Hip hop artist finds inspiration in overcoming troubled past

Ill Tone, performs March 7 at Lucky Bar. He’ll open for Masta Ace on the Western Canadian dates of his cross-country tour.

Hip hop artist Chris Hamilton

Sobriety isn’t a word typically associated with hip hop music. Drugs, alcohol or both tend to be a recurring theme in the music and the lives of the talent that occupy this space.

This is true of Chris Hamilton – or at least it was true.

“I grew up in the Comox Valley and I always used the excuse, ‘I’m from a small town, there’s nothing to do, so this is what I do,’” the 26-year-old says of his past, having started drinking at 10 – stealing it from his parents – and smoking pot at 12.

By his mid-teens, he’d moved on to ecstasy and cocaine. And in his 20s he was taking “pretty much everything you could think of, short of anything involving needles.”

Through it all, though, Hamilton wrote music.

“I’ve been writing lines since I was about 12 years old. It didn’t get serious for me until I was about 21 when I moved over to Vancouver,” he says. “Seeing an actual studio (in Vancouver) motivated me to start writing. Writing rhymes became writing songs. I went back to school and learned how to engineer and produce my own music.”

But drugs and alcohol were still playing an active role in his life.

In January 2012, Hamilton was ready to exorcise his demons, and went to rehab for the second time. (He went once before at age 19, but admits he wasn’t ready to quit everything, hence having returned to old habits almost immediately upon release.)

“Life’s changed for the better (since rehab),” he says, now one year sober. “I’ve reestablished a lot of old relationships with friends and family, I’m not always broke and complaining about stuff, and it’s just a more positive way to live.”

Hamilton admits he was concerned at first about what impact sobriety would have on his music, but it’s been nothing but a positive experience.

“I noticed my thought process is a lot quicker. Songs get written a lot quicker, beats happen a lot quicker. And there’s definitely more positivity, for sure,” he says. “It takes a lot of energy to maintain (a drug- and alcohol-fuelled) lifestyle, so being able to channel that energy into music as a creative outlet has been great.”

Hamilton, a.k.a. Ill Tone, performs March 7 at Lucky Bar. He’ll open for Masta Ace on the Western Canadian dates of his cross-country tour. On Feb. 27, Ill Tone’s debut album, Bringin’ the Hope Back will be released.

The album is some three years in the making, meaning the music is more of a reflection of Hamilton’s past life. He’s already working on his next album, which won’t be full of songs written during “the depths of all my crap.”

“When a person’s in the depths of their addictions, they’re not going to be saying too many positive things,” he says. “I still write the occasional heavy song, because I think about that life that I lived to write about it and get it out in the open. But definitely I’m a lot happier – that will show with my next album.”

Visit illtonemusic.com.

Tickets ($18) to the adult-only show at Lucky Bar are available at Lyle’s Place, Ditch Records and TicketWeb.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Victoria Flamenco Festival goes virtual for 2020 event

The show will go online from July 23 to 26

Metchosin bird card project finds its wings

On display at Metchosin ArtPod from July 10 to 12

UVic research team creating virus-resistant washbasins for post-pandemic world

Civil engineer Rishi Gupta hopes basins will be installed in public spaces

Walk for Peace takes a virtual turn for Victoria Hospice

Residents can still register for Gordy Dodd’s 11th annual fundraiser

United Way Greater Victoria launches Hi Neighbour program in Esquimalt

Feedback sought from residents about funding for micro community projects

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Annual music event in Comox Valley celebrates online instead

Vancouver Island MusicFest holds virtual celebration set for July 10

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Most Read