I was a senior in high school spending my free time clicking previous on 2Dopeboyz, irritated by Zshare links, Mininova torrents and scrolling through Datpiff’s massive catalog looking for the soundtrack to my life. Days were spent with Hello My Name Is B.O.B and nights with A Kid Named Cudi, trying to escape the worries of graduation's speedy arrival and my uncertain plans for post public education.
I used to flip tables, throw cellphones and punch walls after extracting mixtapes downloaded from Datpiff – the frustration of always missing a song or two was overwhelming, like being teased with cleavage but denied the nipple. When I think about Datpiff, Charles Hamilton instantly comes to mind. I remember the first cover I saw, Shadow the Hedgehog, holding a smoking burner, police in hot pursuit, entitled Death Of The Mixtape Rapper, how could I not be intrigued? The closest hip-hop and Sonic got to colliding was when Lupe said, “Have my mind moving faster than that hog in the hedges.” I grew up on the Sega Genesis, Mortal Kombat fatalities and Sonic The Hedgehog bling bling collecting, so I assumed this Charles Hamilton guy was cut from the same cloth.
Listening to Charles was like discovering that the class clown is a genius, that he could shoot spitballs and solve algebraic equations at the same damn time. He was a rapping middle finger, brazen, and fuckless. I had to pause the mixtape on the third song, "Just A Musician," as he calls himself the pink Power Ranger – not MC Hammer, not Michael Jordan, but Kimberly Hart. I was floored, laughing out loud - this guy couldn’t be a rapper. His silliness didn’t overshadow the talent, there’s a lot of brilliance wedged between the wit, his play with words is what I found fascinating. He sold me by rapping over a self-produced sample comprised from the Windows XP startup, login and shutdown chimes. While others were crate digging for old jewels, he took an ordinary sound that enters and exits ears on a daily basis and gave it new life. This was my introduction to Mr. Hamilton, a man unlike any other artist I’ve ever experienced.
Charles tap-danced on rap stereotypes, he wasn’t trying to portray an image, and promoted unapologetically being yourself instead of a chameleon. He wasn’t ordinary, a true oddity, his level of unorthodox teetered on madness. Everything from his views on religion to his outrageous output (The Hamiltonization Process is one of a kind) made him interesting. He made an entire mixtape dedicated to his infuation with Rihanna that should’ve resulted in restraining orders, he turned ex-lovers into muses in a way that rivals Drake, he wore more pink than Cam’ron, his plight gave birth to painfully personal music, and of course the antics out of the booth left the most lasting impressions. The wrath and right hook of a scorn woman comes up in conversations before Well Isn’t This Awkward. He had an angry mob cursing his name, but his following, the Starchasers, outnumbered the hate. He created an audience by downloading his reality into mp3s, blogposts, and other forms of intimate connection. He was hip-hop’s Joe Carroll, using music instead of Edgar Allan Poe without the murderous cult.
His catalog is massive, he was literally dropping free music weekly. Similar to 2007 Wayne, you can pick and choose Hamilton songs and create an album full of timelessness. Well, Charles has one project that is considered his undeniable classic, The Pink Lavalamp. The production, the lyricism, the emotion, every song is a representation of what Charles Hamilton has to offer. He channeled so much passion into the "Intro," spit like an AR on "Brighter Days," the incredible "Writing In The Sky," he even broke into tears at the end of "I’ll Be Around." Pink Lavalamp sounds like an artist pouring his entire heart and soul into the craft, leaving nothing left but an empty vessel and an incredible album. That’s a magic you can’t recreate, the sincerity of a starving artist. It should’ve been on shelves, the debut album, but Interscope dropped the ball. Playing it now, I’m pretty sure I was going through a serious emo phase, but the music is still good, damn good.
All the qualities that made Charles intriguing lead to his demise. He’s always been outlandish, outspoken, rebellious and careless of the consequences. He did whatever he felt, and it was entertaining for a while. I don’t think he was ready for what celebrity and widespread attention demanded, the etiquette needed to survive wasn’t instilled in his artistic development. After getting on the '09' XXL Freshmen cover things started to go downhill, it was like watching an electrode self-destruct from a distance. The Dilla’s executive production credits on his Interscope debut album, This Perfect Life, getting dropped from the label, the low quality music that was released afterwards, he didn’t just fall from grace, he skydived with granny panties as a parachute. I stopped caring, kept the music from his prime, and stopped expecting him to return to glory. Recently, rumors have surfaced that Charles Hamilton is back. I’ve heard this before, too many times before. The uproar was caused by a picture that surfaced with him and Rita Ora, reports say he’s signed a deal with Turn First Records. The same label/management company umbrella that Rita, Bishop Nehru and Iggy Azalea are signed to. The news of new management was attached to a new song, "Correct," that the internet hailed as a promising snippet of an overdue return.
Even though the song is short of two minutes, I resisted pressing play. The question wasn’t if the song was good, but in 2015, do I really want new music from Charles Hamilton? My external hard drive is full of music from my high school hayday, I had all the mixtapes worth mentioning, and a few I wish to forget. What does he have left to offer? Lord knows we don’t need a Charles Hamilton version of "Fancy."
I’m glad to see him alive and well, his life hasn’t been an easy one, and through his music he’s touched a bunch of kids that needed to hear his story. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Entourage’s Billy Walsh. The eccentric director that was a genius but swimming in a pool of vices. He had his own rise and fall, we could say The Pink Lavalamp is Queens Boulevard and The Perfect Life is Medellin. Both imploded their careers, losing everything right when success was nearest. Much like Charles, Billy returns in the final season, cleansed of drugs and wanting to return to the business that slipped through his fingers. It's possible that Charles' next effort will be his Johnny's Bananas.
I’m a bit older than when I discovered Charles, I’m not expecting to see Sonic artwork on Datpiff and feel compelled to download. What I’m looking for in music now has changed a bit, and I don’t know if Charles can still deliver it. I’ll be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly interested, nostalgia is my mistress, but when you have Kendrick Lamar, J.Cole, Chance The Rapper, Mick Jenkins, Joey Bada$$, Childish Gambino, Big K.R.I.T and Drake, where does Hamilton fit in? Regardless, if his return is triumphant or momentary this was a nice drive down Memory Lane.
I wish you the best of luck Chuck, thank you for 2008-2009.
[By Yoh, aka Yoh The Echidna, aka @Yoh31]