Durham teenager overcomes digital divide to produce album

Charles DaBeast poses in a booth at the McDonalds on Guess Rd. where he produced and perfected most of his debut album, Patience. A freshman at Lees-McRae College, the rapper recalls the countless hours spent at the restaurant over a 10-month period to release the project.


For Charles Singletary, better known by his stage name Charles DaBeast, there couldn’t have been a more fitting title for his debut album.

“Patience,” released in August, is the product of 10 months: more than 28 hours on the studio, countless visits to McDonalds on Guess Rd. for Wi-Fi access, his own pocket money, and the help of members of the Durham community.

“There were days where I would spend hours upon hours in the library,” said Charles. “When the library would close, I would go to McDonalds and do the same.”

Charles, 18, says he has always been interested in two things: music and soccer. The rapper was born in Long Island, N.Y., and raised in Durham. During his time at Carrington Middle School, Charles began learning how to play different instruments and began developing an appreciation for music. After graduating from Northern High School, Charles accepted a position playing soccer for Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, N.C.

According to William Schrader, Charles’ high journalism teacher, the rapper has always possessed an interest in music.

“His extensive knowledge of different styles of music was just incredible, especially for a high school kid,” said Schrader.

“Patience” has been on Charles’ mind since the summer of 2013. By that August, Charles was in the studio at Bull City Sound recording a couple of songs.

“I had done a couple projects prior to “Patience,” but I wanted to make something more authentic and more legit,” said Charles. “I began to contact different producers to explain the concept of the project and what I wanted for myself.”

Having limited resources required Charles to be twice as prepared. According to Charles, while other artists have the money and time for multiple studio sessions, he has little room for error. That also led to the elongated sessions at McDonalds and the library.

Due to the low production costs Charles wanted, when it came to finding the music and sounds for the album, he had to seek out opportunities. The rapper describes his initial process as “a lot of favors and people understanding.” Producers helped with aspects of the album for free. Charles says that he tries to come across as a genuine artist. Therefore, when it came to releasing the album, Charles went in with the same mindset.

“I wanted to make sure it wasn’t about money, but the actual craft of writing music,” said Charles. “I felt the best way to do that was to release [“Patience”] for free.”

For Charles, this album is a way to share a story with everyone. He said his goal was to be as transparent as he could, so that everyone could relate to his music. A lot of that mindset came from Charles’ musical influences.

Early on, Charles would listen to a lot of rock. When he transitioned from rock to hip-hop, he began to listen to artists such as Gym Class Heroes and Flobots, who are a mix between the two genres.

“Those artists prided themselves on writing stories,” said Charles. “From there on, I wanted to make sure anything I created was from a first person so people could relate to my music.”

That desire to build a community with music is not new for the artist. Charles is a member of Only Dopeness, a hip-hop collective he helped start two years ago in Durham. The group has since evolved into a support system for youth interested in and pursuing music. While some members have moved away from Durham, Only Dopeness is still a very important part of Charles’ life.

“It a team that is big with camaraderie and just helping each other make better music,” said Charles.

In the future, the artist has plans for both his music and his career.

“I’m looking for different gigs, working on more music and sending some stuff I already have to small labels,” said Charles.

As for the future, with the support of his family, Charles would like to pursue a career in professional soccer, a dream he has had since he was in middle school. When asked how he has managed to balance such competitive fields, Charles had a simple answer.

“I like to research— I like to see statistics and find all the different avenues of achieving my goal,” said Charles. “Being informed increases your chance of being successful.”

That answer can be summed up into one word: patience.