#West4Ham- An Itemized list of Kanye West Songs that Tell the Tale of America’s First Treasury Secretary


By: Amara Channer

2016 has been a shit year. Celebrity deaths, Brexit, the American election, and the rise of Harambe. It’s been awhile since we’ve collectively as a world felt the sting of such an unforgiving year. Luckily for us, 2016 is almost over. And the end of the year marks the release of The Hamilton Mixtape. Now if you know me personally, you have undoubtedly been exposed to some form of Hamilton. But for those lucky few not in my social circle, or anyone avoiding anything pop culture-related, Hamilton is a rap musical that tells the story of America’s first treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton. Written and starring Lin Manuel Miranda, the musical is chock-full of drama: sexual exploits, deathly duels, and badass characters. And it’s all for the most part true. It’s also extremely popular and not about to end anytime soon. With a successful broadway run (whose past holiday weekend shows raked in over 3 million), the now up-and-running Chicago branch, and the touring San Francisco and London shows set to drop next year, the world is about to get way more of Hamilton. The icing on the cake of course is The Hamilton Mixtape set to release this Friday. A remixed version of the musical, it includes various artists from Naz to Regina Spektor. Some songs have been in the works since the beginning, while others are artist remixes inspired by their viewing of the show. I myself have been inspired and months ago set out to create the ultimate Hamilton campion, compiling my own mixtape of Kanye West hits and ordering them accordingly to fit each musical numbers tone and overall theme. I have dubbed it #West4Ham. For those of you who don’t know, Yeezus himself attended the show where backstage Miranda revealed that Hamilton is in fact about him (shoutout to Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton of Buzzfeed’s Another Round for the incredible interview). Now there is a lot to be said about Kanye, especially concerning his most recent exploits. But that is a blog post for another day. So close your important emails, ignore all calls, and dim the lights, tonight I solve America’s greatest question: what would a musical about America’s favorite orphaned immigrant told through the lens America’s ultimate problematic fave look like?  The answer? Something like this:

Act 1

1. Alexander Hamilton //  Who Will Survive In America

Notable Line: “We learned to our amazement/ The untold story of scandal two centuries long buried in a musty vault/ Hosed down daily with gagging perfume/ America was a bastard”

2. Aaron Burr, Sir // School Spirit

Notable Line: “Chasing y’all dreams and what you got planned/ Now I spit so hard you got canned”

Reason: Aaron Burr, Sir underscores Alexander’s voice: ambitious, with an urge to prove himself to the world. Likewise, “School Spirit” is Kanye’s explanation of why he quit school, in his lyrics you can also hear Kanye’s budding style as he raps about his own desire for success.

3. My Shot //  Champion

Notable Line: “When it feels like living’s harder than dying/ For me giving up’s way harder than trying”

4. The Story Of Tonight // We Don’t Care

Notable Line: “Sometimes I feel no one in this world understands us/ But “we don’t care what people say”

5. The Schuyler Sisters // Lift Off

Notable Line: “We goin’ take it to the moon, take it to the stars/ How many people you know can take it this far”

Reason: Hamilton and ‘Ye share convoluted understandings of women. Both seem to vary between admiration and disgust at points, and both are drawn to the dichotomy of motherly virgin vs. temporus vixen, often putting women in either category (while at the same time recognizing the extremely powerful women in their own lives – i.e Hey Mama, ‘Ye references to Lauren Hill, and Hamilton’s love for both Eliza and Angelica- which is beyond frustrating). Because of this it was a struggle for me to find something that truly underlined the power of the Schuyler sisters that makes up their intro into this musical. I settled for “Lift Off”. Mostly because Beyonce is involved. If there is a conversation to be had about powerful women and how they shape history, it definitely includes Beyonce.

6. Farmer Refuted // FourFive Seconds

Notable Line: “Then I heard you were talkin trash/ Hold me back I’m ‘bout to spaz”

7. You’ll be Back // Famous

Notable Line: “I just wanted you to know/ I loved you better than your own kin did/ From the very start/ I don’t blame you much for wanting to be free/ I just wanted you to know”

8. Right Hand Man // Welcome to the Jungle

Reason: In this song, Kanye and Jay contemplate both the frightening and enticing realities of fame. Like their rapping counterparts, both Hamilton and Washington had aspirations surrounding the wars effort. Where Washington sees the toll and risks (as Jay sees the death of famous rappers), Hamilton longs for the fight, ‘chasin’ that pain before it goes too far’.

