Chris Hamilton’s latest EP is about struggling and triumphing over drug addiction, a topic the Comox Valley-raised rapper is qualified to tackle as a current outpatient at Nanaimo’s Edgewood Treatment Centre.
Hamilton, who goes by the stage name Ill Tone, unveiled Up in my Head earlier this month. The six-song EP, recorded and self-engineered at home – “which I wouldn’t recommend to any other artists out there because we’re our own worst critics,” Hamilton said – is the rapper’s first release in four years after taking a break from touring and recording due to his chemical dependence.
“I’ve gotten the urge to create again and to get back into the music scene and what a perfect place to do it on Vancouver Island,” he said.
Hamilton’s been living in Nanaimo for the past year undergoing treatment and he said he “just fell in love with the city,” its outdoors and “the strength of the recovery community.” He’ll be staying in Nanaimo as he completes Edgewood’s outpatient program.
He said he’s been through some “dark stuff” struggling with chemical dependency and depression but has managed to overcome that adversity and “come out on the other side” by creating music and staying connected with his peers in recovery. He said the Up in my Head track Clubs and Drugs discusses the difficulties of trying to be part of the music scene while grappling with addiction and being in recovery.
“I just wrote from personal experience with things like that,” Hamilton said. “It has a darker sound to it but the themes are more about the triumph aspect from my perspective.”
Hamilton said he doesn’t find it difficult to be open about his experiences in his music. He said treatment and recovery programs encourage sharing and candour, explaining that “if we don’t vocalize our struggles, then it can feel like we are alone.”
“What it teaches us to do is to be open about our struggles because if we’re closed off about them they sit beneath the surface and simmer,” he said. “And they can sink us pretty quickly if we don’t put them out in the open to talk about them and gain validation from others who have struggled from the same things.”
He said he’s hoping the record can serve a similar function to comfort those living with addiction.
“To instil people who are struggling with similar issues with hope is certainly a factor there as well,” he said.
Up in my Head is available here.