The term “C-Note” refers to two things: a 100 dollar bill and the Sioux City-based rapper.
C-Note’s real name is Charlie Franklin III. Although his rap moniker might suggest he’s pursuing music for the money, the 33-year-old hip-hop artist assured me that was not the case.
He feels deeply rooted in hip-hop – both its music and its culture. It’s a sensitive subject for C-Note, but it’s one he feels he needs to protect from those seeking to abuse the genre for a quick cash grab, ultimately diminishing the genre’s purpose, history and creed.
“That kind of hurts me down, but it’s not going to stop me from what I want to do,” said C-Note. “Music is a way of life. It’s not just a hobby or something you do for fun. You gotta really be committed to it and take it seriously.
"And that’s kind of how I see myself. I see myself as deep into it as I can be. And I just want to get better and stronger.”
For C-Note, music really has been his way of life ever since he was a kid growing up in Stuttgart, Arkansas. With every move he and his family made, his direction in music shifted.
In Arkansas, he mostly sang in church. When his mother took him and his siblings to Kansas, C-Note started an R&B singing group with his brothers before moving to Lincoln, Nebraska. Now in Sioux City, C-Note has become enthralled in rap.
He has lived in Siouxland for the past seven years, performing shows as often as he can. Now signed to the Sioux City-based independent record label founded by Daniel Aquino, 4Worn Records, C-Note has been hard at work perfecting his craft and regularly releasing content to the masses.
His latest project was “A’Murica,” a single released in July. The opening line of the song states: “A’murica – Where you can have the American Dream, but you gotta earn your keep.” This ideology, synonymous with hip-hop, also applies to C-Note’s life.
“I’ve been living in America my entire life and I’m just as passionate as the next man about the freedom and the things that we as a people have been through to get to where we are now,” he said.
“I always felt like it doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’re going to end up doing, you just gotta keep working through it. That’s the same for America. There are going to be ups, there are going to be downs. You have to be true to what you believe in.”
Living and working by those principles have driven C-Note to work towards his upcoming releases, both an EP and full-length LP. With his singing background, C-Note is able to blend R&B vocals into many of his tracks, which he said helps him standout from other local hip-hop artists.
"I can sing my own hooks and rap the verses," he said. "I got versatility. And my freestyle game is real strong, too."
It's an important attribute to have in hip-hop. Keeping a close eye on what's current, C-Note aims to adapt to growing trends in hip-hop without compromising his own works and set of beliefs.
"I gotta keep up with the kids and the times," he said. "But at the same time I'm not going to let them forget what we're really supposed to be doing. I'll give you a radio track here and there but I gotta hit you with some lyrics and some verses."
Something that can really stimulate the listener.
"I would much rather let people understand how I feel about music or what it's done for me and what it makes me feel -- share my talent with them," said C-Note. "I'll sing to somebody on the corner for a dollar as fast as I'll do a big show.
"It's not about the money, it's not about the fame. It's about what you like and showing everybody how you feel about it. It's just like a painter or an orchestra or a director. I want to show you how I feel about it and maybe it will move you also. That's what hip-hop is all about."