Charles Hamilton, Lost In Translation
Praise him or hate him, in his mind Charles Hamilton’s already won. The fresh-faced 21-year-old Harlem World representer has literally turned his quick wit and love for video games and porn stars into a cult following. With a slew of mixtapes and an album prequel (The Pink Lavalamp) under his belt, CH now faces a skeptical hip-hop community anxious to see if his left field antics will make him the next Kanye West or the next [insert flopped rapper here]. XXLMag.com caught up with Chuck to discuss his infamous internet battles, people thinking that he’s a made-up character, his first taste of industry beef and why he is or isn’t “emo rap.”
XXLMag.com: You recently graced the cover of XXL to mixed reviews. Do you think it helped to spread your buzz beyond just strictly the net?
Charles Hamilton: Well pretty simple, I’d still be doing [the “Loser” video with XXL] whether I got the cover or not. Everyone loves having nationwide, international, global, universal, galactical buzz. At the end of the day, everyone wants to be known for something. But for me at the end of the day I want to make sure that all of ya'll heard my music. You don’t have to like me. You just have to at some point in your life have heard my music even if you don’t like what I do. So basically I’m giving the haters enough rope to hang themselves because I’m not doing nothing negative to nobody. From 2008 to 2009 alone, I’ve definitely grown as a person. If there’s a negative situation thrown at me, I make sure that I focus all my energy on letting everyone know that I’ve grown past responding to negativity. So if my buzz elicits a negative reaction from anybody that feels that they can do better, then by all means I encourage them to work on their craft so that they won’t have to be mad at me doing what I do. I’ve went through enough shit to be able to look anybody in their eye, from Kimbo Slice to Suge Knight to DJ Tanner from “Full House” to say ‘nah, I deserve this and you’re gonna have to kill me to get me out of my motherfucking position.
XXL: I’ve seen you battle several people on the web including a fan…
CH: Ahhh…The kid literally put on WorldStar that he was not battling me. The kid from Penn State. He didn’t have to do this. He could have continued to shine on some ‘college kid unknown that beat Charles Hamilton.’ This lil dude, shout out to him too, he literally put a video up, wrote a verse to the “Nas Is Like” beat and was like, ‘yo, Charles Hamilton, who the fuck else do you know that’s humble enough to rap with his fans after a show.’ Like, he was mad happy about it. Then he was like ‘Shout out to Charles, I know you watching.’ It wasn’t a battle. It was a friendly cipher. The video got cut off after round 2, but it wasn’t even a round. Whatever you call it when niggas go back and forth. We did that like twice then four more rappers came in. The video got cut off midway through but it looks to where as we’re taking jabs at each other, just picture two college kids rapping poking fun at each other. It was an innocent cipher. A battle was [Murder] Mook and Sirius Jones. A battle was me and Sirius Jones. And you can say I lost that battle, I couldn’t give a shit less because I wasn’t coming at Sirius Jones on some ‘yea, here go $20,000 on the table.’ He said some funny shit to me, I said some funny shit back. It was a simple exchange of lyrics. Apparently you can’t do that nowadays without there being some instigation of beef. That’s all I wanna bring back is that fun factor where I could walk up to Lloyd Banks and be like ‘yea nigga, round 1’ and just start spitting and it dead ass be all love.
XXL: That’s interesting because a lot of people feel that once you get to a certain status, that’s not something you have to do anymore. Do you feel like you have something to prove, as an MC, that you can still do the same things…
CH: Alright, let me tell you something crazy. I’m at Penn State and I’m chilling. I think it was me, the white boy that I rapped with, four other white boys and [several other people]. We was chilling, laughing, having jokes and one of the white boys asked me like a serious life question. So we’re having a deep conversation and I’m explaining to him like ‘sometimes it’s hard for me to explain to people that I’m real.’ And the girl who was sitting next to me’s jaw dropped like, ‘you are real.’ So I’m like, 'I been in this house for like 4 or 5 hours and you mean to tell me that you just accepting that I’m actually in front of you?' So then I pinched her like, ‘you believe I’m real now?’ Apparently people don’t think that I’m real. So when people say stuff like you not supposed to be with the fans, that’s because the fans don’t believe that 98% of this shit is real. Take it from someone that once was a fan. We don’t think none of ya'll exist. I wouldn’t have thought Em existed if I didn’t have a conversation with him. I would have thought that the music industry was a hellified computer program [laughs].
XXL: You obviously have a middle finger attitude towards the industry and the beef and the politics that come with all of this. Do you have that same attitude towards sales?
CH: You’re not gonna see me crying talking about ‘why did my album flop?’ First, there’s many processes that go into your album being put into the marketplace. What I’m doing, so that I don’t get caught up in the numbers game, I’m making real music. So you can buy it and hear what I have to say or don’t buy it and don’t hear what I have to say. It’s that simple. My part is to just make the music. So if a million people know my album is coming out and 20,000 go and get a copy, that just means that there’s a large number of people who didn’t get a copy. So I guess my ‘fuck it’ attitude comes from knowing that you can make good music and people will gravitate towards it. I genuinely don’t think about dollars and cents when it comes to this business, you know? This is my life. We need to hear about the struggle. We need to hear about where you’re at in your head right now, not in your wallet.
XXL: You’re known largely from the mixtapes you’ve put out and artists always say there’s a difference in doing mixtapes and albums. How do you think your mixtape fans will receive the album and how do you approach the two differently?
CH: The funny thing about that whole thing you just said is, why would anyone tell you that there’s a different process for a mixtape than an album? That’s the biggest mystery right there. Granted, you go into a mixtape thinking ‘let me just spit’ and you go into an album thinking ‘well let me impress.’ But my thing is, you’re making both to impress. So the difference to me is when I write a mixtape say ‘I don’t even think about a hook’, for an album I say ‘well let me just be myself.’ I just naturally make music. The difficult thing for me is to not focus on song structure and just blackout. For the album, I really don’t wanna talk too much about it and give out too many details. All I’m gonna say is for those that revel in something you get for free and something you gotta pay for, prepare to be pleasantly fooled.
XXL: You’ve been called a lot of things and put into a lot of categories but I wanna hear it from your own mouth. You’ve been said to do “emo rap.” Would you agree with that?
CH: Somebody said that about me…matter of fact, it was ya’ll niggas [ in XXL’s April issue “Emo Trippin’]. In the rock world, Emo is kind of like a loose term for pussy. But a lot of the emo bands are like heavy. So it’s like, you soft but obviously as a musician you go hard. Then there’s a thing called screamo, with the really emotional lyrics about the girl who broke the eight strings of his heart but the guy is screaming it in a really blood curdling way. So for me to be emo rap, that means I’m tugging on your heart strings in a very light voice over some dope ass melodies and beats. Should I complain about that, knowing that in the rock world these rap motherfuckers are calling me pussy or should I enjoy the fact that these rap motherfuckers don’t understand that they’re glorifying what these rock motherfuckers would say is pussy? I would just say that I’m a musician and my name is Charles Hamilton. – Anthony Roberts
Charles Hamilton's "Loser" video directed by XXL Magazine is slated to premiere Wednesday March 18th.