So, the scariest show we have done — and it’s all been easy since then — was three weeks at the Public Theater. Busta Rhymes is in the front row. Listen, this is an unapologetic love letter to hip-hop. [Rappers] didn’t come see In the Heights. A couple people did, Run-D.M.C., a few other old heads that love the genre in any form — they came. I was so nervous, [Busta] was in the front row, he took a redeye to get there. And I remember we were doing “My Shot,” and back at the Public, it was literally a “Pass the Courvoisier” line — it was, “Rise up, don’t this shit make my people wanna rise up” — and I saw him go [mimics big smile] and whisper to Riggs [Morales, a longtime record label A&R]. My feet are off the ground I’m rapping so hard because, you know, I got into a fistfight to get the last copy of “Scenario” when I was 13 years old. It’s the only fistfight I’ve ever been in in my life. I was like, Don’t look at Busta, don’t look at Busta. Then I look into the second row and Mandy Patinkin is sitting above Busta Rhymes. If there is a Busta Rhymes of musical theater, it probably is Mandy Patinkin. And it was just fucking crazy, when the people you’ve emptied your pockets to see are seeing you. It’s a crazy feeling. It’s both ennobling and totally humbling and totally terrifying. But after Busta, everything was cool
It’s hard to make a musical feel personal, honestly. And Hamilton’s about as naked as I’ve got. I don’t mean that in, like, I’m like Hamilton. I didn’t come from another country. I’ve had a pretty blessed life. But in terms of the sentiment expressed by a lot of the characters in this show—Why are we here? What do we do with the time we’re given?—those are questions I really wrestle with on a day-to-day basis. I think we all do. What are we supposed to do with the time we have on this earth? And when we see someone like a Hamilton, who did three lifetimes’ worth in such a short amount of time, it makes us reckon with what we’re doing. Busta had an amazing quote. When he saw the show, he said, “You see the show, and you feel like, I’m not doing enough.” And that’s how I felt when I read the book of Hamilton’s life. And I think that that’s a nice feeling to put into the world, of, like, what are we doing? [laughs] With the time we have.