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Charles Hamilton’s Debut Is A Glorious Comeback

Two particular lines stood out to me as I listened to the latest record from Charles Hamilton. On the first track, he confidently and coyly harps, “I had a hot start; label tried to make me a pop star—they wanted an album, and I made art.” Second, a few songs later, he pleads, “don’t laugh at my sadness…I’m predisposed to it.” This artistry and obvious emotional instability perfectly sum up the [almost] enigma that is Charles Hamilton, the Harlem-world resident who after heaps of promise and notoriety finally released his self-titled major label debut this month (via Republic). With a few exceptions, the project is densely packed with substance, personality, and a gambit of themes that range from race in America ( on “Correct”), depression, his own (very public) demons, and more.

Charles, who likely holds a record with two debut albums shelved (although leaked), did a lot to distinguish himself on this project, which is something new fans will be able to appreciate, as it gives an entry point to this complicated emcee. He opens up about everything, from his struggles overcoming depression and isolation to the incident where he punched a cop. On the less-reflective and more savage outro, “Stay There,” he acknowledges some of his more controversial criticisms. Namely, his ill-fated attempt to help Dilla’s mother out by crediting him as executive producer of his shelved project and his viral spat with Ex-girlfriend, Briana.

Some of the highlights I found were “Only Christina Knows,” a heartbreaking ode to the woman that he described as keeping him alive and making his life complete, and the piano-driven “Man’s World.” I didn’t care for “Be With You” it seemed uninspired and out of place to me.

Having done some—obviously reparable—damage to his career while reeling from addiction and undiagnosed bipolar disorder, it was exciting to see him picking up steam (again) with his Rita Ora-assisted “New York Raining” which appeared on “Empire.” Coming into the fold during the bubble of time where Cudi and Lupe were starting to make names for themselves, Charles is a true artist—this music is clearly more therapeutic than anything. His overly clear enunciated bars, which may put some newer fans in mind of Odd Future’s Sweatshirt Earl, are heavy as hell—worth a place on your playlist if you’re into music that has some heart and soul to it.

Riley About Author

Riley here — father, artist, videographer, professional writer and SERIOUS hip-hop head. I'm a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, and I think everything is better on vinyl. Add me on Twitter! @specialdesigns