By Steven Roberts
BROOKLYN, New York — Despite having existed for 60 years, Puma celebrated its birthday with a trio of young acts on Monday evening. Still young at heart, the German-based sportswear company threw a party at the Music Hall of Williamsburg featuring up-and-coming artists Charles Hamilton, the Knux and Chester French.
"If you look back on any old hip-hop DVD, all you see is Puma," Hamilton said. "It's a cornerstone in hip-hop fashion, and when they hit me up about it, I was like, 'Cool!' "
Clad in his trademark pink shirt, the 21-year-old Harlem MC performed a short set of tracks from the mixtapes he has released in rapid succession. Hamilton, who was featured in last week's "Mixtape Monday" for his Sonic the Hamilton, has already released another, newer mixtape, Intervention. He said he's been releasing so much music as part of what he calls his "Hamiltonization Process," a buildup to the release of his first proper album, The Pink Lavalamp.
"Basically I want people to see that I present work to the fans and the listener, so that they can feel where I am coming from, as opposed to listening and saying, 'Oh, that's cool music.' "
The L.A.-based, Louisiana-born Knux also performed at the event. The duo, consisting of brothers Krispy Kreme and Rah Al Millio, brought energy to the otherwise static crowd, working the stage and urging everyone to make some noise. The duo recently released their Interscope debut, Remind Me in 3 Days, and are on a national tour through the 22nd.
Chester French's D.A. Wallach and Maxwell Drummey, who wowed crowds at the South by Southwest festival earlier this year, may have seemed like the odd men out among these hip-hop acts, but the Pharrell-endorsed former Harvard students made the most of their opportunity.
"As a new artist, a lot of the time you're approached to do things with different companies, and we always are much more attracted to any opportunities where you actually can expose your music to people," said frontman Wallach.
The group had the crowd captivated and dancing along. The preppy, curly-haired Wallach bounced across the stage, shaking a tambourine, clapping his hands and serenading young ladies onstage as he thrust his hips.
Despite having released just one EP, She Loves Everybody, French showed why they were sought out by — ironically enough — hip-hop producers, including Pharrell and Kanye West. While they eventually chose to sign with Williams' Star Trak label, they were more concerned at the moment with winning people over.
"When you come through to a city, as an opener, you almost feel uncomfortable asking people to shell out 30 bucks to come see you, because we haven't even put out an album yet," Wallach said. "Tonight's a great chance, because people were able to come see us for free."