If you had any questions about whether Broadway’s Hamilton is helping bring musical theater to hip-hop culture, look no further than Tuesday night’s BET Hip-Hop Awards, in which cast members became the first Broadway cast to cross over into the legendary Cypher. It was exciting, and best of all, Renée Elizabeth Goldsberry—who plays Angelica Schuyler, Alexander Hamilton’s sister-in-law and intellectual love interest—repped our set by namedropping powerful women throughout history.
The cypher begins with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton’s star and creator, who’s no stranger to freestyles—his side hustle is an ensemble called Freestyle Love Supreme, which has been blending freestyle, improv, and stage comedy at New York City’s Joe’s Pub for years. Miranda says he’s going to “literally bring the drama,” invoking a Pultizer and bragging about almost having that hallowed quartet of institutional awards, the Emmy-Grammy-Oscar-Tony (EGOT). When was the last time you heard a rapper brag about almost going EGOT? It’s a hell of a boast: “Got a Grammy, got a Tony, got a Emmy, goddammit homie, somebody show me the way to the Oscars.”
Then Goldsberry puts it down: “I came to represent the ladies in our history/we know the founding fathers but the mothers are a mystery.” She eases into the fire, dropping Joan of Arc, Rosa Parks, Frances Farmer, Amelia Earhart and before saying “me and Pocahontas givin smallpox to white folks.” Flames! Watch it all, and stay for Oakland’s Daveed Diggs—Hamilton’s cute-as-hell, show-stealing Thomas Jefferson—shouting out MC Hammer and dropping the line “so sick in the club I just turn up at the hospital.” Honestly, is this the best cypher since Nicki Minaj bodied it in ‘09? It might be.
(Related aside: I have been reading Ron Chernow’s Hamilton to try and parse why Lin-Manuel Miranda immediately thought that Alexander Hamilton was hip-hop as hell the first time he read it. I believe I have found the eureka moment early on in the biography, when Hamilton is still in the West Indies working as a bill collector for a law firm, and writes to his boss: “Believe me sir. I dun as hard as is proper.” RIGHT?)
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