9. A Winter’s Ball // N***** in Paris

Notable Line: “If you escaped  what I escaped/ You’d be in Paris getting fucked up too”

10. Helpless // American Boy (ft. Kanye West)

Notable Line: “It’s really really nice to meet you/ I just met this 5-foot-7 guy who’s just my type”

Reason: Eliza left Alexander speechless. For a man whose entire career (and arguably his assent to founding fatherhood) hinged on his ability to work words, his awe of Eliza is by far the most shining example of his true devotion. Consequently Alexander left Eliza outspoken, not only in her devotion, but for matters she believed central. Helpless is an embodiment of the love they shared between them, and how words and their absence became the foundation for their interaction. “American Boy,” is a fun complement to that energy and tone.

11. Satisfied // Why I Love You

Notable Line: “I picked up the pieces before you swept it/ Goddamnit this shit leaves a mess, don’t it?”

12. The Story of Tonight- Reprise // Good Life

Notable Line: “Cause (the good life) I always had a passion for flashin’/ Before I had it I closed my eyes and imagined the good life”

13. Wait for it // Street Lights

Notable Line: “See I know my destination, but I’m just not there”

14. Stay Alive // Murder to Excellence

Notable Line: “The Pastor closed the cold casket/ And said the church ain’t got enough room for all the tombs/ It’s a war outside we ain’t safe from”

15. Ten Duel Commandments // Jesus Walks

Reason: There are a lot of memorable songs in Hamilton, none more so than Ten Duel Commandments. With it’s quick and hard beats and rhythms Jesus Walks is a perfect compliment to Hamilton’s first taste of dueling.

16. Meet Me Inside //  Big Brother

Notable Line: “I guess big brother was thinkin’ a little different/ And kept little brother at bay, at a distance”

Reason: Kanye and Jay-Z have a complex history, and only getting more complicated. They work together, they’re friends (or were?), and the music they produced together has done more for the industry then we think. But relationships, professional and personal, are not without conflict. Similarly the relationship between Hamilton and Washington contained the same types of strains and difficulties. Hamilton never said a bad word outright about Washington, but in letters he often draws difference between the man and the divine figure people made him out to be. Nearing the end of the war, Washington and Hamilton’s differences came to a head and they briefly separated. Despite this riff, they both went on to form one of the most powerful working relationship that has shaped our nation. In “Big Brother,” Kanye lays out his feelings, and unmasks his and Jay-z’s relationship, looking at both his admiration and grievances. This is something powerful and rarely done amongst greats. It’s also such a Hamiltonian move.

17. That Would Be Enough // Only One

Notable Line: “Oh the good outweighs the bad even on your worst days/ Remember how I’d say/ Hey hey one day,  you’ll be the man you always knew you could be” Or: “You’ve got the world in your hands/ And you’re still my chosen one/ So can you understand? One day you’ll understand”

18. Guns and Ships // Stronger

Notable Line: “You should be honored by my lateness/ That I would even show up to this fake shit”

19. History Has Its Eyes on You // Never Let Me Down

Notable Line: “We’re all here for a reason on a particular path/ You don’t need a curriculum to know that you’re a part of the math”

20. Yorktown (The World Turned upside Down) // Gone

Reason: The Kanye equivalent of America’s middle finger to King George

21. What Comes Next? // Cold

Notable Line: “Whoever think their words affect me is stupid/ and if you can do it better than me then do it”

22. Dear Theodosia // New Day

Reason: Dear Theodosia is a song all about children and how the birth of United States of America was both a literal and metaphorical birth for a new moment in time. In New Day, Kanye and Jay (like Alexander and Burr) both rap to (at the time) their unborn sons, promising to be where their fathers were not.

23. Non-stop // Black Skinhead

Notable Line: “Four in the mornin’, and I’m zonin’/ They say I’m possessed, it’s an omen”

Act 2

1. What Did I Miss // Otis

Notable Line: “Damn Yeezy and Hov, where the hell you been?/ N***** talkin real reckless; stuntmen”

2. Cabinet Battle #1 // Monster (ft. Rick Ross, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj)

Notable Line: “Fucking up my money/ So yeah I had to act sane”

3. Take A Break // Runaway

Notable Line: “Let’s have toast for the jerk offs/ that never take work off”

4. Say No To This // Gold Digger (ft. Jamie Foxx)

Notable Line: “If you fuckin’ with this girl then you better be paid”

5. The Room Where it Happens  // Power

Notable Line: “Stop tripping/ I’m tripping off the power”

6. Schuyler Defeated // Heartless

Notable Line:  “I mean after all the things we’ve been through/ I mean after all the things we got into”

7. Cabinet Battle #2 // I Am A God

Reason: Hamilton’s Pre-Fuck Up, “time to fight Thomas Jefferson with words” Anthem

8. Washington On Your Side // Clique

Reason: Nothing like that 18th century political party forming to fuck up America’s political system forever

9. One Last Time // I’ll Fly Away

Reason: Kanye has always sampled hymns, and gospel music within his own art. “I’ll Fly Away” is a widely known gospel hymn that talks about the anticipation of one’s ascent to heaven. Hamilton and West both seem to exhibit complicated relationships with religion. Neither for or against, and finding and fighting religion at times, the the dynamic that sets up the paratext of One Last Time’s gospel undertones and I’ll Fly Away’s presence on West first solo album speaks volumes. As an added note, it’s interesting to find that Washington’s “going away” song feels like its own hymn, when Alexander had an equally complex relationship with Washington. #Brother/Father figure.

