Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Everybody Hates Charles Hamilton
If you've found your way to my little corner of the internet then chances are you've heard of this kid from Harlem named Charles Hamilton. Seemingly bursting on the Hip-Hop scene out of nowhere, Charles hit the blogs in 2008 as a fully formed artist, with a story (Homeless heroin addict/musical prodigy), a gimmick (All Pink Everything), an alter ego (Sonic The Hedgehog) and a label deal with Interscope Records already in place. I caught my first glimpse of Hamilton in a YouTube vid where he was having an impromptu freestyle session with Kanye West & The Game and it was clear that not only was Charles a true MC who could hang with the big boys but he could prolly rap circles around a few of them as well. Effortless in his flow, Charles Hamilton remains one of the best true freestyle rappers I've ever seen, but he was out to prove that he was more then just a one trick pony and had some very interesting (and opinionated) views on Hip-Hop and how to "play the game" .
An avid blogger, Charles continued to grow his fanbase with his words as a steady trickle of projects began to hit the 'net. A mixtape with DJ Green Lantern here, a couple of unreleased tracks here, culminating in what still stands out as one of the more ambitious musical projects I've seen to date. Eight mixtapes released on eight different blogs in a four month time span, eponymously titled, The Hamiltonization Process. Sure some of the tapes were hit or miss but the highs were much greater then the lows and the project was successful in achieving it's goal, which was to let the world (Wide Web) know that Charles Hamilton was going to be a force to be reckoned with. All the work paid off and resulted in his inclusion in XXL's Top 10 Freshmen Of 2009. After such a shining endorsement, you'd think things were looking up for young Hamilton. And you would be wrong.
From losing rap battles to fans (I thought the white kid came with some writtens) to losing a war of the words to Soulja Boy (But I can't front, he took an L on this one), rap beef was the least of Hamilton's problems in 2009. Yeah, he got punched by a girl. So what? Son mighta got a little slick with the lips but she's the one who was emotional and outta control. I think Hamilton handled himself like a G given the circumstances. Only thing you can fault him for is messing around with some unstable chick. But when you from the hood, this happens sometimes. (Shout out to my baby mama! The check's in the mail.)
Yeah, he lied about knowing Dilla's mom's but I think he was more shocked at the reaction people had to him wanting to have J Dilla posthumously executive produce his debut album "This Perfect Life". I know I was. I saw it as a sign of respect for a man who he obviously felt influenced his music as well as the music of many others. Hamilton even made a tape entirely based around Dilla beats (And Then They Played Dilla), right around the time it seemed like it became en vogue to do so. At least Hamilton can say Dilla directly influenced his production style. Some of the cats who were jumping on those beats had no connection to the man what so ever. I found that more disrespectful then trying to honor Dilla by giving him credit on his album.
Soon after, Charles' major label debut was shelved and subsequently leaked on the internet and in the months after, Charles got dropped from Interscope, took a self imposed sabbatical to Los Angeles, returned to the bloggersphere with an apology and a bunch of new music with production from cats like DJ Toomp and Jim Jonsin. For a minute it appeared as if he was taking his lumps with a smile.
But after a lukewarm reception to his new material, as quickly as he had reappeared, he disappeared once again.
Most recently, Charles checked himself into New York Presbyterian Mental Hospital for a short stint and showed up a few weeks later at the offices of XXL Magazine where he dropped this epic 27 minute freestyle...from a wheelchair. Yeah, it's always something with Chuck.
Since then, Charles has been releasing a new mixtape almost every other day and even though I'm a fan, I can't lie, these days he misses way more often then he hits but therein lies the appeal of Charles Hamilton. At least to me anyway. Dude is so willing to experiment and put himself out there, even if it's not his best work, even if he might lose some fans because of it. There's a fearlessness in that act and that's admirable but at the same time, if he wanted to just make music for himself, why release it? I think he owes more to the fans who have followed him from the jump, but more importantly, he owes it to himself to fulfill the promise he showed early on.
Chuck's music manages to straddle the line of extreme fantasy (the high concept Well Isn't This Awkward... and it's follow up, Well This Isn't Awkward (Winner Takes All) ) or reality (He dedicated an entire tracklist to his ex's on Every Charles Hamilton Ex-Girlfriend's Worst Nightmare along with the deeply personal, The Pink Lavalamp and This Perfect Life), I find his best work is when he tones down the dramatics & tries to make songs that people will listen to and enjoy instead of rapping solely to show people he's nice at it.
There's a certain contingent of Charles Hamilton fans who eat up everything he releases, lackluster or not. These "Starchasers" (As Hamilton affectionately calls them) are a part of the problem, enabling such a talented musician to continue to put out occasionally brilliant but for the most part, sub par music and treat it like it's the reinvention of sound. Well I'm here to tell you Charles, it's not. The potential for greatness is still there and I think focused efforts will yield better results but for the time being, I'm willing to ride out this wave of obscure music in hopes that he'll eventually get his shit together somewhere later down the line.
After combing through all the Hamilton music I have been able to get my hands on, I present a cohesive collection of what I feel are his best songs since The Hamiltonization Process ended. Without further ado....
This Is Charles Hamilton
1. The Loser's Revenge
2. Sega Music (Last of the Mauritians)
3. Some First Single Type Sh1t
4. Brooklyn Girls
5. Cali Oriental
6. Q and A
7. MTV Cribs (Produced by The Chonchords)
8. Body Roc (Introducing Show TuFli)
9. The North Pole Feat. Max B.
10. Tengo Una Pregunta
11. Loading Feat. MC Lyte
12. Do It
13. Heroin Girl (Produced by DJ Toomp)
14. Think Twice Feat. Yung Nate & Show Tufli (Produced by Woody)
18. SuperSonicLove RMX (Produced by DJ Toomp)
After all my filibustering & my comp of handpicked songs designed to turn even the most hardcore hater to a fan, if all that doesn't work & you still can't bring yourself to give dude his props as a rapper, there is no way you can front on him as a producer. As a bonus, here's a gang of instrumentals, all produced by Charles Hamilton.
Bonus: Charles Hamilton - Hamiltonstrumentals