Following Hamilton's original Broadway cast album by a year, The Hamilton Mixtape offers up new versions of tunes from the blockbuster musical by some of pop, rap, and R&B's biggest names. Curated by show auteur Lin-Manuel Miranda, it wields a whopping 23 tracks, still only half as many as the cast album. Four of the remakes feature alternative rap icons the Roots, including highlight "My Shot [Rise Up Remix]." (Bandmembers Questlove and Black Thought were involved in the production of the original cast album.) Rumbling drums and electric bass and guitar add weight to their impassioned revision, as do vocals by Busta Rhymes and Joell Ortiz. The remix also incorporates elements of Mobb Deep's "Shook Ones Pt. II" and the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Going Back to Cali," and features Nate Ruess of Fun. on backing vocals. On a much less serious entry, the Tonight Show house band is joined by host Jimmy Fallon for a loyal version of the showtune-ish "You'll Be Back." Other album contributors include marquee names such as Sia, John Legend, Alicia Keys, and Kelly Clarkson, who belts out a solo pop rendition of "It's Quiet Uptown." Elsewhere, Ashanti and Ja Rule craft a stylish edition of "Helpless," and Jill Scott turns "Say No to This" inside out for the seductive "Say Yes to This." A winsome cover of "Dear Theodosia" by Regina Spektor featuring Ben Folds falls right into her (their) wheelhouse before the song is reprised at the end of the album in an even more idiosyncratic version by Chance the Rapper and Francis & the Lights. Taken as a whole, The Hamilton Mixtape will likely appeal more to fans of the musical than to pop fans at large, despite big names and the very contemporary songs' easy passage to radio-friendly arrangements. After all, some of the lyrics do detail finer historical points. Still, there are plenty of fans of both, and a broader theme of overcoming odds shines through tracks like "My Shot" and "It's Quiet Uptown." Completists should note that the record also includes two Hamilton demos by Miranda himself, who also appears on the original song "Wrote My Way Out" with Nas ("I picked up the pen/Like Hamilton"). Those disappointed by any omissions, take heart. Just before release, Miranda tweeted the promise of a Vol. 2.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson