Sometimes, your favorites get to work together. Case in point: Dessa and the team behind Hamilton, the musical that’s made theater a current event. Dessa is a rapper who brings poetry to everything she does; Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is a playwright, actor, and professional nerd. When Miranda started putting together companion project The Hamilton Mixtape, he asked Dessa to take one of the tracks.
On the mixtape, Dessa sings “Congratulations,” a fierce rebuke from Angelica Schuyler. Not only did Alexander Hamilton have an affair, he also went public with it, and Schuyler rips him to shreds. “It’s a torch song run through by indignation,” Dessa says with a laugh. “That’s all I write anyway.”
Dessa does connect with Angelica, saying, “Most of us have loved someone who we either didn’t get or didn’t get to keep, and that’s her story.” But more than that, she identifies with Hamilton, a compulsive writer who can sense “time going by.”
Dessa been writing day and night, finishing up a creative non-fiction book; “Every once in a while at about midnight,” she says, “I’ll post a bit of prose and ask for some quick editorial comments. Just to figure out what’s watertight and what might be confusing.”
And next month, she unveils the project she’s been working on for months. “The next big thing on my horizon,” she says, “is my show with the Minnesota Orchestra.” She’ll play new music April 14 and 15 at Orchestra Hall, having worked with scientists, a horde of world-class orchestra members, and local pianist/composer Andy Thompson to prepare for the show.
To find out which Hamilton songs Dessa calls her favorites, why she thinks the show took off, and how “Congratulations” tweaked her performance style, watch the full video below.