Charles Hamilton was one of the more buzzworthy MCs around just a few years back. The Cleveland-born, Harlem-raised rhyme slinger was set to release his debut major album release on Interscope back in 2008—the same year XXL named him part of the Freshmen class—so things were looking promising for the skilled spitter. But, just as quick as the buzz seemed to generate, it dissipated—of course, the infamous viral clip of him getting punched in the face by a young female during a battle didn’t help matters.
Still, Hamilton persevered, dropping a series of mixtapes in the past few years and in New York last night (August 14), he delivered a crowd-pleasing concert for over three hours—without intermission—for his hometown fans at the legendary SOBs venue in Manhattan, marking his first major performance in recent memory.
“I didn’t really go anywhere, I’ve just been observing the game, watching what’s going on in the climate, and the kind of talent going out,” he told XXL. “The things and propaganda people do to be famous? I don’t do it. I’d rather release pictures of me getting beat up rather than flashing my dick on stage.”
On stage last night, Hamilton wore a black bucket hat and red polo shirt, while rocking the color-coordinated red-lit stage and offering an intimate and show that played out more like an MTV Unplugged or VH1 Storytellers.
Hamilton separated the performance into three 60-minute sets, the first showcasing his abilities as a DJ. While on the wheels of steel, the producer played a majority of his own original beats from his “Fruity Loops days,” referencing the Windows PC composition program, including an instrumental that defeated Australian producer M-Phazes in a beat battle witnessed by Peter Rosenberg.
For the second set of the performance, the versatile rapper/producer gave fans an exclusive look at his creative process in the studio. Within an hour, Hamilton impressively chopped up three different samples and had the audience neck-snapping in sync to each newly made instrumental. Throughout this segment, the MC constantly reiterated to his fans, that besides just composing three beats from scratch, he was also silently simultaneously writing songs to them in his head.
The third and last set of the “Charles Hamilton Experience” showcased the rapper recording tracks to two of the three beats he had just made. The first beat, which sampled Michael Jackon’s “Thriller,” featured Hamilton’s heartfelt vocals on the hook harmonizing, “For the thrill/it’s all fun until someone gets killed.”
The second song featured Charles channeling the sound of his “Sonic” days, offering a rap song that catered to the females in the crowd. He then ended the event, showcasing his singing talents and ability on the keys.
Accompanied by only a piano, Hamilton serenaded the audience with covers of “What You Won’t Do for Love,” “Ordinary People” and the famous Incubus track, “Wish You Were Here.” The NYC native concluded his three-hour performance with a piano rendition, and audience assisted version of “Brooklyn Girls,” which was the only offering from his past material.
As each and every set progressed, the “Charles Hamilton Experience” allowed attendees to see an artist in his true comfort zone; the live studio session provided a sense of home and serenity to Hamilton as me makes his comeback.
“I’m consistent in what I do, and I believe in myself,” the 25-year-old Hamilton continued to tell XXL. “I think believing in yourself is more important than being on a label.”—Christian Bonoan (@chrisakachise)