[Art: Eric Hairston]
Written by William Bryant Rozier
Javar Hamilton (aka Roleo, aka Roley), was--for the sake of this point I’m trying to make--born and raised on Dewald Street, at his grandmom’s house; he spent the healthiest amount of little-kid time there, so much so he immortalized that period with a pic of him writing lyrics on her couch, for an album cover. That album (“The Love is Back”) was inspired by that time.
Our interview was at the Pontiac Branch library, across the street from her house. He noted how perfect that we met so close to his old “stomping ground,” and essentially, without realizing it, wrote my first paragraph for me.
Hamilton, like other rap artists who caught the bug in the ‘80s and is still making music and battle-rapping (and destroying dudes) in 2019, went through multiple iterations. The constant…Hamilton is a writer with stories, and the instinct and wit to frame them.
At his grandmom’s house right now is an old school record player with an eight-track deck in the middle. He remembers Chaka Kahn’s “I Feel for You” (1984) being played on it, dancing to it. His Uncle Dan (real name Willie) was a “music head,” said Hamilton, who would play all kind of tapes for Hamilton in his ’72 Pontiac Thunderbird. Come on, man, get in. Listen to this music. “I didn’t really understand what [the music] was but as the years went on, I gravitated towards it,” he said.
Uncle Dan gave him his first rap album, EPMD’s “Strictly Business” (1988); by the 5th/6th grade, he was rapping, under the little-kid name, MC True. He found rap on The Jukebox, the old TV request show. Whatever song that came up made him want to rap. MC True would jot down lyrics from the three-minute videos as fast as he could. His mom snapped on him. Those aren’t your raps.
He didn’t take the craft seriously until 8th grade at Miami Middle School. Hamilton met lifelong friend Levon Williams (Rhymewise) in the fourth grade; one time, the grade schoolers huddled together during recess listening to NWA’s first album on a Walkman something like 50 times. This was during the Dogg Pound era; Dre’s The Chronic (1992) and Snoop’s Doggystyle (1993) had dropped by then. “We were all rapping about being dogs and stuff. (Laughs.) That’s when I figured out I was kinda good at freestyling,” Hamilton said.
I asked if there ever was a time when he wasn’t kinda good: “I think I was good the whole time. (Laughs.) Everybody said I sounded like Snoop when I first started then my style and voice changed,” Hamilton said. “I used to rap fast, man…I used to pack a hundred words in the flow.”
In ’94, the Northrop Bruin partnered with friend Iric Headley, a drummer in the school band. Their first group was called Dog Catchers…they were anti-Dogg Pound-era by then because G-Funk was hot. They put out a little single.
Hamilton always won battle raps in school but didn’t know about organized battle rap leagues across the country, let alone in Gary, Indiana. He started the Bloodsport Battle League, with Daniel Brown, aka Alias, here around 2012; it ended in 2015. He continued through his Glasses TV media imprint but that stopped last year. It may start again. He still battles in other events.
His lyrical style is witty; he’s a punchline rapper who gets straight to the point. “I wouldn’t call it conscious rap. I can still rock a party,” he said. “I want all my sounds to have substance. I’m a storyteller: conscious rap meets party meets…gangster. (Laughs.) Just kidding.”
He was a musical workhorse. “Hungry, hungry. If I was in New York, I probably would have gotten a record deal,” Hamilton said. He was all about that studio life. Then he met his wife. For music partnerships, Headley and Hamilton wound up with a manager out of Chicago. Hamilton linked up with producer EDS (Eric Stine), after bonding while working at Sweetwater Sound; that fruitful collab produced singles and albums.
Hamilton was welcomed with open arms in hip-hop collective Underground Coalition (the UC: DJ Polaris, Brainstorm, Weatherman, and Barrage) through member Rhymewise…they’re like a Wu-Tang Clan. The Hometown Hooligans are another Fort Wayne mega group.
“Before we started in UC, we were making noises by ourselves,” Hamilton said. “Always strength in numbers.” The UC is in the studio now; one last album they all say.