Artist Select (March 2021) Presents Michael Charles
Michael Charles is the real deal, and I don’t say that lightly. In a time where it seems anyone believes they can be a rapper, Michael Charles brings true hip-hop back with meaningful lyricism, classic hip-hop inspired beats, an unmatchable flow, and major label quality production.
Though his music wasn’t up on major streaming platforms until just a few years ago, Michael Charles has been making music for over a decade. Taking inspiration from many rappers coming out of his hometown of Houston, Michael sets out to be larger than life, just like those artists were to him growing up. While many rappers from his hometown make a name for themselves in the state of Texas, Michael wants to be known worldwide. For that reason, he left and moved to Los Angeles to pursue bigger opportunities.
After performing on our IGTV series Homemade Sessions, and finding out he’s in our area, we invited him in to the Traklife studio to perform a few tracks. After seeing his talent first-hand, we knew we had to feature him as Artist Select sooner than later. Michael Charles is on the rise quick. With consistent numbers and engagement throughout all of his music and content, Michael is gaining momentum that’s only going to propel him one way- to success.
I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing my personal favorite emerging rapper, and picking his brain on his musical process, inspirations, future music, and more.
Catch the written interview below for a shortened version, or watch the video to catch the full length interview.
“One of my favorite things about hip-hop is that the rappers location really influences the music. Now you’re from Houston, I’m wondering how you feel your location shaped your sound, and which Texas based artists inspired you?”
“It’s kind of like, if you know you know. You know, like our stars, they’re larger than life. We grew up and those guys were like our Jay-Z’s, our Biggies, our Nas. So I was influenced by a lot of Texas artists. I’m influenced by anything Houston, but most definitely UGK, Scarface, Geto Boys, Slim Thug, Z-Ro, Trae Tha Truth, you know, Paul Wall. Just all of the dope guys who did their thing but then took it on a mainstream level.”
“So originally from Houston, and you recently moved over to the West Coast. What made you decide to move to LA?”
“Change of scenery, more opportunities. I feel like a lot of artists in Texas, cause Texas is so big, a lot of artists feel like they never have to leave to expand. Which they don’t, you know. My vision of making music, I never just wanted to be local. I always feel like my message and music was international.
I was never comfortable with just staying in Texas, and being able to just tour around Texas and make my money that way or make a name that way. I always wanted my message of music to be global. Even when I started, any of my friends that I started with, they could tell you like that was always my goal.”
“Do you feel like living in LA has changed your sound in any way?”
“I don’t think it’s changed my sound because, well definitely not in a bad way. I don’t think it’s changed my sound because I was already an artist before I came to LA. I felt like I already knew who I was as an artist.
I will say it definitely enhanced it because I got more experiences, and the more experiences you get, the more things you can write about. Obviously living in LA it’s a different culture. So I see a lot of different things that I probably didn’t grow up seeing. And I mean some of those things, I guess you could say influenced me as well. I would definitely say it enhanced it. I wouldn’t say that it’s changed.”
“What makes you one of my favorite emerging rappers right now is your lyrical depth. You seem to cover a wide variety of topics within your music. I’m curious where the inspiration comes from when you’re writing lyrics?”
“I mean really and truly I just like classic music, you know. When I’m riding around in the car I listen to a lot of classic music. I feel like when something is classic and when something is real and genuine, it’s going to last. It’s going to last forever. You know what I mean?
That’s even dating back to the Motown Records. You know those records, they had a lot of meaning and depth. And I feel like when you make music like that, it can never get dated. I feel like I have songs that I made in 2010, that if I wanted to release them today they could go. Clearly probably the recording quality is not there cause technology changes and whatnot, but I feel like the message being the music. If there’s always depth in it, if you’re always saying something, you can never be outdated.
Music today is very microwavable. It’s like it’s disposable. You can pop it in the microwave, eat it, and it’s done. You know what I’m saying, it has no depth.”
“What is your process like when starting a song? Do you start with the lyrics, the beat, or what?”
“Really, I definitely start with the beat because I feel like the beat is what takes me to where I need to go. I remember when I first started making music, I started with the lyrics, but I feel like when you start with lyrics, you can’t really- cause I feel like with hip-hop versus any other genre of music. It’s like the way that you say something, it’s the flow. You know what I mean? So the music definitely has to flow, like the way that you say certain things has to flow.
I remember I was watching an interview with Kanye West and he was basically talking about that. He was like with hip-hop, things have to be said with like conviction and people have to really believe in and feel what you’re saying versus any other genre of music.
So for me personally, like when I hear a beat, I just listen to where the music takes me and some beats aren’t as good as other beats, but it’s kinda like what you can work with, you know what I mean?”
“So you’ve opened for some pretty big names, tell us a little about that..”
“Like I said, being Texas based these guys are larger than life. I’ve opened up for Slim Thug, Z-Ro, Lil Flip, Trae The Truth, Big Moe– I actually opened up for Big Moe on his very last show before he passed away. And obviously the biggest being Drake. That was just an opportunity that was given to me.
Like, I always tell people, you never know who’s watching, you know what I mean? So even when you’re just grinding in the field doing your thing, and you’re thinking nobody’s hearing you or seeing you. You never know who’s watching it. That’s an opportunity that I just got from a friend who knew a friend who knew a friends and was like yo, you think you’ll be dope for this show? And it was definitely an experience for sure.”
“I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of your upcoming project and I’m really digging it. So tell us a little more about that, like when it’s going to be released and stuff.”
“So my new project ‘Beginner’s Luck.’ I’m releasing it sometime at the end of March. I don’t have a set date yet. Just trying to figure out a few little things here and there, but I will be dropping the first single ‘Homage,’ March 11th which is also my birthday. So I’m excited about that.
I will say this, I started this project before the pandemic, but the songs you heard that actually made the project, all of those songs were recorded during the pandemic. That just lets you know I was just in a different mind frame. So those songs that I did before, they didn’t make the cut. But I don’t know, they might come out on a future project or I might release some singles or something like that.
But this project is called ‘Beginner’s Luck.’ It’s kind of like a story all the way through. My mom is narrating it as you heard. Got some dope visuals coming for it. I’m excited, I’m excited.”
While I’ve had appreciation for Michael Charles even before he was on the Traklife platform, after getting to know him and working with him, I’ve grown a deeper appreciation for this emerging hip-hop artist bringing classic sounds to modern day. His “WayBack Wednesday” collection proves this, and I couldn’t let you go without mentioning it. A collection of 25 freestyles over 25 old school hip-hop beats, from Mobb Deep to Tupac to A Tribe Called Quest and more. Proving Michael Charles natural talent and ability to keep up with some of the greatest.
Watch the video for his track, “Ready”
Check out his performance of “Ready” on our artist showcase series, Homemade Sessions.
View this post on Instagram
Listen to the playlist featuring some of Michael Charles’ best tracks along with artists he’s taken inspiration from and other similar artists. Curated by myself and our founder, Ervin. Check it out below!
You can also catch Michael Charles performing a few tracks on our artist showcase series Raw Stream, March 10th at 6 pm pst. And then the next day you can catch his first single “Homage,” from his upcoming project, “Beginner’s Luck.” Make sure to wish him a Happy Birthday as well!