Making the tapes was his first training for writing Broadway musicals, he said. “It’s the best preparation,” he said. “I’m creating 90 minutes of material for you, I’m shaping the sound. It’s a rollercoaster of fast tempo, slow tempo. I can intercut bits of songs or comedy skits. I’m controlling the flow entirely, and you can’t skip tracks. I’m creating an experience for you of how I feel or how I want you to feel.”
Summers he worked for his father, canvassing door-to-door for candidates or writing music for political ads. “Not jingles,” Lin-Manuel said. “But he’d say, ‘I need 30 seconds of Latin jazz for a Sharpton ad,’ or something for Elliot Spitzer,” the short-tenured governor of New York.
One of his mixtape friends was Chris Hayes, who is now a host on MSNBC. Mr. Hayes rode the bus to Hunter from the Bronx neighborhood of Riverdale, and acted in plays with Mr. Miranda. Mr. Miranda rattled off songs from a mixtape Mr. Hayes gave him in ninth grade, all political songs, from Bob Dylan to the hip-hop group Digable Planets. Mr. Hayes said he and Mr. Miranda both saw themselves as less privileged than many of their classmates, and saw the bus ride uptown as a “literal manifestation” of their apartness.
Years later, when Mr. Hayes saw a very early workshop of “Hamilton,” still unfinished, he was struck by the parallels between the title character and the creator, he said. “Seeing Hamilton was an immigrant, he lives uptown, he’s got this outer-borough-striver chip on his shoulder that Lin and I both had — like, I’m going to show these fancy people I belong — it felt so him,” Mr. Hayes said.
For Mr. Miranda, Inwood is still home, and subways are still part of his travel diet. Last month he joined a successful campaign to save Coogan’s, the Washington Heights Irish bar that celebrated shamrocks and salsa. “Always happy to rep uptown,” he said. On this morning he was just back from London, where a production of “Hamilton” was starting, without him in the cast, and he was preparing to launch a toy drive for Puerto Rico. He has helped to raise more than $20 million for hurricane relief, and promised to bring “Hamilton” to Puerto Rico in 2019, with himself in the title role.
“Since Hurricane Maria, that kind of became my full-time job for a couple months,” he said. Though many relatives have left the island, escaping either the hurricane or the economic collapse that preceded it, others were still there and without power, Luis Miranda said.