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The Hamilton Mixtape's “Wrote My Way Out” shows why Hamilton’s story is a hip-hop story

Hamilton Hamilton/Atlantic Records
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.

When Lin-Manuel Miranda introduced the idea for Hamilton to the world at a White House event in 2009, he explained why he thought Alexander Hamilton’s life story “embodies hip-hop.” It’s because Hamilton was born poor and disenfranchised and rose to the highest levels of government, “all on the strength of his writing.”

"I was like, ‘Oh, he literally wrote his way out of his circumstances,’” Miranda later told Rolling Stone. “That's it! That's everything. … Jay Z, Eminem, Biggie. Lil Wayne writing about Katrina!”

For Miranda, Hamilton’s ability to write his way out of a problem is the archetypal story of hip-hop. And that’s the story Miranda is telling with Nas, Dave East, and Aloe Blacc in “Wrote My Way Out,” the latest sneak peek of the forthcoming Hamilton Mixtape.

Slated to come out December 2, The Hamilton Mixtape features various songs from the Broadway musical, as covered, remixed, and reimagined by various hip-hop and pop musicians. A few of the covers have already made it to Spotify, where “Wrote My Way Out” is now available to stream.

“Wrote My Way Out,” which remixes the Broadway musical’s song “Hurricane,” follows the same strategy as the already-released “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done),” a remix of the musical’s “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down).” “Hurricane” and “Yorktown” are both plot-driven, history-dense songs; they discuss Hamilton’s descent into a sleazy sex scandal and the end of the Revolutionary War, respectively. Consequently, they’re not suited to a straightforward pop cover the way the show’s ballads are. So instead, The Hamilton Mixtape remixes them, turning each song’s most resonant line into a recurring sample and then veering away from history, into the present day.

For “Hurricane,” that line is Hamilton’s refrain that “I wrote my way out” — out of the Caribbean, into revolution, into the president’s Cabinet, and now into a sex scandal — and in “Wrote My Way Out,” it becomes an evocation of Miranda’s original inspiration for Hamilton.

“I picked up the pen like Hamilton,” raps Nas, before he goes on to recount all of the things he wrote his way out of: systemic disenfranchisement, “rights and wrongs and bails bonds.”

In this song, the line “I wrote my way out” goes from an act specific to Hamilton to something universal. It becomes the archetypal hip-hop story.