Hamilton and Musical Influence

I’ve been listening to the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Hamilton a lot over the last few weeks. I guess you could say I’ve been listening non stop.

The musical is filled with references to rap, hip-hop, and rock songs. Some explicit, some subtle.

One of the most literal pulls is the song Ten Duel Commandments, which is a clear reference to Biggie Small’s, Ten Crack Commandments, both in name and content. (Warning, very explicit lyrics, or discussions of 18th century dueling, depending on which link you click.)

Both songs start with a count, and proceed to list numbers followed by discussion of rules of the topic of the songs.

In the wake of the Blurred Lines lawsuit the lines of copyright infringement have been…blurred. It is difficult to tell where an inspiration ends and where copyright infringement begins. But the relevant factors for determining if it was fair use are:

  • the purpose and character of your use.
  • the nature of the copyrighted work.
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and.
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market.

It doesn’t appear that any of the original recording is used, instead there are structural and thematic similarities between the songs, necessary to evoke the reference work in the mind of the listener, but not more than necessary to help draw the analogies between dueling and modern-day dangerous behaviors.

EDIT: An update from Lin-Manuel Miranda, he cleared it with Biggie’s estate first.