’t afford
Scannin’ for every book he can get his hands on
Plannin’ for the future, see him now
As he stands on the bow of a ship headed for a new land
In New York you can be a new man
The ship is in the harbor now
See if you can spot him
Another immigrant comin’ up from the bottom
His enemies destroyed his rep, America forgot him
And me? I’m the damn fool that shot him

Alexander Hamilton
We were waiting in the weeds for you
You could never back down
You always had to speak your mind
But Alexander Hamilton, we could never take your deeds from you
In our cowardice and our shame
We will try to destroy your name
The world will never be the same, Alexander!

Yeah, I’m the damn genius that shot him

h/t @ashleyfmiller


Josh Jones is a doctoral candidate in English at Fordham University and a co-founder and former managing editor of Guernica / A Magazine of Arts and Politics.

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Comments (7)
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  • ruthie says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing that! Can’t help but wonder how much more history kids would learn if presented like this…

  • Aerin says:

    I hate to only post a comment that points out a correction but Micheal Cera was not the actor in Zombieland. It was Jesse Eisenberg (who admittedly looks similar to Cera).

  • Alessandro says:

    “the bastard brat of a Scottish peddler”

    Its a strange thing that people who would buy and sell people looked down on people who, in contrast, just bought and sell things.

  • Alexander Hamilton I never really cared who he was but I know now, and that poem was very creative.

  • You truly constructed several good items within ur article, “Alexander Hamilton: Hip-Hop Hero at the White House Poetry Evening |
    Open Culture”. I may end up coming back again to ur page eventually.

    Thx -Rashad

  • asdf asdf says:

    my teacher showed us this is class.People were either laughing or listening and taking notes. Our teacher also told us that ppl with george washington either wanted to be him or date him :)

  • Larry says:

    What song was the beat from? It’s sounds familiar

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