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How Does ‘Hamilton,’ The Non-Stop Hip-Hop Broadway Sensation, Tap Rap’s Master Rhymes To Blur Musical Lines?


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How Does ‘Hamilton,’ The Non-Stop Hip-Hop Broadway Sensation, Tap Rap’s Master Rhymes To Blur Musical Lines?

Find out with our algorithm. By Joel Eastwood and Erik Hinton Behind the sensational success of “Hamilton” are some of the most densely packed, complex rhyming lyrics in the history of musicals. How exactly do they work? Let’s start with the first verse of the musical’s opening number. Our algorithm breaks words into their component…

How Does 'Hamilton,' The Non-Stop Hip-Hop Broadway Sensation, Tap Rap's Master Rhymes To Blur Musical Lines? thumbnail

Find out with our algorithm.

By Joel Eastwood and Erik Hinton

Behind the sensational success of “Hamilton” are some of the most densely packed, complex rhyming lyrics in the history of musicals. How exactly do they work?

Let’s start with the first verse of the musical’s opening number. Our algorithm breaks words into their component sounds and then groups similar-sounding syllables into rhyme families, which are color-coded.

Perfect End Rhymes

A staple of song and poetry is perfect rhyme. In a perfect rhyme, the vowel sounds and consonant endings of two words are identical, as with the words “squalor” and “scholar” in the opening song.

Internal Rhymes

The “squalor” and “scholar” rhymes land at the end of lines. But this pair also rhymes with syllables in the middle of lines, such as “impoverished.”

Imperfect Rhymes

Most of the rhymes in this verse are imperfect—the matching sounds are not identical. For example, “Scotsman” and “dropped in” aren’t perfect rhymes, but they partially rhyme because they share similar vowel sounds and consonant endings.

Bringing it Together

These imperfect, internal rhymes are a hallmark of rap and hip-hop. Listen to this verse from The Fugees, performed by Lauryn Hill, which is littered with imperfect rhymes.

Lauryn Hill is one of a long list of artists and genres that influenced Lin-Manuel Miranda, the mastermind behind “Hamilton.” Let’s compare the rhyme schemes of songs Mr. Miranda has cited as influential with verses he wrote in “Hamilton.”

Musical Theatre

Mr. Miranda draws plenty of inspiration for Hamilton’s structure from musical theater. He makes a direct reference to Gilbert and Sullivan’s Victorian operetta “The Pirates of Penzance,” but adds more internal and imperfect rhyme.

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Assonance and Consonance

Mr. Miranda cops rapper Big Pun’s characteristic thick rhyme patterns, in which one or two sounds are repeated over and over again. If the repetition is a vowel sound, it’s known as assonance; with a consonant, it’s consonance.

Multisyllabic Rhymes

One of rapper Rakim’s signature sounds, which Alexander Hamilton inherits, is large, multisyllabic rhymes, where a rhyme spans several syllables—as when Hamilton rhymes “be Socrates” and “mediocrities.”

Rhyme Weaving

Another common pattern in “Hamilton” is interwoven rhymes, when a syllable is used at the end of one rhyme pair before appearing at the beginning of another. This technique is exemplified in this famous verse by Nas, where the first syllable of “monkey” rhymes with the final syllable in “rhythm.”

West Coast Influence

“This is my favorite lyric to perform in the show every night,” says Daveed Diggs, who raps as the Marquis de Lafayette in the first act of “Hamilton” and Thomas Jefferson in the second. Mr. Diggs says the line’s sound was inspired by California rapper Kendrick Lamar. “It has this sort of bouncy-like, West Coast feel to it.”

Make Your Own

Now it’s your turn. Paste in English lyrics, poetry or text and our algorithm will try to highlight similar-sounding syllables to reveal rhymes and repetitions.

Nicki Minaj
Biggie
Lauryn Hill
Big Pun
Lil’ Kim
Raekwon
Salt-N-Pepa
Jay-Z
Run the Jewels
A Tribe Called Quest
Beyoncé
Chance the Rapper

We couldn’t find a rhyme, try it one more time.



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