When then-President-elect Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Janet Yellen for secretary of the treasury, he joked that “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda should write a musical about her.
“We might have to ask Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the musical about the first secretary of the treasury, ‘Hamilton,’ to write another musical for the first woman secretary of the treasury — Yellen,” he said.
So “Marketplace” asked Dessa, a member of the hip-hop collective Doomtree and one of the artists who contributed to “The Hamilton Mixtape,” to think about what that might sound like. Here’s what she and her collaborators came up with:
"WHO'S YELLEN NOW?" Vocals and Lyrics by Dessa Production by Lazerbeak and Andy Thompson HOOK Oooo, who’s Yellen now? Who’s Yellen, who’s Yellen now? VERSE 1 Doves on the left Hawks on the right Crosstalk in the flock tryna fight mid-flight But here comes Yellen with that inside voice Never mind the mild manner, policies make noise She’s 5-foot nothing, but hand to God She can pop a collar, she can rock a power bob Bay Ridge represent! Brooklyn’s in the cabinet! Damn, Janet, go and get it — Fifth in line for president! She knows the kinda stimulus it takes to pass a buck I heard she called the housing crisis She’s qualified as ffff — It only took a couple centuries The first female secretary of the treasury BRIDGE Don’t want no tax evasion Forgers faking In her treasury Trying for higher wages For the nation Less disparity VERSE 2 Watch your step, there's busted glass Janet broke another ceiling You can bet your brass That the Lego guy is leaving Last check to cash — 'Scuse me, Janet has a briefing and a flight to catch And Janet She’s the first that’s led The Council of Economic Advisers, Tresh and the Fed, She needs a three-sided coin that always comes up heads To put the triple crown down when she goes to bed Call the decorators New boss in the office Spenders and the savers Watch the confirmation process We got to meet her Now let’s let her settle in And lift up your mojitos — 'Cause she manages the mint
Dessa told “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal that she spent a lot of time watching old speeches and flipping through photographs of Janet Yellen while writing the song.
“I read a lot about her to make sure that she was somebody who I’d like to send up,” Dessa said. “And it was really exciting to become a fan of Janet Yellen.”
On the music side, Dessa said she and collaborators Lazerbeak and Andy Thompson drew inspiration from Lin-Manuel Miranda.
“I think both Andy Thompson and Lazerbeak put another ear on the ‘Hamilton Mixtape’ (shoutout Lin) just to kind of remind themselves how that particular piece of music came together and nod to it as best we could,” she said.
“The three of us who worked on this song … I don’t think we’ve ever had so much fun,” Dessa told Ryssdal. “It was like, how do we get out of this normal rap game and into this [cabinet] appointment niche because it was so much fun to write.”
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