Searching for Charles X is an almost fruitless endeavor as you’ll turn up either the former King of France or the founder of the X-Men. Thankfully the Ambiguous Music Group (and I am unintentionally amused by their name) provided the following info:
“Cheekily and jokingly referring to himself as a ‘bad guitar and bad piano’ player, Charles X has spent the last three years igniting on the international stage, releasing three full-length albums, Revolution and the Day After (2015), Sounds of the Yesteryear (2016), and Peace (2017), and writing more material for release in 2019.”
I find myself saying this far too often, but I’m left mystified that I’m reviewing his fourth album when he apparently had three before now. I can’t think this is any fault of RR in general or myself in particular though — rather I believe it’s a symptom of how overcrowded the music scene has become and how difficult it is to stand out as a result. The internet was supposed to democratize the process of becoming an artist and make the tools available to everyone and it SUCCEEDED wildly, but in doing so also created a glut of free mixtapes and microscopically tiny record labels created solely to release the founder’s music. In such an environment it’s far too easy to drop three or four albums before getting large enough to hire a publicity firm that shops your album around to various publications on and offline.
“Prozac” is the lead single from “EID2” as seen above. Listeners will be immediately struck by his uptempo rapid fire flow and a vocal tone at least slightly comparable to Wiz Khalifa. In the midst of his delivery I can pick out that X considers himself a man who doesn’t “give a f–k about digits” who is “all about peace but still put a sucker in his place.” In truth I expected something far more dark and depressing based on the song’s title and the recent proliferation of young rappers who heavily self-medicate, so I found this introduction to Charles X to be a pleasant surprise.
X also fancies himself a singer on several of the “EID2” tracks, and unlike his aforementioned contemporaries he doesn’t rely heavily on AutoTune to enhance his flow. That makes songs like “Think About It” a revelation — a heartfelt croon to a woman who he hopes has a thought or two about him from time to time. AMG describes him as “influenced by Motown, Prince and The Roots” and you can hear all three on “At the Bottom.” A strong percussive backdrop invokes ?uestlove, the sly singing definitely reflects the late Mr. Nelson, and he shifts back and forth effortlessly between singing and rapping like Motown artists Migos.
Even though “Blown” isn’t featured on “EID2” I felt it was worthwhile to share another Charles X track with y’all while you finish reading the write-up. The rest of X’s album is embargoed until March 1st so for now “Prozac” is the only song/video from it we can share. You can look forward to the mellow jazz piano vibe of “Roberta McCann” though along with politically tinged and provocative “Blood Money” and the mellow crooning of “Wonder If.” While “EID2” is far too typical of albums these days in its brevity, clocking in at just over 27 minutes, it’s an eclectic and enjoyable experience all the same. If Ambiguous Music Group is more than a one artist label, they could find a few more California upstarts and position themselves to be the next Quannum/Solesides or Odd Future for the late 2010’s and beyond. That may be more ambitious than Ambiguous wants though so in the meantime just enjoy what Charles X has to offer — a style that he clearly defined well over his previous three albums.