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Meet Michael Charles of Taking Only Wins Now in Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Charles.

Michael, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Growing up in Houston, we have our own unique culture and sound dating back to the Geto Boys, UGK, DJ Screw & The Screwed Up Click just to name a few. Although I championed and listened to our local legends nonstop, I also paid attention, loved, and appreciated the music that was being created in other regions. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a deep passion and love for music. It’s a journey I started back in high school with my friends making mixtapes. I was in a group with my best friend and another one of our homies was a DJ. He had two turntables and a microphone so after school, we would go to his house and record. Not the ideal studio equipment, but for the time being it got the job done. That’s basically where a lot of my early recordings came from. We pressed up copies and passed them out to everybody at school. We even had people bootlegging them but we didn’t mind because we gave them out for free anyways. We did that throughout our senior year. You can technically say I started out as a battle rapper because they were all freestyles dissing rival crews at our school or from other schools in the area. Not a real rivalry but you know, we would battle it out just to see who the best was. By the way, I never lost, and that sparked my competitive nature in this thing we called hip hop.

Fast forward, I’m off to college but my passion for music is only growing even more. My best friend who I was in a group with also attended the same university as me. The University of Texas at San Antonio. Even though we were no longer making music as a duo, we were still a team in every sense of the way. He buys a MPC over the summer and says, “I’m gonna start making beats.” I said, “That’s what’s up.” Up to that point, I had never made an original song, I was only doing freestyles off of industry beats. I sat there and watched him make a beat for the first time and to be honest, I wasn’t feeling it but he persuaded me to rap on it and to actually make a full song. Three verses, a chorus and a bridge. I did it and it actually turned out dope. Much like we did in high school, we pressed up a 100 pack of CDs. The campus apartments we were staying in were co-ed and there was only one way in and one way out. We stood right there in front of the entrance and sold every single CD for $1 in less than an hour. Now a $100 isn’t a lot of money at all, but for two broke college kids it was a come up. I started doing a lot of shows at local clubs, frat parties, or anywhere that I could perform. Sometimes even getting paid for them when I brought out a lot of people. I had the time of my life being away from home for the first time and loved the college experience. But after a year and a half, it ran its course and I dropped out. I just knew I wanted more for myself.

I went back to Houston and was trying to figure things out. I really didn’t have a plan but I knew music was what I really wanted to do. I did a few shows around Houston and even at times would drive back down to San Antonio to open up for artists like Slim Thug, Lil Flip, Z-Ro, Trae The Truth & Big Moe. Real Texas legends. I kept a good relationship with all the promoters who had booked me when I was there attending school. Then one day, I got the call to come open up for Drake in Austin, Texas on the So Far Gone Tour. May 7, 2009. I’ll never forget the date because that was my first sold-out show. I had a lot of people travel from different parts of Texas to come to that concert. Drake was the hottest thing smoking after So Far Gone came out and obviously, we see where he is now. How many people can say they opened up for and shared the stage with the biggest rapper in the game? Me and five of my homies packed inside a car and drove two and a half hours to Austin from Houston and when we arrived the line was around the corner. My set was right before his so I was able to briefly meet him right before the show. And I say briefly because it was just that. He was literally right in the middle of a meet & greet when the promoter introduced us so it was simply a handshake and a head nod. I went out and did my thing and that night made me a believer that I could really do this. From that point on, there was no doubt in my mind. Or so I thought.

I thought things would take off for me after that but the next few months things went cold. But nevertheless, I stayed at it and kept putting out music. This was the Myspace era and I had built up a pretty big following and network online with over 70K friends. Then one day a record producer who then introduced himself as “Tim” reached out to me via Myspace and told me he really liked my music. He said that he had a production/label deal with Universal Records and expressed a lot of interest in signing me. He wanted me to come to Los Angeles and record a demo. We jumped on the phone and had a good conversation and it wasn’t until the end of the phone call that he told me that he was Father MC. Honestly, I didn’t know who the hell Father MC was. I asked my older brother, cousins and even my mom did they know him and they were all excited like “Of course! You don’t remember Father MC??”. I got on youtube and looked up some of his videos and to my surprise he had millions of views, had sold millions of records, was previously signed to Uptown/MCA Records, put artists like Mary J. Blige and Jodeci on their very first songs, and even had P. Diddy as a background dancer in his videos. The very next day, I was on a flight to L.A. for the first time to record my demo. That same best friend who I started this journey with, was still right there with me. Along with another childhood friend who was my manager at the time. Over the next couple of months, we flew back and forth from Houston to L.A. finishing my demo. A few meetings were had, a few contracts were presented, but ultimately everything fell through. I was devastated. Back in Houston feeling like the opportunity of a lifetime had slipped away from me. Then we came to find out Father MC whom I thought was a stand-up guy, was scamming and pocketing the money that my manager/friend was putting up for studio time, engineers, production, mixing & mastering, marketing, music videos that we had planned, etc. At this point with the cost of all that, back & forth flights for the three of us, hotels and other expenses my manager was in the hole. That experience was the end of a run in the music business for not only him, but my partner whom I started this whole journey with. They no longer wanted nothing to do with the music industry and I couldn’t blame them.

