The Confounding Conundrum of Charles Hamilton

April 22, 2009

No one can argue with the fact that Charles Hamilton is the most hardworking emcee/producer in contemporary hip-hop. This man has cranked out mixtape after mixtape at breakneck speed, over-saturating blogs with a mile-long string of consistent full-length releases. He must spend every waking moment in the confines of his studio (by the time I finish this post, he’ll probably have wrapped up and released another batch of C. Hamilton joints for the masses), his work ethic enough to scare off any newcomer that thinks one mixtape is more than enough to create a buzz. But just yesterday, Charles leaked “Barbara Walters,” the first official single off his forthcoming Interscope debut This Perfect Life. And its response? Nothing but a bunch of e-shrugs.

What seemed like a pretty sharp marketing tactic (using quantity to attract attention and build a buzz) ended up being more of a curse than a gift. Ever since he started dropping his knee-high stack of tapes last year, Charles seemed to be on the path to stardom. It was impossible to ignore the amount of quality releases he was handing out for free, and even more of a marvel to see what else he could use as a reference point for lyrical subject matter. Charles has consistently proved to be a hip-hop machine, earning him just as many fans as he did haters (the true sign that he was doing something right) and a major label deal with Interscope to release his first official full-length.

But then come the repercussions. How can Charles put out an album intriguing enough for people to actually purchase it? The main benefit of being a Charles Hamilton fan is that you have full access to his entire catalogue, free of charge. Whenever you feel like subsuming yourself in the psychedelic world of Sonic the Hamilton, it’s far too easy for you to go on that journey. Any computer literate schmuck that knows how to snatch a file from ZShare can do a Google search of “Charles Hamilton,” and up pops every one of his releases for your downloading pleasure.

So why would anyone want to spend money on a guy that’s been giving it all away? Since he’s targeted computer savvy hip-hop nerds as his core demographic, he’s pretty much shot himself in the foot, as nearly every one of them will be able to track down that album in a second and download it to their hard drive. And what’s stopping them from doing that? Morality? Respect for his craft? Fear of getting sued by the RIAA? Having the complacency that comes with shelling out your hard-earned cash for a disc that cost less than a penny to make?

Let’s be serious here. Charles hasn’t necessarily made it easy for people to like him. He’s picked fights with rappers that have more money, power and respect than he’ll ever get, and he’s cocky in a way that makes him look more like a douchebag than an emcee that’s copped the standard persona of self-assurance. The only thing that keeps him from being a grade A dick, to be quite honest, is his enviable work ethic and up-for-grabs product, two characteristics that not even the saltiest hater can slander.

And do you really think that This Perfect Life is going to be any better than a mixtape? Listening back on the arsenal of Charles Hamilton music on my iTunes, not a single mixtape stands out from the rest. Charles has built each and every mixtape on the same musical premise, fleshing out looped samples of classics with tie-dyed instrumentation and stretching them out over the course of 12 or so tracks. And on the lyrical tip, Charles hasn’t really dropped a single quotable. Sure, he’s got flow, and it’s smirk-worthy to hear him rap-sing about his troublseome relationships and cocksure excellence, but I can’t remember a single rhyme that he’s spit worth remembering. The tapes play like a blurred extension of his ego, and judging by the sound of his first single “Barbara Walters,” it doesn’t really seem like This Perfect Life will be any different.

It’s ironic that an artist that’s trying to get his fans off their lazy asses and hand over a fistful of fivers to their local record store has just released his lead single to the blogs that put him on in the first place. If you’re trying to convince your leeching listeners that you’ve got something worth purchasing, then at least shoot off a stream to bloggers instead of direct downloads. Because at this rate, we’ll all have downloaded the full album, track by track, long before the full joint drops in June.

Download: Charles Hamilton – Barbara Walters

5 Responses to “The Confounding Conundrum of Charles Hamilton”

  1. benhameen Says:

    ouch. but very well put. Plus drake has stolen all of the so called most promising rookies shine.

  2. Rish Bish Says:

    Well written and very true.

    I read a interview the other day with Pharrell and ol Chuckie Hamilton was there workin on something with him. Maybe Chuck is gonna have some of P’s production on his new album?

    I’m afraid that isnt enough to help this lil fella out though.

  3. Noize Says:

    Wow has nobody ever heard of Joe Budden? He practically released every song on his album online and still sold units. Any tech savvy yahoo can get anything for free, especially music. The album, if anything will just be him reaching out to people who’ve never heard of him, trying to get more people listening and all that, who can say. Out of his core “fan base” there will be the people who WANT to support him out there buying his album. I doubt he thinks everyone will buy it and nobody will get it free. Also I agree though that he doesn’t enough quotables or really memorable lines but he might gain some in time once he…grows up a little, matures in the rap game. He needs to adjust his attitude if he wants to stop garnering hate. The man needs guidance but other than that I do like his music.

  4. Jeph Says:

    Very interesting entry, but i beg to differ on a few points. Re: the rhetorical question on what will compel tech savvy fans to buy an album; you listed it. respect for the work ethic, being able to have a physical cd available.
    Now when you say ‘quotables’, you need to really be specific. Charles has tons of quotables. This guy damn near breaths wit, and there are several lines floating in my head that i could quote…but that topic is so subjective…it wouldn’t matter if i bothered typing it out.
    As far as the new single, it’s my first time hearing it now, it’s not really for radio, but I think it’s a good look, both for first time listeners and for fans of the series of ‘mixtapes’ (which he does not call mixtape if you’ve really been following the projects)
    I think there are other vulnerabilities of CH that you did not touch on, but lemme stop here…it’s not my blog.

    • SP the Ghost Says:

      Good points… Though I must say, in this immoral world where even the most law-abiding citizens will download an album and think nothing of it, Charles Hamilton doesn’t really stand a chance. He doesn’t much have a buzz outside the internet world (which is where all the illegal downloading occurs). Not necessarily saying that all people that download the album will do it illegally, but it’s a sure bet that most people might (it’s the same reason that someone like Asher Roth sells 65K when, in a non-digital world, his sales would have been much higher).
      And as far as CH quotables go, I stand by my statement. His rhymes may be witty, but his delivery is so devoid of character and, frankly, blase that it kills any lasting value they may have had. You’re right, rhyme interpretation is subjective, but I don’t think anyone can deny that his flow kills his rhymes’ lasting value.
      “Barbara Walters” really won’t get him far. Just take a look at how well it’s done since I posted this entry almost two weeks ago: it’s gone nowhere. In fact, it’s already a footnote in his discography, much like the rest of his “standout” tracks “Brooklyn Girls” and “November 10th” (anyone that makes a video for a song, in my opinion, is drawing attention specifically to that joint, and all three of these joints have had little to no impact on mainstream culture). I think my criticisms are warranted, but I still feel the same about CH… Trust me, you’re talking to a guy that’s listened to every tape he’s put out. I’m in his corner, but I think he’s boxed himself into that corner.

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