If you’ve called Newsong your family for some time, you probably know Dave Brubaker as a “movie guy.” I’m not saying that he’s a movie snob, he just really, really loves movies, especially if it’s a Disney Pixar one (I don’t blame him, they’re great). Well, if you spend some time with me, you will quickly learn that I am a “music guy.” I wouldn’t consider myself a music snob, I just really, really love music. If you see me on Sundays or Wednesdays, just ask me what song I have in my head, because more likely than not, I’m humming or singing a song.
Like movies, I believe that music is a testament of how God created us in His image to create! We were gifted with music to worship Him, to express ourselves, and to tell compelling stories and messages. And with that, I want to introduce you to what has been an obsession of mine for the past months and still going strong – Hamilton: An American Musical.
I first heard of the Hamilton musical from a group of Orange County School of Arts (OCSA) students that kept playing and singing the songs non-stop. Since I don’t regularly listen to musicals (I’d say it’s just not my thing), I quickly dismissed it. But I kept hearing about it and then I saw a Youtube video of the creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, performing the opening song at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and Spoken Word. In the video, Miranda explains that after reading a couple of chapters of Alexander Hamilton’s biography, he quickly realized that Hamilton’s life was straight up hip-hop culture – trying to make it in a world where the odds are stacked against him and the only thing he has is his hunger to rise up. So he created the musical, and that’s how modern-day America is experiencing a cultural revolution through a play about the American Revolution!
After that, I listened to the whole soundtrack and I’ve listened to it over a dozen times (because getting tickets to the play is nearly impossible). I can talk about it for hours, but I will focus on the main reason I appreciate the musical so much. Simply put, the musical about our Ten-Dollar Founding Father is “third culture,” meaning that it transcends different cultures and even brings them together! Kinda like what we are doing at Newsong! It uses seemingly unrelated concepts – hip hop and Broadway – and even casts people of color to play the major roles of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other key Revolutionary figures.
Typically, when one thinks of Broadway culture, hip hop does not come to mind. Instead, one thinks of people who are connoisseurs of the traditional arts, who are “sophisticated,” “cultured,” and a little more “affluent” than the average American. And when it comes to hip hop culture, one might think of “the hood,” a “tough urban environment,” sometimes even “obscene,” maybe causing some to ask, “is it even real music?”
The Hamilton play has people from both sides leaning into the other. People who regularly say they don’t listen to hip hop or don’t like rap but enjoy musicals are eating it up, paying hundreds (in some cases thousands) of dollars to see a musical written in a genre of music that was birthed from the underground and kept out of mainstream arts. And on the other hand, those who had never paid attention to musicals but appreciate hip hop and rap are suddenly discovering Broadway culture. The White House even hosted the cast of the musical to perform for inner-city students! I can’t help but imagine both groups left thinking, “Whoa! What more can I find in the Broadway/hip hop culture?!” thus permanently changing their perspective of their neighbors.
If you have not yet given it a chance, I strongly urge you to find the soundtrack on Apple Music, Spotify, or Youtube. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical is a perfect example of someone who creatively uses their gifts, passions and talents to change the way we see the world. Although we may not be musical geniuses, God has created all of us as his masterpiece to start a revolution rooted in Christ. We have the ability to create and change the way people see the world around them – I urge you to hold on to these truths and don’t throw away your shot!
And if you don’t know, well now you know. #micdrop
Felipe Vazquez (aka MC Flip) is one the pastors for Newsong Youth. You can follow him on Instagram @flipvazquezii