Charon Don and DJ Huggy might sound like your typical MC-producer duo, but they are far from it. Beginning with a chance meeting during high school in Pittsburgh, the pair forged a life long bond, which has endured various attempts at creating groups, record music and finally, sticking together to do their own thing together.
In 2001, the duo self-released their first project Mental Combustion, and locally, it was an album that garnered them recognition, helping them build a fan base to tour for. A year later, in 2002, they grinded enough to gain the attention of indie label, Good Hands Records, where they released their first official album, Art of Life, just this year.
So, while on the grind promoting the new album, BallerStatus.com caught up with one-half of the group to find out a little more about them and how their careers began, especially being from the other city in Pennsylvania.
BallerStatus.com: I understand that you and DJ Huggy hooked up after leaving your respective crews. Talk about that decision and why it worked best for both of you.
Charon Don: Well actually, Huggy and I have been together for ever since we were in a crew. We started out as a high school crew, which grew into a hip-hop group named Justuce in the late 90s. The crew consisted of myself alongside two other MCs and Huggy as the DJ. We got our names out and built a reputation by rocking consistent block parties and talent shows. Once we began to gain recognition, another crew formed with three other artists alongside myself and Huggy remained the DJ. While building with this second group and putting out local albums and rocking a lot more shows, our hunger and passion for hip-hop grew. As time passed and friends slowed up, Huggy and I kept producing and performing thus forming ChaRon Don and DJ Huggy.
BallerStatus.com: What intially drew you to DJ Huggy? What was it about his music made you really want to work with him?
Charon Don: Initially what drew me to Huggy was his love and hunger for the craft of DJ’ing and producing. I mean, I respect and look up to any artist who has a genuine and unique style and way of expressing themselves musically. His music was always creative and soulful while maintaining a basement grittyness (probably because he was literally recording and producing in his basement). Not to mention he killed the tables everytime he scratched on them and his sound was just dope.
BallerStatus.com: Ok, so you guys are from Pittsburgh, but Philly is basically the hub for music coming out of Philadelphia, and is the place best known from the state. Tell me a little about the scene and coming up in Pittsburgh. How much of a challenge is it to get noticed out there?
Charon Don: Life is a challenge. As an artist getting your “just dues” is hard no matter where your from. It’s always going to be a struggle because there are so many artists and musicians in the world all trying to get seen and heard. As far as Pittsburgh goes, those who hate “hate hard” and those who love “show much love,” so we experienced both sides of the field. Coming up, we had artists play their instruments right outside of the venue that we were playing at while we were on stage as a form of disrespect. While another day, people bring up cameras and markers for us to take pics and sign autographs. So the things we have and still experience make us strong and focused, yet keep us humble and grateful, for both fields have grew and taught us wisdom. For those who care enough to pay attention, gaining recognition was not hard at all, it’s almost like the city was waiting and more observant through time.
BallerStatus.com: According to your bio, you self-released your first release, Mental Combustion, in 2001… I’m guessing it was an out-the-trunk type grind. What was your experience like getting that album out there like that?
Charon Don: Hard work, but well worth it. I’m a firm believer that once the seed is planted, other farmers with seeds will help in any way they can to spread and share space and opportunities, so that everyone’s harvest will be beneficial. I watched how we did everything that was in our will and belief to do for that album and many doors and opportunities opened from our actions and good intention. From our manager at that time getting the material pressed up, to booking a tour with a group with much more experience and noteriety and traveling across the East Coast, we developed more and more and built our chemistry day in and day out. It was crazy how the people outside and inside of the state were taken to the music and live performance and from there, we knew the value of what we were creating.
BallerStatus.com: How much of your local buzz did a part of you signing with Good Hands to put out this new record?
Charon Don: I feel as though our local buzz got us noticed while our passion and gifts gained us respect and love. We had a strong buzz, which helped to push DJ B-Bonics to link Good Hands Records with us while we were out in Philadelphia on this same low budget tour in which I was speaking on. So the label got to first hear how we get down on record and then see us in person rock the mic. This is the benefit and opportunity one can get only if they put in the work and grind. We never set out to get placed in the situations we were in, but we continued to do what we loved and were consistent and open enough to come face to face with whatever might arise.
BallerStatus.com: Since that first album, you guys have collaborated with some underground staples like Chief Kamachi and Reef [The Lost Cauze], while Huggy got production credits with some big acts. What’s it like to move from a local act to being able to work with artists I’m sure you were a fan of?
Charon Don: It’s both a blessing and learning experience. I’m grateful to get up with legends like Kamachi and Reef, because they are authentic and untouchable in terms of what they are bringing to the game. We are A-Alikes who share the love and hunger for our culture and music, so I feel honored to get with family whether their distant relatives or in the same household.
BallerStatus.com: Before we talk about your new album, explain how you would describe your music… for the people who haven’t heard of you yet.
Charon Don: It’s the voice of reality, put onto grade A production. It’s the balance of the worlds in which we live in. It’s the doctrine of the people you see and live with everyday… a musical journey. On the real, it’s whatever you want it to be if your open enough to accept it.
BallerStatus.com: Ok, your latest album is titled The Art Of Life. What’s the meaning behind that title?
Charon Don: Life is forever moving, vibrant, changing and growing. Therefore Handsdown is here to break down the science of that existence we call “life.” Plus the title just had a ring to it.
BallerStatus.com: What’s different with this album, compared to your release in 2001?
Charon Don: uhhh. How bout the quality of production? The maturity of the content and topics? My voice no longer sounds like a little boy going through puberty using complex words and battle oriented punchlines and phrases (laughs). You name it. We grew a lot and experienced much after that release though all of it was very necessary. It just trips me out that people to this day come up to me and ask for copies and give testimonies on how much they love that first record.
BallerStatus.com: Music is a hard sell these days, so why should someone buy your album if they haven’t heard of you or any of the music from it yet?
Charon Don: It’s not what the majority of artists are creating. It’s our story, given to the listener therefore it was created with a different purpose and objective. Give chances before you form judgements because you never know what might be a benefit to you once you do give it a chance.
BallerStatus.com: What’s going on with you, as far as the immediate future?
Charon Don: Continuing to promote the project, more shows. Hopefully a tour or two (hint, hint), the launch of HandsDownMusic.com website, the release of three exclusive HandsDown music videos/mixtape and DVD boxset. And that’s just the immediate future (laughs). Big up to Ballertstatus for the love and much love and respect to all future artist and fans of the music. Peace.