THE INFLUENCE OF RAP ON BROADWAY MUSICALS. Rap over a period of years has educated an audience for the complexities of Hamilton. This article from 2013 (before Hamilton opened) by Jaime Weinman in Maclean’s reported on critics and lyricists who had observed—and for the most part deplored—that rap and hip-hop had influenced audiences and lyricists to accept off rhymes. Sondheim was quoted: “two generations of listeners brought up on pop and rock songs have gotten so accustomed to approximate rhyming that they neither care nor notice if the rhymes are perfect.” By the same token, rap has trained an audience that can take in the complex rhyme schemes which support the complex exposition and arguments of Hamilton. An audience that “can take more in”, to use Sondheim’s phrase.
Influence runs both ways.Hamilton’s success has influenced rap as well by demonstrating its range and power. John Jurgensen in the Wall Street Journal (November 30) quotes Tariq Trotter, also known as “Black Thought” and co-founder of Roots. Trotter was reluctant to see an off-Broadway performance of Hamilton because: “I did not want to be stuck in a room where people were going to be rapping conversations.” After experiencing what rap could do in the theater, Trotter and the Roots drummer Ahmir Thompson, known as Questlove, joined the executive producers of Hamilton.