Charles Hamilton was right there with “Brooklyn Girls,” and then everything happened. He had some questionable rap battles, incessantly crept on Rihanna, caught the fade from his girl on film and isolated himself so badly it almost destroyed him. Like Larry Sanders, he just didn’t want to play anymore. His mother then admitted him after she found out he was messing with drugs in an abandoned building. Thank God. Or according to Charles Hamilton — thank Mom — since God and women are the same to him. Charles was institutionalized from 2010-2012 and has been making quiet progress since. Until now. This is Hip Hop’s chance to redeem itself.
He came out out of the gate strong in February with “Correct,” a record that reminded fans of the old him — talented and honest. His nonchalant flow, telling of society’s ills and personal musings was every bit reminiscent of the old him. Then, Hamilton and Ora debuted “New York Raining” on the #1 network TV show Empire.
Charles Hamilton caught a break at Republic Records. “I’m not going to name them, but I have artists who aren’t medicated and are far worse off,” explained Republic senior vp urban A&R Wendy Goldstein in a recent interview. “At least with Charles we know what it is.” They agreed to ink him a deal, but they knew it was going to be about music and mental health. Charles lives at home with his mother now, takes his scheduled medication on time and turns his laptop off by a 10pm curfew time. Can he make it back? His new management company Turn First Artists,
who also works with the likes of Iggy Azalea, Ellie Goulding and Rita Ora, is taking steps to retrofit a campaign to him that’ll make it possible. Look at the brand transformation.
Charles Hamilton can never be 2009 XXL Freshman again but he can be 2015 come back Charles Hamilton. He can be a scarred Sonic, a mega talented weirdo with a broken past, a contingency that teaches Hip Hop a lesson.
Charles dropped mixtapes, LOTS of mixtapes, a process he’d later call the “Hamiltonization Process.” His goal, to put the progression back into the genre, to release experimental music that explained the duality of the artist — that of his personal life and the music industry. The Sonic the Hedgehog obsessed emcee, clad in pink, made pop-rap refreshing again. That is, until his head got the best of him.
Mental illness is common in Hip Hop, it’s no secret. The genre is rooted in the struggle. That’s what makes Hip Hop interesting, the stories, but it also makes for volatile artists. Painful experiences often trigger mental illnesses and industry representatives aren’t necessarily
prepared for it. Music labels are money making firms not psychology offices. Artists are left to their own demons as long as they produce. The industry is glamorized with money, drugs and women too — the perfect storm of temptation to destroy any chance a disabled emcee would have. Down is really the glaring option for unprepared Hip Hop artists. Even emcees with their ear to the street can be tricked, betwixt such alluring things.
And while rapping is actually great therapy for emcees, it’s still only a creative form of release. Unfortunately mental illnesses can’t just be shaken off like a bad day. They’re there forever, something that many fans still don’t understand, even after recent cases Christ Bearer (Wu-Tang), DMX, Chris Brown, Joe Budden and Kanye West came to light. In fact, many of Hip Hop’s premier emcees struggle with mental disorders. There’s Charles Hamilton, but also Eminem, T.I., Kid Cudi, Childish Gambino and many others. So what’s the big issue then if these artists dealt with it? That’s like saying racism should exist in order to toughen up minorities, and that it should continue to exist to keep things how they are. That’s rationalization. Those rappers were all able to achieve mainstream success despite their hindrances — they were the exceptions.
Hip Hop killed Charles Hamilton and now it’s going to revive him. Despite all that’s happened, the artist still lives in the man and there’s still a place for him at the table. It’s mutually beneficial. Hamilton wants to succeed, Hip Hop needs Charles for his markedness and to prove it’s
democratic nature, and New York needs him to survive. His music speaks for itself but it could be doing a lot more. The Harlem hipster rap-producer with unorthodox content, melody and freestyle ability needs to go up for the sake of his city and the genre.
New York is run by an older generation of Hip Hop that, in its time was progressive, but is now conservative. Joey Bada$$ recently admitted, “I really think the older generation of New York needs to connect to the younger generation. I don’t think that happens on our side enough.” Hamilton said, “New York Hip Hop has a lot of room to grow,” and went on to explain how the city might be losing its identity with the generational shift. Look at it like this, capitalist rappers like Diddy, Jay Z and 50 Cent are out of touch. They’re those rich uncles that used to be relevant.
While they may have been the hottest in their day and age, Hip Hop heads today demand a different type of beast altogether — more creative, socially conscious, Hamiltonized content. It’s like Friedrich Nietzsche said, “We have our Arts so we won’t die of Truth.” Charles Hamilton makes dope art.
New York should be hyped that he can still do this. Keep in mind this is real freestyling, not memorizing-or-reading-the-verse-in-my-iphone freestyling. The largest city in the United States is struggling to find newcomers and here’s a quirky genius ready to headline as the comeback of the decade. As Joey Bada$$ holds onto the last thread of the boom bat fanbase, Ferg carries a lost A$AP (RIP Yams), and Action Bronson writes another fairy tale rap, artists from other parts of the country are creating the waves.
But Hip Hop needs him too. For all of his unique qualities, including Bipolar Disorder. Hip Hop is known for its prevalence of artists with mental illnesses but also for its functionality as a throw-away society. Exhibit A: Bobby Shmurda.
Here you see the instant sensation awkwardly performing his ultra violent records in front of a white collar crowd. The air in the room just says, “We’re going to use the fuck out of you, Bobby. Then we’re going to dismiss your urban ass.” The “Hot Nigga” emcee is now in prison.
This is Hip Hop’s shot to redeem itself. Will it? Follow Charles Hamilton and you’ll see…