10. I Know Him // I Love Kanye

Reason: This song may be King George taking his time to talk about John Adams, but like Kanye, he too is drawn to himself.

11. The Adams Administration // No Church in The Wild

Notable Line: “Will he make it out alive?/ Alright, alright no church in the wild”

12. We Know // New Slaves

Reason: This song sounds like something bad is coming.

13. Hurricane //  Amazing

Notable Line: “I’m a monster/ I’m a maven/ I know this world is changing/ Never gave in, Never gave up/ I’m the only thing I’m afraid of”

Reason: As a honorary member of the self-sabotage club, I feel for Alexander. As an audience member capable of acknowledging foreshadowing, I cringe. One of the most fascinating aspects of Kanye West’s “Amazing” is it’s self aware examination of Kanye’s behavior, while being a declaration song of his own genius. Similar to Miranda’s “Hurricane,” it embodies the desperation of fighting your own self-made demons. If in “Hurricane” we are overcome by just how closely our hero is getting to the sun, “Amazing” describes the experience of watching him fall into the ocean’s depths.

14. The Reynolds Pamphlet // Hold my Liquor

Notable Line: “ After that he’s just hopeless/ Soul mates become soulless”

16. Burn // Bad News

Notable Line: “While I’m waiting on a dream that will never come true/ Oh, you just gon’ keep it like you never knew/ My face turned to stone when I heard the news”

17. Blow Us All Away // Touch the Sky

Notable Line: “Come up in the spot lookin’ extra fly/ ‘fore the day I die, I’mma touch the sky”

18. Stay Alive- Reprise // All Of The Lights (Interlude)

Reason: *incoherent sobbing*

19. It’s Quiet Uptown // Waves

Notable Line: “Even when somebody goes away (turn me up) /The feelings don’t really go away/ That’s just the wave” 

20. The Election of 1800 // Facts (Charlie Heat Version)

Reason: In the musical Alexander takes this song to give his detailed unwanted opinion, in his song Kanye takes a similar route.

21. Your Obedient Servant // Blame Game

Notable Line: “We walk away like strangers in the street/ Gone for entirety/ We erase one another” Or:  “Disguising ourselves as secret lovers/ We’ve become public enemies”

Reason: One of the things so striking about Alexander and Burr’s fight is how easily it all could have been avoided. “Blame Game” captures Obedient Servants’ acknowledgement of how blinding anger, pride, and envy can be. Much of the musical is told through Burr narration, a man who takes us from his own present into a distant past that shaped our country. “Blame Game” is all about the acknowledgement of a fight’s pettiness but an inability to escape it.

22. Best of Wives and Best of Women // Lost in The World

Notable Line: “You’re my lies/ You’re my Truth/ You’re my war/ You’re my truth/ You’re my questions/ You’re my proof”

23. The World Was Enough // Burr’s Part: FML   Ham’s Part: Homecoming

Notable Line: “I’m the only one that’s in control/ I been feeling all I’ve given/ For my children/ I will die for those I love” and “I guess you never know what you got till it’s gone/ I guess that’s why I’m here and I can’t come back home/ And guess when I heard that?/ When I was back home”

24. Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story // Ultralight beam

Notable Line: “This is my part nobody else speak /This little light of mine/ Glory be to God, yeah/ I’mma make sure that they go where they can’t go”

Reason: To me Chance’s verse from Kanye West’s powerhouse opening to Life of Pablo is Eliza speaking out to the crowd in front of her. This is her part, nobody else speak. One of Hamilton’s most shining achievements to me is the enduring presence of women’s history and the ways in which our nation’s history owes itself to their courage and strength. Eliza literally ‘make(s) sure they go where they can’t go’ she fights, and writes, and lays down a foundation for the legacy we get to see on stage today. She’s our ultralight beam, glory to this woman who gave us so much and the man she thought worthy of her love.

Want more? Check out the original, Hamilton the Musical 

Love mash-ups and still craving Hamilton? Check out #HAM4BEY

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