Rapid-fire lyrics about the creation of the United States are great, but HAMILTON actors have a vast array of musical talents. Chris Lee, who plays the dual role of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, has crafted a collection of songs much different from how most recognize him. Lee followed in the footsteps of Daveed Diggs, who played the Lafayette and Jefferson in the original Broadway cast but made the role his own.

Hamilton actor Chris Lee poses ahead of a show in Chicago.
Chris Lee ahead of a performance in Chicago | Image courtesy of Lincoln Hall.

Being unable to travel to New York City from his college in Nashville, TN was no issue. Chris Lee was able to land the role by way of his singing. He sent in an application featuring a video of himself performing several songs and nearly forgot he had done so. Months later, he was contacted by Lin-Manuel Miranda and the rest of the makers of HAMILTON.

It’s unlikely you haven’t heard talk of HAMILTON, or come across a fan with a healthy addiction to the show’s music. The show has received accolades in almost any way possible, dominating Tony awards and winning the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2016. The studio album recorded by the original Broadway cast did well even apart from the show itself.

After its initial debut on NPR, the album reached number one on the Top Broadway Albums chart, gaining enough sales in just the first week to top every other show but RENT. In addition to that, it was number three on Billboard’s Top Rap Albums, number nine of Top Current Albums in 2016, and number five on Top Digital Albums. At the time of this article’s publication, HAMILTON is the number twenty-four album on Billboard years after its initial release.

Chris Lee’s EP is only six songs, but each one is excellent in its own right. There are elements of classic R&B and Neo-Soul throughout ‘In My Feelings.’ Unlike HAMILTON, Lee is expressing his own artistic style with this music rather than a character. Without further ado, check out our breakdown of every track.

“In My Feelings (Intro)”

Chris kicks off the album with a gentle introduction into some Tank-esque, mellow harmony. The song takes the place a dialogue; Chris promises to comfort a nervous love interest, imploring them to “relax your mind” and settle into a romantic experience. Each beat presents a compelling invitation into a conversation with Lee. He progresses from the invitation into a collective description of emotion (Tell me what you feel right now / We can feel right now) and right back, perfectly.

The beat builds with Lee’s vocals in three stages. First, a mellow intro, then a heavy-bass segment before returning to the slower rhythms of the song’s beginning. This makes for a roller-coaster of sound that neatly settles into silence just as readily as it began. The intro sets the tone for the rest of the track list, implying we’ll be dealing with the classic R&B subject matter of romance and enticing another to enter into one.

“Codependent”

In ‘Codependent,’ Lee emphasizes his commitment to his independence, effectively flipping the mood from the intro. While ‘In My Feelings’ leads a listener to expect a sort of ballad or entrance into a relationship with an unknown partner, ‘Codependent’ draws a line.

Lines like “Girl you know I want you / but that don’t mean I need you,” clearly paint the romance from the intro is something he won’t let corrupt him. Losing his love interest (“if you walk away it’s no stress on me”) is totally fine to Lee. If she doesn’t respect what he puts into the relationship, he’s out. He is perfectly capable of sustaining himself, and any partner has to respect that.

The track creates an interesting schism in anticipation of the final four songs. Whether this will be a love gone wrong is unclear. Toward the end, Lee points out that this is just a guideline in the relationship (“Girl I mean no disrespect / you know that you got me). Ending things as independent individuals will be better for both of them than becoming too dependent on each other. Lee’s vocals and the constant blend of pitches punctuate each section of the piece. Given all of that, this is a personal favorite from Lee’s EP.

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“Apologies”

‘Apologies’ is a light, bouncing number with many moving parts across the song. Opening with piano that continues in the background of the song, Lee enters with an appeal to his love. Again, there is a contrast between this and previous songs. The mood of the song is emotionally charitable (“giving you everything / just for an apology”).

This is especially true in comparison to the self-emblematic words of ‘Codependent.’ Lee moves from speaking directly to someone else toward a more internal dialogue. Lines like “I wish I could explain myself / or change myself / man I played myself” create a sense of internal conflict. This seemingly implies he is working through the thoughts of this girl that he’s “lost for good.” He’s unable to even explain himself, having only the apology to offer. This makes for a more vulnerable appeal that is complemented by the longing tone throughout the song.

“Most Beautifulest”

‘Most Beautifulest’ is like love at first sight in musical form. Lee describes a girls beauty as so incredible that she can barely control it. The track has an inquisitive overlay to it as Lee begins a conversation. He begins to compliment her (“as fine as wine / as good as gold”) before describing his attraction (“baby you got me tweakin”).

‘Most Beautifulest’ is one of the simpler songs for Lee, but rapper CAMM fires non-stop bars to close out the song. As the track slowly fades to nothing, multiple layers of chorus, blended vocals, and bass come together for a strong and complex finish.

The cast of Hamilton Chicago | Image Courtesy of ForTheWin

“Same Ol'”

With ‘Same Ol”, Lee returns to the heavy, emotional soulfulness of the EP’s beginning. While the instrumentation has plenty of movement here, Lee’s intonation takes center stage here. This track sees Lee lamenting the flaws in his relationship (‘we both know that you’re perfect / now baby that’s the imperfection’). In an appeal to making things better, he wants to ‘pause for a minute’ and find time to escape from the constant problems that plague him.

The sadness from ‘Apologies’ returns in this song, but there are notes from ‘Codependent’ as well. Rather than a romance that ended good or bad, ‘Same Ol” describes something that can be saved, but with effort. Lee’s lines such as ’cause we got to change this up / before we break this up’ creates a sense of desperation matched with the deep, emotional tone of the vocals.

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“Unordinary”

Finally, closing out the EP, Lee seems to have finally found the girl of his dreams. A girl so unlike what he expected that frightens him (‘this girl is kinda scary / cuz she’s unordinary’). From the outset, the closing track has notes of Ne-Yo’s ‘Miss Independent,’ which Lee even quotes partway through the song.

He’s found an independent woman who seems to fit the criteria set up in Codependent (‘Sexy little mama / that don’t need no daddy’). On top of that, the beauty described in ‘Most Beautifulest’ is almost countered here. Lee’s singing is almost like enthusiastic candor, something unlike the rest of the EP. As descending synth notes close out the set, it seems Lee’s character has found the girl from him.

What’s Next for Chris Lee?

This is an incredible start for Chris Lee. Starting his professional acting career with a performance as world-renowned and popular as Hamilton was already impressive. But now Lee can confidentially add songwriter to his growing list of talents. ‘In My Feelings’ captures, a steady blend of neo-soul and hip-hop inspired instrumentals.

From track to track, Lee mixes the emotions of a man searching for a woman to love. He moves from someone who wants him to go too much of himself to someone stunningly beautiful. After lamenting a relationship rapidly approaching its end, Lee concludes this emotional, roller coaster with a hopeful encounter.

As a debut EP, ‘In My Feelings’ is just short of a flawless start for Lee. The incredible project is available on Itunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, and Amazon. It remains to be seen what future projects await. In any case, one thing is certain. Whether it be on the stage or in the studio, don’t sleep on Chris Lee.

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