Hassan Hamilton calls himself his own worst critic. But it’s in that criticism that the 40-year-old rapper finds his motivation—the need to keep going and be bigger and bolder than before.
“I’m back to dropping the bars and humor that you all love,” Hamilton wrote on the Bandcamp page for his latest EP, July’s Getting 2 Old 4 This. “After all, something has to be dope in 2020.”
Written and recorded during quarantine, the EP echoes the MC’s creative duality. “It was something to really occupy my time; otherwise I was going stir-crazy,” Hamilton says. “Plus, I wasn’t really satisfied with my last output—no disrespect to the producers. It was something to prove to myself, you know, that I still had it.”
Having dropped the impromptu recording “Carolyn Goodclown,” a response to the Mayor’s statements regarding COVID-19, in April, the creative juices just kept flowing.
“I’ve always been a firm believer in ‘strike when the iron’s hot,’ but sometimes it just gets scalding hot, and I overwhelm myself,” Hamilton says. “One thought led to another, and next thing you know I’m hitting the pad and paper.”
The seven-song EP was produced by local MCs Phil A. and Trade Voorhees and features rapper D-Mob (“Live From Lefty’s Lounge”) and singer-songwriter Paige Overton (the Lenny Kravitz cover “Fly Away”).
“We’ve been wanting to work with each other for years,” Hamilton says of Overton. “I poured my heart out and then she put her soul on it, and it turned out pretty dope.”
There’s plenty of grit on 2 Old, but it’s standout track “Karen” that best blends Hamilton’s signature lyrical prowess and humor into a scathing statement against white women who call the cops on Black people for things like bird watching and existing while Black.
“I wanted to do that, because it’s a really serious situation,” Hamilton says. “People could literally get killed or arrested just because you felt a certain way. I’ve had friends and family members who have had dated white women who have told them, ‘You know if I call the cops, you’re going to jail?’”
Earlier this year, the political and social climate was enough for the rapper to take a break from social media. “It feels like 2020 is ancient Rome, social media is the Colosseum, and we’re the spectators watching a bloodbath,” Hamilton jokes.
But once the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor went viral, an old video for his track “Can I Be Black” recirculated online, bringing the rapper back into the fold.
“It still rings true,” Hamilton says. “Can I be Black? Can I exist in this society without all the negative perpetuations? [Without] just looking at me as a color and not as a human being? Just let people be who they are. If you don’t like people, leave them alone. You ain’t gotta attack anybody. I know it sounds cliché, but if you ain’t got nothin’ nice to say, don’t say it.”
Getting 2 Old 4 This finds Hamilton at a crossroads. “I can’t just be doing this for the rest of my life,” Hamilton says, likening his music to a toxic relationship. “I love it, even though I’m over it. I’m pretty sure Luke Skywalker wants to chill out sometimes.”
But Hamilton isn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. Next year marks the 10-year anniversary of collaborative LP Rap Songs with producer and MC Phil. A., and no matter what 2021 brings, Hamilton says his rhymes will be there to provide some poignant comic relief.
“What else am I going to do?” Hamilton says. “When it comes to the microphone, that’s something I’ve always been good at. I know how to put my emotions down once you give me a pad and a pen.”