Photo of Charles Hamilton taken by Alexey Yurenev.
The story of Charles Hamilton has been archived in the annals of internet lore. His rise as a promising Interscope artist and his viral fall as a meme made him a cautionary tale to those looking to enter into the game after him. Behind-the-scene and after the million-dollar record deal, Charles dealt with incarceration, homelessness and mental anguish that he still combats with daily today. With what would seem to be an insurmountable obstacle in his life, the former member of the All City Chess Club shocked the game with a record that proved his preternaturally gifts for songwriting and structure to be more than true.
At then 28-years-old, he released “New York Raining,” which appeared on the Empire Season One soundtrack in 2015. The game was feeling the kid again and while the song would go on to rack in the numbers (currently at 2.9+ million views on YouTube) — Charles Hamilton continued to build upon his success quietly and methodically. What else do you expect from the architect behind Pink Lavalamp…? The answer appears to be resiliency. As Charles puts out his second studio album, Hamilton, Charles — the hip-hop veteran takes the fruits of his long rehabilitation process and shares them with the world.
As more and more stars begin to be open with their bouts with depression and other mental illnesses, Charles Hamilton’s incredible story of fighting and overcoming challenges is inspiring as well as illuminating to those who are also going through it. Titled Let It Play… Faultlines: The Charles Hamilton Documentary and directed by Fred Scott (co-director of Payday), the Pulse Productions and Red Bull curated inside look at Charles Hamilton’s attempts to resuscitate his music career was paired with Hamilton, Charles to give full context to the unknown hardships and tribulations rooted within these bars. From the tragedy of losing his mother to revealing intimate details of his private life, Charles has offered up a lot of himself in the name of us appreciating his skills.
Hamilton, Charles, indeed, has been an album waiting in the wings for a long time. With over hundreds of mixtapes in the ether — to finally receive a project from the Harlem wunderkind is a wish come true for many (as evident of a recent Reddit AMA starring Charles). We sit down with Charles Hamilton as he talks about his issues with depression, how doubt pushed him to work harder and share an exclusive clip from Faultlines featuring his cousin, MC Lyte, that you can only see here at Okayplayer. Enjoy!
Okayplayer: For those wondering, what has Charles Hamilton been up to outside of the new album + documentary?
Charles Hamilton: For starters, I am always producing and recording. Music is my first true love. Over the course of the year, I have been a journalist for New York’s Amsterdam News, I’ve DJ’ed all around the city and I am producing for several independent artists. I want to get a compilation with my production released online in the near future.
OKP: At one point your career trajectory was unlike any other in the music industry. Now, how would describe your place in the game + where you are going in the future?
CH: My place in the game is undisputed. Anyone who uses their idiosyncrasies as their marketing tool will be seen as using my blueprint. No matter how much of an individual they are trying to be. I say that with all humility.
I have made it comfortable for young people to accept who they are and embrace the mysteries of existence. I have encouraged anyone to ask daring questions and to look to me as someone that was a martyr for such a call.
OKP: Your core supporters never left you during your trials and tribulations. How important has that been + how does that story play itself out on the album?
CH: Well, since day one, I doubted I had fans. Doubting I had fans always pushed me to work harder. If you’ve been around, there’s been supporters like Andrew Howe and Tori Ferguson who have been there from day one. I don’t think they understand how much of myself and everything that I am goes into my music.
Sometimes I get annoyed because I want to be their friend that makes music. I don’t see them as fans… they’re friends that support and buy the album out of love. There are people that have been by my side since day one and on the album. I flirt with them. If you’ve really been down with me, I flirt with you on this album.
OKP: Issues with Kid Cudi, Kanye and yourself have made mental illness and health a hot topic. How does ‘Hamilton, Charles’ help to relieve any trauma your fans or listeners might be experiencing?