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Why I Can’t Listen To Charles Hamilton

Hip-hop can be merciless sometimes, and everyone involved knows that.

Remember when Talib Kweli got clowned because there were rumors that he was punched by his girl at 50’s crib? That was just a rumor! Hamilton’s KO was caught on tape. Any rapper in the world: Jay-Z, 50 cent, Weezy, or TI. It doesn’t matter. If a punch is landed solidly on your face by a female, you will get clowned. It is a fact of life which Hamilton unfortunately experienced head on.

The J Dilla episode was kind of awkward. When a beloved hip-hop figure passes away, usage of said figure’s name will have to be sensitive and careful. And that’s fair. Remember the negative response that Mase caught when he claimed credit for some of Big L’s famed punchlines? Obviously not the same as the Dilla naming, but Hamilton went ahead and put Dilla’s name on his album even though the man had nothing to do with the actual production. He claimed that Dilla inspired the album. That’s very nice, but Dilla’s name should have belonged in the more reserved manner of the “Thanks” section, and not as executive producer. Even just a Dilla tribute song would have been fair. I think people took the exec naming as cocky and delusional.

The Eminem letter seems to have flown under the radar, which is maybe for the best. It was very Stanish. Some people clowned it, but others seem to have realized the cry for help. Hamilton saw some of himself in Eminem, in that both are loners who have struggled mightily in this age of cameras and critics. The difference is, Eminem has sold close to 100 million albums. Regardless, Hamilton’s cry for help seemed to go unanswered by Em, at least publicly.

Then came the wheelchair, and the institution. At this point, Hamilton reached an area where no rapper had been before, as fans and critics seemed a bit perplexed as to the heights that Hamilton’s oddities had reached. For most people, including myself, the clowning stopped once this guy committed himself. That’s some serious shit.  And the funny thing is, through it all, Hamilton continued to put out music. Most of it good, from what I hear.

For me, and I think most others, it didn’t matter if it was good. I couldn’t shake the image of this crazy guy. Good music is good music, sure, but on some level you need to be able to respect the artist. And it’s not that I don’t respect his craft (his barbershop rhymes were good, but his appearance rendered it all meaningless), I’ve just become uneasy about listening to what a man of this disquieting nature has to say. Is that fair? I’m writing about dude because he’s in that rare territory where I recognize that he has special talent and he’s supposedly putting out good music, however, I don’t want to listen to it because his character and personality have become too alarming to me.

On some level, it might be similar to R. Kelly, when Funkmaster Flex said he would no longer play his music, due to Kellz’s alleged abhorrent behavior with underage girls. That I can understand. Terrible character shouldn’t be rewarded. But Hamilton doesn’t have a bad character. He just has an awfully kooky one. Maybe too kooky.

I rock with Cage. I think Tech is incredible. And when Em goes into maniac mode I eat it up. But CH and his behavior have gone awry in the sense that his character makes me uncomfortable, to the point where I just don’t want to hear what he has to say. Whether it’s because he’s cocky or crazy, I have no interest, no matter how dope his drops may be. Am I wrong for that? Help me out here XXL readers. — Shlomo

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