Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Top Hip Hop Song of March: Charles Hamilton - Choices (A Wave for Alex)

In all honesty it's been a while since I've heard a Hip Hop track that moves me like Charles Hamilton's new track Choices (A Wave for Alex). Before I get ahead of myself about the why, it would be advantageous to understand just how maligned Charles has been over the past year. Even a year and a half ago, if you would have asked me who the top 5 up and coming artists are in Hip Hop, potential-wise, I would have said without hesitation that Charles belongs in that group.

With can't miss tracks like Brooklyn Girls (which was heard on the HBO show Entourage and is still a relatively underground classic in BK), Tears of Fire he did with Crooked I, his track Barbara Walters (a personal favorite)...oh yea and you can't forget that slept on track he did with Asher Roth and B.O.B. titled A Change Gon Come. It's undeniable, he's an intellect, a poet, and takes pride is producing his own tracks. Unfortunately he quickly became one of those "he's the only one who can get in his way stories..."

Which brings us to his downfall last year where he was somewhat exposed for his cocky demeanor. DJ Jay's said it best when they borrowed from a little Charlie Murphy by calling him a "habitual linestepper". He was clearly ahead of the game technology wise with blogging and twittering...but the only thing is he used those technology outlets to talk shit non-stop, taking on a Roger Clemens like ego in the process and becoming one of the most hated MCs. Then there was when he overdid the sarcasm a bit with an ex girlfriend during a street interview turned battle and took a fierce right hook from her at the 2:33 mark. And the final nail in the coffin was when he tried to convince everyone that J Dilla, a legendary Hip Hop producer who had recently passed away, had helped produce the album he was about to release. Let's just say he pissed a lot of people off and on top of it, got dropped by his record label Interscope.

Seems he sorta pulled a Tiger Woods on us and laid low for a few months getting his life in line and staying out of the spotlight. My guess is, he took the advice of one of the best bloggers in the game,Contra of the Smoking Section, when he eloquently told Charles last June to STFU for a hot minute, apologize and get back to making music..

Months later...that actually happened...he kept his mouth shut and Hip Hop forgot about him for a while (luckily). On the real, he actually stopped blogging and moved out to Southern California to life with his uncle Jeff in an attempt to get his life back together.

Sometimes it takes time, other times it takes a bit of growing up...for Charles it took a very real experience. The family he was living with's son, 17 year old Alex Capozza was killed in a drunk driving accident (he got in a car with a drunk driver).


Which...leads us to the present track where Charles manages to sound humbled, introspective and extraordinarily candid with his past misgivings, in an attempt to bring to light his problems as well as shed light on a 17 year old whose death should serve as a "lesson to all the irresponsibles out there". Much of this is coming straight from his own blog,, where he did a very lengthy post in dedication to Alex. In an open letter to Alex's family, he describes the purpose of the track:
"The song “Choices” – A Wave For Alex, serves as a reminder of how precious and short our existence is and how our fate can be altered by the choices we make. I swear I could feel Alex as I wrote this song, guiding me through his last moments as if they were my own. Alex paid dearly for the choice of getting in a car with a drunk driver at the wheel. Without the intervention of some very supportive people, I was on a path to a similar destiny. It is hard to think about my own bad choices and substance abuse days and this reminds me of how grateful I am to be surrounded by people, including your family, who cared enough to get me back on track. Although I never had the opportunity to meet your brother, your family has become part of my extended family and this tragedy has had a profound affect on me. My heartfelt prayers go out to you.

This song is dedicated to Alex. I can only hope that this serves as a reminder that we should all make wise choices. Listen carefully to the lyrics of this song.
~~Charles Hamilton~~"
As far as how I feel about the track, it really did stick to me on so many levels. If you've been paying attention to my lovefest continual posts about Bobby Ray and how much of a fan I am of his recent music, saying this track was better than all of his the past month is not a small feat. The abstract nature of Charles' lyrics on this track come off sounding profound and deeply personal. In a world where Hip Hop is starting to shift toward intelligent lyrics and artists exposing their inner demons, a track like this should be the standard. Please if you listen to this track, first click on the
so that you can gain an appreciation for why this track stands out. Some of the notable quote-ables:
"In my bedroom
Re-introducing wrist to knife
Chicks are my kriptonite
Spliffs are my lifted spirit
Seemed like everybody hated the work I put in
Now you waitin' for the goodness I been makin'
What good is it if I die?
Y'all don't know when I cry
My laptop does
That's NOT love"

"Normalcy is so important to me
But if u force it, it will force you into morbid dreams"

"To some, I grew some
I just let the rapist take what they can lose, won
Up the world, is the whisper
But I love the world, is what was spiked in my plight elixir"

Me being a spiritual person in nature, one who lives (literally) on faith and (survives) on belief in positivity (F&B as me and my friend Chelsea call it) can relate on a lot of levels, with the song coming from a deeply moving perspective of someone struggling with their inner demons. Having followed Charles for quite some time I can appreciate the way he's able to lyrically vent about the pain on his journey for self improvement. When I'm at my most vulnerable I tend to do, say, write, produce many of the things I'm most proud of, including this blog. I see Charles as being no different, life clearly ganged up on him and (whether he deserved it or not) probably made his inner struggles 100 times worse. Regardless of whether we know the person or not, hearing about a teenager having their life cut short by making one bad decision is gut wrenching. Judging by the video below, Alex touched a lot of peoples' lives and there was probably no better way to pay respects for Alex (who loved to surf) than to have everyone (looks like hundreds of people?) together holding hands in the ocean chanting his name. See below:

Man...that was a heavy for me to watch. I applaud Charles for the creativity in song title, paying respect to Alex through surfing as well as waving goodbye and naming the song Choices so it serves as a lesson for others. This beat couldn't have been more perfect either, taking on a sad tone on the sample with a steady powerful rhythm. At the end of the track where he paints a visual of the video tribute and manages to take the audio sample of the video where everyone is yelling ALEX!! all just fit together to form an incredibly powerful and moving track. Even infusing a little humor at the end by saying

"Wish we coulda hung out sometime man, my balance ain't that great on a surfboard but you know...I'm really good at surfing the internet!"

...he left the listener with a smile on their face after taking us on a very real and emotional journey. Speaking of which I'm about all out of that...emotion...after writing about my affinity for this track.

(a picture drawn by Alex weeks before he passed away)

I hope if you all don't read any of my posts the next year, you read this one. It moved me and I hope in some way shape or form, it moves you too...listen below.

Charles Hamilton - Choices (A Wave for Alex) Best Hip Hop Song of March!!!


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