“If we assume the debts the union gets,
A new line of credit, a financial diuretic.
How do you not get it?
If we’re aggressive and competitive, the union gets a boost.
You’d rather give it a sedative?”
That’s it! The mic is hot and it has officially been dropped! Hashtag bars.
These hot fire lines came straight from the man on the $10 bill himself – Alexander Hamilton. Well, sort of. They actually came from an actor/playwright named Lin-Manuel Miranda while he played Hamilton in his successful Broadway musical named after the founding father.
But this got us thinking: Which U.S. presidents could take the hip-hop musical treatment and give us the best results? There are plenty who have what it takes – rags-to-riches stories, scandals, and tragedy – but these are the best ones. Feel free to let us know who else could work and and drop a quick 16 in the comments if you feel up to it.
Note: The current commander-in-chief isn’t included because there’s already a smorgasbord of “Barack Obama Rap” videos on the internet.
John F. Kennedy
JFK’s got everything you need for a compelling musical that’s sure to sell out theaters. He came from an affluent family with questionable connections to the mob, there’s that thing he may or may not have had going on with Marilyn Monroe, and of course there’s his assassination, which took place in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas on Nov. 22, 1963. That’d be a memorable way to end the performance, for sure.
Actually, forget Broadway. Why hasn’t anyone made a movie out of this story since 1991? You can’t write anything better.
Reagan wasn’t sworn in as president until he was almost 70, and still got two terms in. That means he lived an entire lifetime before he even got to sit in the Oval Office. The native Illinois boy spent a couple years as an announcer for the Chicago Cubs (back when there were still living fans to remember their last championship).
He also had a long, successful career in Hollywood and was even elected president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1947 (imagine all of the historic Hollywood cameos we could get in a musical). But the most exciting part of his story may be that he was basically an undercover FBI informant – codename “T-10” – who would tip them off to any suspected communist sympathizers back in the “Red Scare” days.
William Henry Harrison
If William Henry Harrison’s name sounds familiar, but you’re not entirely sure why, no one will hold it against you. By now, your mind has probably been filled with other, more relevant things like Bo Burnham lyrics and Batman backstories. But, to call back on that one fifth-grade history lesson, Harrison was the ninth president of the U.S., who died exactly a month into his term due to pneumonia.
He also apparently had ideological differences with his father, who died and left him broke and unable to pay for school, but then Harrison sold 3,000 acres of land he inherited from his late mother two years after joining the army. This story is a rollercoaster of ups and downs, with hints of dark comedy if you spin it right. And if you run short on material, just tap into his grandson Benjamin’s story as the 23rd president.
Come on, you can’t do a list like this and pass up on Mr. $1 Bill. George Washington has become more of a legend than a man anyway; the OG of the president game. Anyone playing him would have every right to act like it. Plus writers could throw in lines about wooden teeth and try to find something family-friendly to rhyme with “small pox.”
Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt is known as one of the most exciting presidents in U.S. history. He was the kind of man who took an expedition to the Amazon rainforest because he was bored (he almost died on the trip) and was an actual cowboy. Throw in a little creative freedom and you can have yourself an epic gun fight in song form.
And who in their right mind would pass up the opportunity to have a musical number with life-sized, dancing teddy bears? They were named after Roosevelt, after all.
One of the things that Jay Z (no hyphen) likes to rap about in this later part of his career is how he’s half of an unstoppable power couple with his wife, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. Now, take all of those references and imagine if they weren’t about music and business moguls, but political ones. They’d probably be most akin to the Clintons.
In musical form, this story could target the more romantic crowd as they get to see a law-school version of the classic “boy meets girl” story that’s inevitably tested. The Clintons’ story came to a climax (no pun intended) with the Monica Lewinsky situation that led to Bill being impeached. But, in this case, you could benefit by telling two sides of the same story.
Note: If there isn’t a Bill vs. Hillary rap battle, someone’s doing something very wrong.
You know the story. Good Ole’ Abe Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky and went on to pay his political dues in Illinois before being elected the 16th president. He ended slavery and won the American Civil War. Great historical achievements.
But what many don’t know is that Lincoln had a pretty traumatic personal life. His first love, Ann Rutledge, died at the young age of 22, and he and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, lost three of their four children before adulthood – and no, not to vampires.
While it wouldn’t be the most lighthearted musical – they can’t all be – it would definitely be compelling, and there’s plenty of material to pull from. But there has to be a song with a hook that includes “four score, seven years ago” somewhere.