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Ham

The moment travelers cross over Florida state lines, Mickey Mouse is everywhere. The beloved character is on everything from monstrous billboards overlooking the turnpike to cheap gas station skullies. The city of Orlando is known for being a sort of family-friendly wonderland, miles and miles of opportunity for far-fetched dreams to come true. Tourists arrive in droves, in search of these dreams and head home after a few days but natives of Orlando are well aware of what lies beyond the Cinderella Castle, and it isn't all parades and starry-eyed visions. Rapper HAM was born and raised in the central Florida city and he can attest to the fact that there's more to Orlando than the fairytales the tourism board suggests. HAM straddles the barrier between the hard knock life and the happy endings. Born Michael Antonio Hamilton, rapper HAM is at a crossroads- like many young black men who grow up with little to no means of survival, he encompasses a will to fight and a yearning to succeed. "I'm just a dude from the streets who came up hustling, trying to find my way out here, and I decided to start rapping." When HAM was just nine years old, he'd received Scarface's critically acclaimed album, Diary, as a Christmas gift. It was his first rap album and he gives the Houston-based artists full credit for inspiring his love for Hip-Hop. Scarface was an unlikely mentor, considering how different Miami rap was at the time. Regardless of geographical differences, something within the passion-filled tracks of Diary, struck a chord with HAM and he decided that one day his own heart would be on wax for the world to hear. But first he would dabble in the ever-present evils in the alleys and dark corners of his hometown. "There've been a couple of times when people have told me I'm tripping," says HAM, "‘You need to do this. You need to go.' But I was in these streets out here and had to find my way and realize that I had this talent. I had to let go of the streets and follow my dream." Even though HAM still struggles with toeing the line between street schemes and rap dreams, he's aware that he just can't shake the latter. That first cassette tape encouraged years of HAM studying Hip-Hop from a fan's perspective. He noted the differences and indulged in the lyricism of everyone from Biggie and 2pac to A Tribe Called Quest and Eric Sermon. His knack for recognizing and appreciating different flows and content serves as an advantage now and it resonates in his work, which he describes as "laid back, street, but still sort of backpacker at the same time."After years of toying with the idea of compiling a body of work, HAM is finally done recording his first street album, On the HAM, Volume 1.5. According to HAM, the goal of the album is to introduce Orlando rap as a force to be reckoned with, with him manning the helm. His aspiration is to kill the trends rather than fall victim to following them. With the majority of his Orlando competition adhering to the same blueprint, HAM hopes to stand out with his ability to switch up his song subjects and sound on any given track. There's a sense of authenticity that shines through his bars but he also offers inspiration, perspective, and relatability in his music. "I try to refrain from having ‘the streets' in my music as much as I can but it comes out because that's where I've been," HAM insists, "So it's gonna come out and reflect in my music." His style is to tell the street story with as much poise and confidence as the fairytale, so that maybe, in some way, the two can co-exist.Far-fetched dreams often lead to broken hearts. Starry-eyed wishes and tales of happy endings don't always end well but HAM is adamant about making his mark on the world. "I want to reach everybody. It's all about legacy and longevity to me. I want to be one of the greatest."

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