To celebrate the release of The Hamilton Mixtape on Dec. 2, Black Thought and Questlove of The Roots hosted a historic Ham4Ham event live from the Richard Rodgers Theater on Broadway, where Hamilton resides. Artists featured on the Mixtape, including Regina Spektor, Black Thought, Joell Ortiz, DJs J.PERIOD and Illmind, Andra Day, Ashanti, and Ja Rule, took the stage, while the DJs also spun some Mixtape tracks like Usher’s “Wait For It” and Aloe Blacc, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Nas, and Dave East’s “Wrote My Way Out” before the live performances started.
Here are the highlights from the event — featuring details viewers saw on the stream, and what you might have missed from inside the room where it happened.
1. Lin-Manuel Miranda beamed in a pre-recorded message from England, giving Black Thought the opportunity to make a woefully underused Hamilton reference.
It feels strange to be at any Hamilton event where creator and original star Miranda isn’t physically present, but he expressed his excitement and gratitude to the fans over video. And his absence allowed Hamilton cast album and Mixtape producer Black Thought to make a lesser-used reference to the musical. He said Miranda had a special message “All the way from London — damn!” (In the Hamilton song “The Reynolds Pamphlet,” the chorus says that phrase when Hamilton’s sister-in-law Angelica returns to the States to comfort her sister, Eliza, after finding out Hamilton cheated on her.)
2. The audience had a chance to buy Hamilton Mixtape CDs at the theater.
Though a handful of tracks have already been released as singles on iTunes, the lucky few who copped a physical copy get to hear the whole thing a full day before its official release. “Greatest city in the world,” indeed. Other merch included Hamilton Mixtape limited edition t-shirts, numbered from 1-500.
3. Andra Day brought the house down (or up, technically).
With her soulful, passionate rendition of “Burn,” the fiery song Hamilton’s wife Eliza Schuyler sings after Alexander writes publicly about his affair with temptress Maria Reynolds, Day earned a standing ovation from the audience. The cast album version is sweet and sad, but Day’s cover injected some much-needed rage into this musical condemnation of Hamilton (who, incidentally, Day told EW she’s always believed was a “dirtbag”).
4. Ashanti and Ja Rule reunited to perform “Helpless” for the first time ever.
Day might have given the best performance of the event, but the audience was positively giddy seeing Ashanti and Ja Rule cover “Helpless,” which Miranda actually based on their late-’90s, early-aughts R&B collaborations. They both dressed the part, too — Ashanti looked like an All-American cheerleader in her short, sequined dress, and Ja Rule wore a long coat and white pants that recall the musical’s stage costumes — although his round sunglasses gave him a sort of Neo-from-The-Matrix vibe, too.
5. Ja Rule left in a white BMW with butterfly doors that parked across from the theater.
But before he left, he took photos with a couple fans, one of whom ran back to her friends shouting, “He’s nice!”
Check out the video of the event, below:
For more on The Hamilton Mixtape, don’t miss EW’s deep-dive on the making of the album, with stories from Miranda, Kelly Clarkson, Wiz Khalifa, and more.