Musician. Producer. Songwriter. Lyricist. Psycho. Hippie. Genius. These words all connect through one name: Charles Hamilton.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Charles Hamilton was exposed to music at an early age. “My mother was an entertainment journalist for the Cleveland Call and Post, so she would take me with her to events when I was just a baby.”
His mother always made sure he had an instrument around him. She put different kinds of instruments in the basement of their Cleveland home, but he naturally gravitated to the keyboard. “At first, I was just playing the rhythm of the songs I would hear,” says Hamilton. “The older I got, the more proficient I got at hearing the notes.” For most of his life, he was self taught, picking up the lead and bass guitar in his teenage years, as well as the drums and harmonica. He says listening to other genres of music, being exposed to different cultures and experiencing life helped mold his musical sound.
Most of his music is sample-driven. Though he catches quite a bit of heat for his sampling, he insists it is for the good of music:
“When I sample, I’m not just doing it to sound good. I’m trying to tell a story. To convey an emotion. If I sampled it, there is a reason I sampled it. I believe that music is based on moments, and that there are some moments that people may have missed back in the day. They may have even missed it a year ago. When I sample, I’m giving the artist their respect, while simultaneously creating something new.”
His influences read like a Lollapalooza bill.
“I’m a HUGE Incubus fan. I love Incubus, Eminem, N*E*R*D, Jay-Z, Modest Mouse, Korn, Dr. Dre, Thelonius Monk, Aerosmith, 50 Cent, Mariyln Manson, Alchemist, The Isley Brothers, Kanye West, Nine Inch Nails, Hi-Tek,… I just love good music. Good music that tells a story.”
Utilizing a studio built in Frederick Douglass Academy (also in Harlem), Charles Hamilton spends countless hours in the studio, perfecting his craft and his signature sound. “The Lab (FDA’s studio) means so much to me because when I literally didn’t have anywhere else to go in the world, I can just go into my beloved alma mater and purge myself creatively.” In this studio is where most (if not all) of Charles Hamilton’s music is made. “Don’t get me wrong,” continues Hamilton. “I can do my thing in other studios. It’s just something about home that makes my music breathe.”
All the people that worked with Charles Hamilton or have seen him in the studio all say the same thing: phenomenal. Ted Wheeler, manager for hard-core rapper C Nellz (of whom Charles Hamilton produces for) affectionately calls him “Charles Grammy-ton”. “It has always been my dream to win a Grammy,” says Hamilton. “I study the categories, I study the winners and try to figure out how and why they won. If they won it, they deserved it.” As a producer, he is currently working on several different projects, ranging from spoken word, to blues, to alternative, to hip-hop, to his own project, “The Pink Lavalamp.” “I want to show the world that I, a Black kid from the hood, can connect the whole world through music. I also want to show the world that my hood is Harlem, the home of the Harlem Renaissance, which gave birth to most, if not all of modern-day art. Harlem is where art lives. The Greek god of Apollo was the god of entertainment. Where’s the Apollo theatre?”
At his July 19th, 2007 show at the Bowery Poetry Club dubbed “Night of the Living Lavalamp”, Charles Hamilton was on stage with his DJ (producer/turntablist Halo), alternative/blues band Mad Cow, hip-hop producer Black, and live painter Sarah Kolker. All of which are personal friends of Charles Hamilton.
“My man Halo and I met at a cookout me and my man Sciryl threw in the summer of 2007. That’s like my twin. We had only known each other for a few weeks before we did the show. That’s how much we hit it off on a creative level. I actually met Viktor from Mad Cow in the summer of 2006 when I was in a rap duo. We had been talking about working together for ages, and we finally did it at my show. I grew up with Black. He was the first person I knew when I moved to Harlem. Ironically enough, I taught him how to play the piano. And Sarah, I met her through my poet friend Aja-Monet. We hit it off very well” Aja-Monet also performed at “Night of the Living Lavalamp”. “I hope to make ‘Night of the Living Lavalamp’ an ongoing thing at the Bowery. The Bowery is where I got my start when it comes to on stage experience when doing hip-hop. I love them for that.”
It was at “Night of the Living Lavalamp” that Charles Hamilton met Rainmaker, spoken word artist and President of VinylPop (Charles Hamilton’s company). “Rainmaker is just off the chain. We vibed at the show, but I was doing my Charles Hamilton thing on stage so I didn’t get a chance to have a serious conversation. I met him again at an open house that Abiodun (from The Last Poets) has every Sunday. We just talked for hours about everything from music race relations to relationships. He exposed me to the most profound spoken word artists in the world. I am thankful to God for introducing me to him, among other things I thank God for.”
His debut solo album, “The Pink Lavalamp,” is his way of illustrating his ideas for the future of music. “It is, without question, a hip-hop album,” says Hamilton. “At the same time, I embody different genres of music to express different feelings and emotions that I feel in my everyday life. My music is ALWAYS based on my life. My happiness, my sins, my heartbreak, my anger, my quirkiness, my everything is given in my music. The music I grew up listening to told a story. So I’m taking the music I grew up with, as well as my story, AS WELL as my musicianship, to bring about a new sound. I don’t want to sound redundant and talk about myself all the time, but I hope my story can help someone else’s life. If my life were to be a movie, it would be the Antoine Fisher story all over again, but with a killer soundtrack and without a military background.”
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