As for me, I wasn’t quite done yet. That experience was enough to make the average man want to throw in the towel and do something else. But then again, I’m not the average man and I still had that fire burning inside of me. Despite the situation, when I was in L.A. I fell in love with the city. Everything from the vibe, the women, the weather and the endless opportunities. I knew this was where I needed to be and I was determined to get back but this time permanently. That dream seemed to be a reach. Over the next year and a half, I tried saving up money to move but something would always come up financially. At that time, I had a brand new decked out Dodge Charger, 22′ inch rims, tinted windows, this was damn near my dream car. I had planned to drive that car to California. But you know, things never go as planned. One late night while driving down a dark highway, I suddenly hit an animal that was trying to run across the highway. I don’t know what type of animal it was, but it did some damage to my car. So much that my steering wheel locked up and I was barely able to pull over and get it off the highway. It was around 3 am in the morning, everything was closed, and there wasn’t anything in sight. Me and my older brother slept in the car for about an hour waiting for a friend to come pick us up. I came back the next morning to the exact same spot on the side of the highway where I left my car and all I saw was small scraps of what looked to be pieces of my car. No car in sight, just pieces. After a few hours of calling around and tracking down the car, we found it at a nearby tow yard. It was completely totaled and the whole driver’s side looked like it had been swiped off. I asked the tow truck driver “Do you know what & how this happened to my car?”. He said a State Trooper called it in after seeing an 18 Wheeler hit it and kept going. My first thought was “Damn, me and my brother would have still been asleep in that car if nobody came to pick us up.” Feeling blessed that wasn’t the case, I was still devastated by the fact that my car was done. And to make matters worse, my insurance had been lapsed for a couple of days. So that was that.

Over the next few months, I was able to save up a few dollars to hopefully buy a cash car or to make a down payment on a new car. I had $1400 dollars to be exact. It was either buy a new car and play it safe by staying in Houston and hope for the best. Or take that $1400, roll the dice, and move to L.A. I’m the type of person that hates living with regrets and never wants to say “I wish” I did anything. That type of uncertainty is something I can’t deal with. Needless to say, I booked a one way ticket to L.A. and I’ve been here ever since.

Has it been a smooth road?
The road hasn’t been perfect but definitely worth it. I was happy to be here no doubt, but I was scared straight of the unknown. I came to LA not knowing a single soul. No family, no friends, nothing. That was the first time in life I was truly out of my comfort zone and I can’t even lie, the first few nights were sleepless. I was contemplating whether or not I had made the right decision. I eventually shook that feeling but the unknown was still weighing on me. I practically had no credit at the time plus apartments were way more expensive than I initially thought. So it was hard for me to find a place to live. I was running out of options and that $1400 that I came here with was dwindling down. But going back home wasn’t an option. I was looking on Craigslist when I came across some office spaces in Hollywood for rent. They had free utilities & wifi. There wasn’t a shower but conveniently, a LA Fitness was located right across the street so I figured I could get a membership there. That way I’d at least be able to take showers everyday. I set up the small pieces of studio equipment I had and I lived in that office space for five months. The first few, I slept on a hardwood floor with just a sleeping bag and a pillow until I saved up enough money to buy a futon. That was the sacrifice I was willing to make. I had a friend from Houston that moved here and had a two bedroom apartment with an extra room. That was a lifesaver. Things were looking up, but the music had slowed down tremendously. I had no network or resources here. Also, around that time, my stepfather had gotten noticeably ill, so music was the last thing on my mind.

He suddenly passed away in 2014. I felt regret and a lot of anger towards myself for not being there. I felt like I missed out on spending that time with him during his last days selfishly moving to LA to chase my dreams. He was my biggest fan. I feel that exact same way about my childhood friend who also passed away a few years later from brain cancer. The same childhood friend who paid for my plane ticket to go to LA for the first time to record my demo, who was my manager and invested all of his money into me because he believed in me that much. I definitely told him, but I wonder if he knew how much I truly appreciated him for everything he did for me. Ironically now the two people who believed in me the most were no longer here. That was a dark time for me and I wasn’t inspired to make music. If I could pick any song to describe life around that time, it’d be “Slippin” by DMX. I knew if I didn’t pick myself up and get out of that slump that I would be letting them down. That was all the inspiration I needed.

Since then, I’ve been relentless. I had to rebrand myself, change my stage name and come with a whole new energy and mindset. I’ve gotten more done in these past two years than ever before. My confidence is higher than it’s ever been and I feel like I’m making some of the best music I’ve ever made. I have more knowledge of the game, I’ve lived more life, and I’ve gone through a lot of trial and error to get to this point. And guess what, that very same best friend who I started this journey with is still rocking me to this day. Not so much on the music side, but creatively we still collaborate on a lot of things. I feel like it’s important to credit those who’ve helped you grow along the way. My team isn’t that big, but the few members I do have every player plays their part and I’m appreciative of that.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Taking Only Wins Now – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I started my own company T.O.W.N. (Taking Only Wins Now) this year and now it’s a legit business. As you can see, I’ve taken a lot of losses along the way and I just want to win. I pride myself on being an independent artist and having ownership in everything I do. I’m not seeking a record deal. I’ve actually passed on a few situations over the last year or so because they just weren’t in my best interest business-wise. But I’m always open to doing good business. For now, I just want to focus on building my brand organically. From there, the sky’s the limit.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
The opportunities are endless. You’re able to meet all types of different creatives and network. You gotta have a lot of hustle and ambition to make it happen in LA. A lot of people move here yearly and realize the road isn’t as smooth as they thought it would be. Some pack up and leave, some get lost in the sauce hooked on drugs amongst other things. The homeless rate is at an all-time high right now. At this point, I’ve seen it all. What I’m not a fan of is the cost of living but hey, you’re paying for location. Oh and the traffic is bad and the parking meters are a setup. But I’ve adjusted well.

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Image Credit:

Alan Basseliz

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