Watch Lin-Manuel Miranda Perform the Earliest Version of Hamilton at the White House, Six Years Before the Play Hit the Broadway Stage (2009)

Anoth­er immi­grant comin’ up from the bot­tom

His ene­mies destroyed his rep, Amer­i­ca for­got him… 

Holler if you can remem­ber a time when few Amer­i­cans were well-versed enough in found­ing father Alexan­der Hamil­ton’s ori­gin sto­ry to recite it in rhyme at the drop of a hat.

Believe it or not, as recent­ly as the sum­mer of 2015, when Lin-Manuel Miran­da’s Pulitzer Prize-win­ning Hamil­ton: An Amer­i­can Musi­cal explod­ed on Broad­way, Hamil­ton the man was, as the Tony award win­ning lyrics above sug­gest, large­ly for­got­ten, a rel­ic whose por­trait on the $10 bill aroused lit­tle curios­i­ty.

Back then, Hamil­ton was per­haps best known as the hap­less soul embod­ied by Michael Cera in the web series Drunk His­to­ry.

Ron Chernow’s 2005 biog­ra­phy served up a more nuanced por­trait to read­ers with the sta­mi­na to make it through his mas­sive tome.

That’s the book Miran­da famous­ly took along on vaca­tion in the peri­od between his musi­cal In the Heights’ Broad­way and Off-Broad­way runs.

The rest, as they say, is his­to­ry.

As is the above video, in which a 29-year-old Miran­da per­forms The Hamil­ton Mix­tape for Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, the First Lady, and oth­er lumi­nar­ies as part of a White House evening of poet­ry, music, and spo­ken word.

There’s your Hamil­ton (the musi­cal) ori­gin sto­ry.

Its cre­ator ini­tial­ly con­ceived of it as a hip hop con­cept album in which cel­e­brat­ed rap­pers would give voice to dif­fer­ent his­tor­i­cal char­ac­ters.

Music direc­tor Alex Lacamoire’s jubi­lant expres­sion at the White House piano con­firms that they had some inkling that they were on to some­thing very big.

A few months lat­er, Miran­da reflect­ed on the expe­ri­ence in an inter­view with Play­bill:

The whole day was a day that will exist out­side any oth­er day in my life. Any day that starts with you shar­ing a van to the White House with James Earl Jones is going to be a crazy day! I was the clos­ing act of the show and I had nev­er done this project in pub­lic before so I was already ner­vous. I looked at the Pres­i­dent and the First Lady only once and when I looked at him he was whis­per­ing some­thing to her and I couldn’t let that get to me. After­wards, George Stephanopou­los came up to me and said, “The Pres­i­dent is back there talk­ing about your song, he’s say­ing ‘Where is (Sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury) Tim­o­thy Geit­ner? We need him to hear the Hamil­ton rap!’” To hear that the Pres­i­dent enjoyed the song was a real dream come true. 

The Oba­mas enjoy­ment was such that they appeared in a pre-taped seg­ment to intro­duce the Hamil­ton cast at the 2016 Tony awards (a tough year for any oth­er musi­cal unlucky enough to have debuted in the same peri­od as this jug­ger­naut).

They also host­ed a Hamil­ton work­shop for DC-area youth, for which the Broad­way cast trav­eled down on their day off, per­form­ing the open­ing num­ber out of cos­tume. Biog­ra­ph­er Ron Cher­now was in the front row for that one, as Oba­ma remarked that “Hamil­ton is the only thing Dick Cheney and I agree on.”

(“Dick Cheney attend­ed the show tonight,” Miran­da tweet­ed after Cheney’s vis­it. “He’s the OTHER vice-pres­i­dent who shot a friend while in office.” Cur­rent Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence also took in a per­for­mance short­ly before his swear­ing in, though his appear­ance was met with a much less pithy response.)

As for The Hamil­ton Mix­tape, many of Miran­da’s dream rap­pers turned out for its record­ing, though the tracks they laid down diverge from the one per­formed live for the Oba­mas in 2009, which legions of ador­ing fans can chant along to thanks to the musi­cal’s over­whelm­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty. Instead, this mixtape’s con­tribut­ing artists were invit­ed to reimag­ine and expand upon the themes of the play—immigration, ambi­tion, and stubble—placing them in an explic­it­ly 21st-cen­tu­ry con­text.

Lis­ten to The Hamil­ton Mix­tape and the orig­i­nal cast record­ing of Hamil­ton for free on Spo­ti­fy.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Lin-Manuel Miran­da & Emi­ly Blunt Take You Through 22 Clas­sic Musi­cals in 12 Min­utes

A Whiskey-Fueled Lin-Manuel Miran­da Reimag­ines Hamil­ton as a Girl on Drunk His­to­ry

Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miran­da Cre­ates a 19-Song Playlist to Help You Get Over Writer’s Block

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. She has yet to win the Hamil­ton lot­tery. Join her in New York City for the next install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain, this March. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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