Friday, September 5, 2008
Charles Hamilton Makes A Mixtape About His Blog
Often rappers who do not have a hell of lot to say become singularly obsessed with something and that becomes the focus of their rhymes. Young Jeezy rhymes about coke and only coke, The Game seems to have an unnatural obsession with rappers from the 1990's and Lil’ Wayne only seems to be interested in sipping cough medicine and convincing people that he receives blowjobs (allegedly) from a large, assortment of women (and not Birdman). As for Charles Hamilton, he seems to only want to rap about the internet and his Sega Genesis which may in fact, make him the most interesting rapper to migrate out of Harlem since Cameron Giles saw his first pink fur coat in a Hot Topic on 125th Street.
Charles Hamilton is a weird dude. He is a Cleveland-born (Hollaback, y’all!), Harlem-raised emcee/producer signed to Interscope Records who sounds like the illegitimate cousin of Pharoahe Monch biting Kanye West’s flow and Lil’ Wayne’s delivery; not to mention he has penchant for crooning terribly off-key and vocoder infused interpolations of recognizable tunes as hooks. Hamilton has a deep affinity bordering on Stan-like standom with Sonic the effin’ Hedgehog and seems to inexplicably loathe Lupe Fiasco to the point where you wonder if Lupe fucked his girlfriend despite being his artistic cousin. A prolific blogger, Hamilton runs and maintains several websites dedicated to the glories of himself and the music that he makes. Hamilton has an eclectic taste in music that manifests itself in songs that sample everything from Willy Wonka to the motherfucking Microsoft Windows start-up sound. Yes, Charles Hamilton is a weird dude. He’s also kind of brilliant.
Hamilton’s new mixtape with DJ Skee, “The Death of the Mixtape Rapper”, is Hamilton’s first mixtape in the upcoming “Hamiltonization Process” series. The mixtape follows in the tradition and promise of Hamilton’s earlier mixtapes, this year’s great “Outside Looking” and “Crash Landed.” The mixtape follows the formula outlaid in Hamilton's earlier work - catchy, familiar hooks, clever pop culture laced rhymes, and production that samples from familiar but diverse material. On the Pete Rock-laced opener, Hamilton borrows from the "Theme to The Exorcist" to create an eerie, low-key bragfest. While the mixtape isn't quite up to bar with it's two excellent predecessors as it features too many obvious moments like a prerequisite "A Millie" freestyle (Seriously people, stop! It's not even that good of a beat.), the mixtape does offer some particularly interesting moments that are some of the year's best music put to date. Hamilton seems to have a affinity for technology and the internet that seems to make him one of the first true post-modern emcees I've heard.
Soulja Boy, for all his vacuous inanities and forays into utter ignorance, has shown the music industry the power of properly harnessing the internet for promotion which is a lesson that Charles Hamilton seems to have taken to heart. On "Death Of The Mixtape Rapper", it seems Hamilton spends, at least, half of the albums on the song promoting his various blogs, websites, and MySpace pages. This wouldn't even necessarily even be that strange if he were casually shouting his website at the end of the songs or during the musical interludes but instead, Hamilton makes self-promotion the focus of the song. On the mixtape's musical centerpiece, "Windows Media Player" which miraculously samples the ubiquitous "Windows start-up sound", is an ode to the promotion of his blog. The chorus of the song is literally him chanting the web addresses of his various websites. On "Twitter 16", Charles turns a call for a girl to check out his Twitter feed into a (sort-of) seductive come-on. What's interesting about Charles' obsession with technology is the circular and absurd post-modernity of it all. Hamilton uses his music as promotion for his websites which in turn are promotion for his music. It's a feedback loop that allows him to build and interact with his audience as well as constantly release new music. "The Hamiltonization Process", Charles' upcoming mixtape series, is an eight part series being jointly released on many of the major hip hop music sharing blogs such as Nah Right, 2dopeboyz, and OnSmash. These sites have revolutionized the way music is shared as many music labels directly release music to them as a way to cheaply and effectively promote their music and Hamilton knows this. Being a child of the '90s and in turn the generation that grew up illegally downloading music, he understands the importance that the internet plays in the lives of young people and so using these sites to promote his music only serves to feed into the cleverly cultivated feeback loop that he has been building. Hell, it's how I became turned onto his music.
All of this would matter not and be incredibly annoying if he didn't have the musical skills to back it up. While Hamilton comes from the Kanye school of lyricism and thus at times, his metaphors and flow seem forced and a bit awkward, as a producer and an artist, Charles is one of the most prolific samplers of diverse and an avant-garde samples since Prince Paul picked up an MPC. Hamilton often uses easy identifiable but still culturally obscure samples in his music. Of the music that he has released, he has sampled: The Offspring, the Goo Goo Dolls, Willy Wonka, Mr. Rogers, Charlie Brown, Staind, Madonna, the Exorcist Theme and various different themes from the soundtrack to Genesis games. Hamilton eschews the traditional soul sample or synthesizer heavy music that modern rap has come to rely upon to create a more eclectic and possibly universal sound. It's hard not to smile when he uses such a recognizable but obscure samples to craft a rap song. I'll be amazed if he's able to clear any of the samples for his major label debut.
Charles Hamilton is poised to be the proverbial the next big thing but I suppose it all depend on his ability to translate his promotional swagger into music that will hold up over the course of an album. Still, it's nice to see a young kid breaking away from the molds that traditional rap both mainstream and independent and carving his own niche out. Now where's my fucking Genesis?
Download: Charles Hamilton & DJ Skee - The Death Of The Mixtape Rapper
Download: Charles Hamilton & DJ Green Lantern - Outside Looking (Recommended)