This post is about The Hamilton Mixtape but it’s also about Ja Rule and Ashanti. Don’t stop reading. I assume you care more about Hamilton than you do about two washed-up stars from the early 2000s but I really care about both. When I was in high school and whichever artist was at the top of the charts was basically the most important person in my life, Ja Rule and Ashanti were the reigning chart-topping prince and princess of hip-hop/R&B. Do I need to remind you about Always on Time? Or Mesmerize? Or Happy? OK, you probably only remember Always on Time but how f-cking good was that song?
Lin-Manuel Miranda tapped into the dreams of all of us who were teenagers in the 2000s and brought Ja Rule and Ashanti together for the first time in over A DECADE to cover Helpless, originally sung by Phillipa Soo, the OG Eliza Schuyler, and LMM as Alexander Hamilton. The Hamilton Mixtape doesn’t officially drop until December 2nd but 7 songs have already been released. Lin-Manuel Miranda has been calling the releases the “New Year’s Eve drop” since they are all coming out at midnight in each time zone around the world. So far he has gifted us with songs with new verses by Busta Rhymes and Nas and a cover verse by Queen f-cking Latifah. Now, it’s Ja and Ashanti. Essentially, he’s making the mixtape I would have made for my crush in 2002. I am so here for all of it.
When the tracklist for the mixtape was first released, my reactions were mainly, “HOLY. SHIT. OMG. YESSS!” as I was scrolling down to each track. Then, I landed on Helpless and I soap-opera spat water all over myself. I thought about Ja Rule briefly last week when someone referenced this Dave Chappelle stand-up bit on Twitter but I haven’t thought about Ashanti in years. Is she still dating Nelly? When LMM called, was she watching Coach Carter in her Always on Time fedora and thinking about what could have been?
On the OG Hamilton soundtrack, Helpless is one of my favourite songs. It’s smooth, flirty and the musical embodiment of a first date. Aside from the initial excitement of seeing these two together again, I was skeptical. I didn’t know if they still had it in them to pull this off. I was wrong. Listen for yourself and you’ll hear that I was wrong.
I will admit that I laughed out loud at some of the lyric changes like the switch from “my sister” to “shorty,” the most 2002 word ever. But as soon as Ja comes in with, “Ashanti, I ain’t got a dollar to my name,” I screamed. He’s so perfect for this verse. It’s all so perfect. Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius and we don’t deserve him.
Finally, this is my self-care PSA: if you aren’t listening to the 7 tracks that have already been released from The Hamilton Mixtape, you are missing out on some serious joy and stress-relief. Wrote My Way Out and Immigrants (We Get the Job Done) are two songs 2016 desperately needed. Sia and Queen Latifah’s Satisfied will make you smile for 5 minutes straight if you have a soul and if you just need a good ugly cry, Kelly Clarkson’s It’s Quiet Uptown has you covered. My Shot is Duana’s hype song and it should really be the soundtrack before every big life moment, always. You don’t have to be a Hamilton fan and you don’t have to care about Ja Rule and Ashanti to appreciate this mixtape. I promise.