Lou CharLe$ is constantly on the move. Whether it’s touring, recording, promoting, or shooting videos, the TCU graduate can’t stay still for too long. His perpetual motion is probably something that was wired into his DNA. The 26-year-old’s passport has more ink than Dennis Rodman.
CharLe$’ father worked in the oil business, and the Fort Worth-based rapper’s family moved wherever his dad’s job took them. He’s lived in New Orleans, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and Cairo, Egypt. His world experience has had an effect on the subject matter of his material.
“I’m able to see the world from different points of view,” he said. “To me, that’s the mark of a good storyteller. That’s also what I think is lacking in hip-hop –– the ability to tell a story in an entertaining way.”
In October, CharLe$ is set to release his fourth recording, and first full-length, In Transit 2, a collection that builds on some of the themes of his 2015 EP, In Transit. He and producer J. Rhodes (The Game, Talib Kweli, Slim Thug) recorded 25 tracks at engineer Jose “Chico” Santiago’s Music in Focus studio in North Fort Worth. CharLe$ is trying to whittle that number down before the album drops.
Fans can get a glimpse of some of the record’s songs on his website (whoisloucharles.com) starting next week. On Tuesday, Aug. 23, he’ll leak the first of three songs (one a week) from In Transit 2, “Hall of Fame,” a track he described in a recent interview as a grind song –– the mission statement for his new release.
“The whole premise of [the EP] In Transit was that I’m on my way to a destination, whether that’s Top 40 greatness or anything like that, I don’t know,” he said. “I’m on this journey trying to find and understand more about myself. That [song] is picking up where In Transit 1 left off.”
The self-acclaimed “rap nerd” started his career while in college working as a manager for the TCU basketball team. He and coworker Kev Nolan formed the critically lauded duo Midway, which he described as party music.
His style and subject matter became more sophisticated after hooking up with acclaimed Dallas producer Justin Rhodes.
“His instrumentals bring out those stories,” CharLe$ said. “I remember one time he sent me a batch of beats, and I thought, ‘Oh my god. I don’t know what to do with these.’ I can’t rap what I normally rap about on these tracks. I can’t rap about a party and a girl over these beats.”
On In Transit, CharLe$ and Rhodes combine for a sound that’s polished, confident, and relaxed. The EP’s motifs unfold over its six tracks. The slick production ranges from jazzy and soulful to driving and frenetic. The new album, CharLe$ said, will be a little more aggressive.
“In Transit 2 is going to surprise some people,” he said. “It’s the same thing with more energy. It’s a little more braggadocios.
“I just wanted it to feel like it’s the second installment in the series,” he continued. “So you’ve got to incorporate elements of the last project while also introducing new sounds, ideas, and ways to keep the storyline going.”
Though CharLe$ is prolific in the studio –– he’s released a mix tape, two EPs, and countless YouTube videos –– he said performing is what he enjoys the most. Engineer Santiago dee-jays the high-energy set and MC WTF Cynikal and Nay Nay the Dancer hype the crowd.
Some of his recent touring was booked through Premier Live Experience, local rapper Smooth Vega’s booking and promotions company. Landing a gig in his hometown has been somewhat challenging for CharLe$, despite the fact that he has opened for national hip-hop giants like Chamillionaire, Immortal Technique, and Joe Budden.
“I feel like for the noteworthy local hip-hop acts in general, it’s difficult to maneuver within this city, unless you’re Smooth Vega,” he said. “It leads a lot of the Fort Worth talent to go up I-30 and play Dallas.”
Though he’s still young, CharLe$ is already one of the more pedigreed rappers on the bourgeoning Fort Worth hip-hop scene: He’s opened for national acts, toured, is working with a prominent producer, and puts a ton of energy into his act.
“I want to do hip-hop for a living,” he said.