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People know my face and name from Sing Off, and it still makes me blush so hard," says Myke Charles with a bashful laugh, his face reddening. "It's not easy when people come up to me and talk to me about the show, because in person, I am actually kind of shy."
"Shy" is not exactly a word you'd associate with the MC, born Michael Charles Hudson. The handsome young rapper has charisma to spare, and on stage, he's a commanding presence with impeccable rhymes. But that wasn't always the case. Charles's poise came with a lot of hard work. His story as a writer began in Aurora, where he lived with his mom until he left Smoky Hill High School and moved in with his father and stepmother.
"I thought I was grown and started beefing a lot after my freshman year of high school," he recalls. "I moved with my dad and stepmother to Littleton and finished the rest of high school at Dakota Ridge. It was pretty awful, because my dad got sent away to train troops who were going to Iraq, and I didn't know my stepmother that well. My school was racist as shit. It was a rough time."
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The move altered Charles's perception of life, particularly of music, and the experiences he had shaped him into the artist he is today. "I wasn't even aware that racism still existed at that level," he says, "until I was there getting picked on and bullied, dealing with racist comments, and it really drove me more into my writing.
"The mindset about blacks and black culture was totally fucked up," he goes on, "and a few kids over there thought they could really rap. The struggle forced me to freestyle and forced me to become good and battle and not to lose to some punk kid in suburbia."
Using this isolation as a catalyst and motivator to work on his craft, Charles spent his entire junior year honing his writing style and immersing himself in books. Along the way, he became a pretty solid battle rapper. "I barely talked to anyone," he recalls. "I just wrote and wrote. I had been rapping at Smoky Hill, but there were some cats that could really freestyle, and I couldn't freestyle at the time, and I thought I never would be able to." Toward the end of high school, Charles became more comfortable with his identity and adopted the moniker Purpose Found. "I stopped caring what people thought around my senior year," he says, "because I was finding out more of who I am." Ironically, as Charles started preparing for college at the University of Colorado at Boulder, he seriously considered giving up music because he didn't think it would turn into a career. As fate would have it, during his first semester in college, the engineering student found himself involved with an a cappella group called In the Buff. The following year, Charles started making friends in the burgeoning local rap scene, including SP Double, who hosted rap battles at his tattoo shop. That's where Charles first met the other members of what would become the Fresh Breath Committee: Flawless (now Paul Junior), Kontrast and a young Catch Lungs.
And while he was a full-fledged member of the Fresh Breath Committee, Charles still found time to devote to his first solo project, Point Blank, released under the name Purpose, and steadily started making a name for himself. In January 2010, he took home the ($1,000) prize in a hotly contested MC battle.
Around this time, Charles got a call from Tony Huerta, with whom he had worked as a member of In the Buff. The call altered the course of the rapper's career forever. "When he called me during the final week of my college career," says Charles, "and told me he was putting together a hip-hop vocal group and that he wanted me to be the main MC, I said that as soon as I graduated, I'd be there." Coming together with several other vocalists, Charles joined Urban Method, and next thing he knew, the crew was center stage on NBC reality show The Sing Off. Charles was an instant star; his rendition of Eminem and Rihanna's "Love the Way You Lie" made him the one to watch throughout the group's run on the show.
Meanwhile, back in Denver, as Fresh Breath continued to perform as a group, Charles was undergoing a transformation — one that included fewer performances with FBC. The exposure the emerging rapper received from being on the show created momentum for him, and it seemed like an opportune time to branch out fully on his own. "I figured the show was a perfect time to start fresh as the artist I want to be," says Charles. "With being on TV and having that kind of exposure, I had suddenly just separated myself from Fresh Breath Committee."
That's not all Charles was doing to distinguish himself. The shifting focus also brought about another name change, this time from Purpose Found to simply Myke Charles. "Purpose Found could be a Christian rapper, an underground rapper who doesn't belong — anything," notes Charles. "I wanted something that represented me more." With that in mind, he also decided not to use any of his previous material to build his new catalogue.
Just because he's looking out for his own interests right now, however, doesn't mean that he's forgotten about the Fresh Breath Committee. There's a master plan in play, he says, that's always been the impetus for Fresh Breath, and that's for each member to carve out his or her own lane while ultimately attracting more exposure for the entire group. "The last time I performed with Fresh Breath Committee was at least a year ago," Charles notes. "To make a comparison, look at what happened with Eminem and D12. When Eminem popped, it was Eminem, and then, when he could, he went back and brought his boys. That's what we're really looking at." For now, though, Charles is focusing on his solo career. After The Sing Off wrapped, he returned from Los Angeles and began to compile the scant rhymes he was able to write during the process and put them over Hi-Res's beats for Lift Off, the aptly titled Myke Charles mixtape. "Coming off the show," he explains, "I didn't want anyone to think I went anywhere whatsoever, so I started working on Lift Off." At the behest of Hi-Res (aka Nick Torres), who handled the beatmaking, Charles enlisted DJ Chonz to bring the whole project together, which turned out to be a great call. Chonz's imprint on the project is evident, as each track is woven perfectly into the next and then mixed to perfection. "There's a reason why Chonz is the OG in this city," says Torres. "He's really the best at what he does."
Charles is likewise striving to be the best at what he does. "My goal is to be the premier artist in this state," he says. "We're thinking globally, but you gotta put home on your back first. This time next year, I should be the one in this city." That's as safe a bet as any. As those who've seen him perform can attest, there's no stopping Charles when he steps on stage. The way he carries himself, it's as though he's already made it, and he brings some serious substance to his rhymes, which are almost always dripping in swag — nothing bashful about it.