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Watch: Lin-Manuel Miranda and Black Thought in the world’s most cordial rap battle

Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

Battle of the titans alert! On Tuesday night, while the rest of America was recovering from a post–vice presidential debate hangover, Hamilton composer Lin-Manuel Miranda stopped by The Tonight Show for a rap battle with the Roots’ Tariq Luqmaan Trotter, a.k.a Black Thought. And by "rap battle," I mean "a polite exchange of verses punctuated by a show of mutual respect and esteem."

"You are the greatest alive!" Miranda cried as Trotter finished his verse. "Why am I here?"

This isn’t the first time Miranda and Trotter have crossed paths. The Roots were the executive producers on Hamilton’s cast album, and Trotter closed out the Hamilton cast’s cypher at 2015’s BET Awards.

But this encounter definitely veered in a different direction than Miranda and Trotter’s past work. Since Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon is incapable of creating any segment that doesn’t function like a party game on speed, there were some basic rules to their polite exchange: In every verse, each rapper had to incorporate three randomly chosen words.

Miranda, faced with "robot," "corn maze," and "Harry Potter," tried to pretend that mentioning Harry Potter would be a big challenge for him, but let’s be real: This is the man who has included raps about Frodo in two of his three musicals. The pages of the Hamiltome are laced with Harry Potter references. He’s a nerd, is what I’m saying, and a Harry Potter shout-out in a freestyle verse is as nothing to him.

Trotter, meanwhile was given "guacamole," "lumberjack," and "Super Bowl," but to a man of his superhuman abilities, this was no challenge at all. When he rapped, "Set 'em up, chop 'em down like a lumberjack," the moment was so perfect that the audience spontaneously cheered before they were supposed to.

So Miranda, backed into a corner, wrapped up the final verse of the night (words: "pop tart," "unicorn," and "Election Day") with the wildly off-brand choice of rhyming "election" with "erection."

Sir! You’ve spent the past year singing polite, mildly suggestive innuendos like, "You strike me as a woman who has never been satisfied," or, "I don’t say no to this." What are we supposed to do with explicit references to your penis? This is not the family-friendly Lin-Manuel Miranda brand (TM) that Disney is so looking forward to cashing in on with Moana, for which Miranda composed the music, and Mary Poppins Returns, where he’ll be playing the Dick Van Dyke character.

All I can say, Lin-Manuel Miranda, is that I’m sure I don’t know what you mean; you forget yourself.

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