Watch: Obama Tells Origin Story of ‘Hamilton,’ Participates in Freestyle With Lin-Manuel Miranda


Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of his hit hip-hop/historical musical, Hamilton, stopped by the White House yesterday to perform numbers from the show. Because it’s in such high demand, tickets are expensive, and in introducing the performance, Obama said, “Hamilton is not just for people who can score a ticket to a pricey Broadway show. It is a story for all of us, and about all of us.” He emphasized that the reason for the performance at the White House — which was live streamed — was to “share this incredible musical with folks who might otherwise not get the experience.” Lin-Manuel Miranda also performed a freestyle rap prompted by Obama in the White House’s Rose Garden.

During his introduction to the performance by the cast, Obama recalled Manuel’s performance at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word in 2009, during which he actually shared some initial music from what’d later become Hamilton. Obama joked about how he’d introduced the song by saying they’re “about the life of somebody who embodies hip-hop — Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. And so we all started laughing, but Lin-Manuel was serious. And who’s laughing now? Having said that, not to take undue credit or anything, but this is definitely the room where it happened, right here. This is it right here, on this stage.”

Obama continued, veering from jokes into the aspects of the musical that make it vital and applicable to today’s America:

In this telling, rap is the language of revolution. Hip-hop is the backbeat. In each brilliantly crafted song, we hear the debates that shaped our nation, and we hear the debates that are still shaping our nation… And with a cast as diverse as America itself, including the outstandingly talented women — the show reminds us that this nation was built by more than just a few great men — and that it is an inheritance that belongs to all of us…We hope that this helps every teacher who’s spent hours trying to make the Federalist Papers teenager-friendly. We hope that the remarkable life of Alexander Hamilton will show our young people the possibilities within themselves, and how much they can achieve in the span of a lifetime.

Beyond that introduction and performance from the cast, in the Rose Garden, Obama and Miranda — joined by a drummer — collaborated on the aforementioned freestyle. Well, really, Miranda freestyled as Obama commanded the drummer to “drop the beat” and prompted the rapper/musical theater-er with a set of cards, (including “Obamacare,” as well as a series of less self-reflexive prompts, like “NASA,” “Congress, and “the Federalist Papers”). Watch, especially for Obama’s mic drop gesture towards the end of the clip:

Watch Obama’s introduction, as well as the performance:

[Via Vox]