Who is Charles Hamilton? The rapper who repped Harlem (by way of Ohio) equipped with a quick wit was once embraced for his loyalty to the craft in 2008. Yet his philosophy for love and life coupled with his persona likening himself to the video game character Sonic the Hedgehog, and a fascination with the color pink was polarizing to some audiences. He’s maintained a sense of individuality that he’s comfortable with, enough for a small group of fans to appreciate despite being ridiculed as weird. Hamilton returned recently to perform at New York’s venue for major debut shows—SOB’s. Charles Hamilton though was resurrected as a renaissance man of music; he is at the core by rapping, producing, DJing, and singing all in one night, opened and closed by himself. Mass Appeal tapped journalist Rhonesha Byng, one of Hamilton’s long time friends to give a first person reaction to his recent performance. It’s a gray area as to what Charles Hamilton will do next, or who he will be for that matter. His evolution as a person is a work in progress (an erratic MTV interview), so is his new Dr. Doom moniker encroaching upon the one and only DOOM. For now, allow us to re-introduce, Charles Hamilton.
Walking into Charles Hamilton’s show at SOB’s I did not know what to expect. I’ve known Charles before his major music deal (Interscope), covered his rise to fame, and ultimately read from afar as the controversial headlines rolled in, one after the next. So I held my breath not knowing which Charles I’d be experiencing that night.
“I apply myself in the best way I possibly can and it just turns into a one man monopoly. So this time it was just me. I opened up for myself; I closed the show…so it was just natural,” said Hamilton.
Titled “The Charles Hamilton Experience,” it was his first headlining show since falling from his label, a few jail stints, and rehab. When I walked in, it was well before show time and Hamilton was DJing his own songs. It was a part of the experience, just him in his element playing music, creating, singing, DJing. Once the official showtime hit at 9PM sharp, instead of taking center stage to perform, Charles started on his beat machine and his laptop and started making a song live on stage. “A lot of people believe in the things I have to say,” explained Charles after getting off stage. “My perspective is always coming from the loser’s standpoint. Michael Jordan could never be a champion again if he believed he was a champion. If you believe you are going to lose, you’re going to go harder than your championship season.”
He made three beats in two hours and recorded final mixed versions with lyrics for two of the songs. The lyrics were all laid down in the moment, with no notebook, and no writing. There were times where he looked as if he was about to freestyle but he was actually writing in his head. Fans stood there and watched him as he created the beat and chatted with the crowd; in between he was fueling up on cups of Henny and any other drink that was handed to him throughout the night. The crowd vibed along with him as he chopped and mixed samples with other mixes and sounds. Throughout that portion of the show, he essentially went through the organic process of what he does during a recording session, he also was sure to explain out loud what he was doing and what he was trying to do with certain songs and sounds.
And even though he’s performed numerous times, he seemed a little nervous. He asked for drinks, and even a Dominican cigar. After two hours, he mixed everything debuting two brand new songs right in front of the crowd who cheered once the final versions started playing back through the speakers.
The first song called “Thrill,” (sampling Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”) he says sets up his next campaign similar to The Best of the Hamiltonization Process.
“We’re walking through a graveyard. It was supposed to be a thrill and then her life ended up in danger and it was basically like, ‘alright all this shit is thrilling until you get killed and I’m the one directing all this shit.’ So I’m Dr. Doom. It’s basically like the introduction of Charles Hamilton as Dr. Doom. Charles Hamilton is Dr. Doom 2013. Just expect it to be a complete political campaign. Doom is a sense of finality.”
The second song was more in line with the most recent project he released called, “The L word 4.” It was geared towards the women in the audience (even calling some of them out by name). But the main theme speaks to his shy, awkward personality, with the chorus stating “I’m shy, shut up, how do I.” “Shyness basically, it’s just I’m shy. I’m a musician dare I say half flamboyant, half gothic, but it’s like I’m shy.”
An outsider attending the show would probably label it as strange. But to die hard fans who were in the audience that night, it was the live show they had been waiting for, and the experience they could have only previously imagined witnessing. It was an inside look into the creative process of the artist they see as a musical genius. One fan flew in for the show all the way from Minneapolis. Charles says another fan told him he’d flown in from Australia. Also in the audience were his family and friends, who were part of his original crew known as Demevolist Music Group. Hamilton’s ex-girlfriend Brianna, the infamous girl who punched him in the face in the viral online video didn’t appear to be an invited guest, as she hovered around the back of the venue, in the shadows just before slipping out. When asked about how he thinks this show will help him, and his response to all the controversy attached to his name, he says simply he’s just focusing on the music. “You gotta respect the music. I might not chart ever again, and I don’t have to, I paid my dues.”
Charles Hamilton switched gears from live production to introducing his newest endeavor—singing. This made up the third hour of the “experience” and seemed to be a pleasant surprise for fans who had no idea the multifaceted rapper, producer, and now DJ, also had a singing voice. He sat behind the keyboard and sang his rendition of Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love”—whose lyrics ironically seemed to apply to Charles. He also covered John Legend’s “Ordinary People,” and “Wish You Were Here” by Incubus.
He closed the show with a couple of actual performances including his commercial hit “Brooklyn Girls,” and even got a request for an encore. The next step he says is a series of songs part of a campaign where he takes on the persona of being Dr. Doom. “Now you’ve heard of the Hamiltonization Process like I have the license to call myself Dr. Doom because I could usher you to a brighter ending or I could usher you to your doom.”
What do you think of Charles Hamilton’s next musical venture as Dr. Doom? Sound off in the comments below.