A soul singer who has drawn comparisons to such classic R&B vocalists as Bill Withers and Bobby Womack, Anthony Hamilton struggled for the better part of the 1990s as two of his albums went unreleased. Getting his start at age ten singing in his church choir, the Charlotte, NC, native also performed as a teenager at various nightclubs and talent shows. Always with an eye to move on to bigger things, Hamilton made the move to New York City in 1993, eventually signing with Uptown Records, epicenter for the new jack swing sound and home to artists such as Jodeci and Mary J. Blige. By 1995, Uptown was set to push Hamilton's debut album, but the company went out of business, leaving the album unreleased. Hamilton next signed with MCA and recorded his critically acclaimed but largely overlooked 1996 album, XTC. Another transitional period followed and Hamilton ultimately found himself at the Soulife label. It was at Soulife, a relatively new venture run by some of the singer's old Charlotte friends, that Hamilton laid down tracks for another solo album and also wrote songs for such artists as Donell Jones and Sunshine Anderson. In 2000, he accepted an invitation to sing backup vocals on singer/organist D'Angelo's "Voodoo Tour" and traveled the world. Upon returning home, Hamilton discovered that Soulife had also gone belly up. With a second album unreleased, Hamilton spent the next two years selling songs and singing backup for artists including 2Pac and Eve. Then, in 2002 a lead spot singing on the Nappy Roots track "Po' Folks" garnered Hamilton some much-needed attention, as the song was nominated for the Best Rap/Song Collaboration at the 2003 Grammy Awards. A subsequent gig performing at a Grammy luncheon led to a meeting between Hamilton and producer Jermaine Dupri, who quickly signed the singer to his So So Def label. Technically his fourth album, Comin' from Where I'm From bowed for So So Def in 2003.
Amid the scores of albums by contemporary soul brothers, Anthony Hamilton's beautiful Comin' From Where I'm From is one of the few that actually captures the essence of soul's golden age in the late '60s and early '70s. Rich, gritty and sexy as hell, his beautiful voice and equally beautiful songwriting are infused with convincingly wise-beyond-his-years grit that evokes-more than a little- Bill Withers, Bobby Womack and the like. But unlike most of today's big-throated thrushes, Hamilton is a real musician: equally proficient as a writer, singer and producer, he can front a band as well.
"My album is honest soul music. The records are straight to the point, raw, and organic," says Hamilton. "It's not neo," he stresses. "When I think of neo, I think of neon, like it's gon' glow in the dark or something. My sh*t ain't glowin' in the dark. It's just really good music."
Hamilton has been humbly paying his dues for more than a decade and has made a lot of friends along the way. Born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Harlem resident discovered his talent while singing in his church choir at age 10. As a teenager, he honed his chops while making the rounds on the local nightclub and talent show circuit, performing alongside fellow Charlotte natives Horace Brown and the members of Jodeci. "I outgrew that real quick, though," he recalls, "I knew I had to leave Charlotte in order to make it in the music business."
In 1993, Hamilton left Charlotte for New York City, where he signed with Andre Harrell's Uptown Records imprint-then the epicenter of New Jack Swing and the bourgeoning hip-hop-soul movement with an all-star roster that included Jodeci and Horace Brown, in addition to Heavy D, Mary J. Blige and Guy. Unfortunately for Hamilton, the label folded soon after he completed his unreleased first album in 1995.
Following Uptown's demise, Hamilton relocated to MCA, which put out his wonderful yet widely overlooked debut album, 1996's XTC. After the album's release, Hamilton briefly reunited with his former mentor at Harrell Entertainment before landing at the Los Angeles-based Soulife label, launched in 1999 by his hometown cronies Mark Sparks and Chris Dawley. While Soulife geared up for the release of Sunshine Anderson's Your Woman, Hamilton recorded another album's worth of new material and penned songs for other artists, including Anderson ("Last Night") and Donell Jones ("U Know What's Up," "Pushin'").
In 2000, D'Angelo recruited Hamilton to sing background vocals on his worldwide Voodoo Tour. "I went all over the world-Europe, Brazil-and had the best time of my life," Hamilton recalls. But by the time he returned from globetrotting with D'Angelo, Soulife had also collapsed and the singer-songwriter found himself back at square one. "I became depressed," Hamilton confesses. "I was like, 'Why? Lord, why? All this love I have for the music what's going on?' Still, I kept praying and working and looking for a better deal."
For the next two years, Hamilton kept busy by singing background vocals and appearing on songs by the likes of Eve ("Ride Away"), Xzibit ("The Gambler") and 2Pac ("Thugz Mansion"). Finally, in 2002, he received the break he'd been waiting for when he was tapped to sing the catchy chorus on "Po' Folks," the lead single from Nappy Roots' debut album, Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz. Thanks to Hamilton's contribution, the song became an instant smash that was nominated for Best Rap/Song Collaboration at the 2003 Grammys. The day before the ceremony, renowned entertainment attorney L. Londell McMillan invited Hamilton to close the show at his star-studded Grammy brunch. Blown away by the singer's galvanizing performance, Michael Mauldin, a music industry veteran with a famously keen eye for talent, urged his son, Atlanta hitmaker Jermaine Dupri, to take a meeting with Hamilton. Dupri indulged his father's request and, after absorbing an earful of the singer's work, eagerly signed him to his So So Def imprint within 48 hours.
At long last, after enduring the bureaucracy of the music industry for more than a decade, Anthony Hamilton is poised on the verge of stardom. But rather than brood over his rocky road to success, he maintains a remarkably positive outlook. "Everything that's happened up until this point in my career has been preparing people for my arrival," he says. "Back when I was signed to Uptown, my music was labeled 'alternative soul.' Now, people have reference points for my sound, so it won't be shocking or abrasive to the ear; it'll be well worth the wait."
Indeed, Comin' From Where I'm From is driven by imaginative, yet down-to-earth lyrics that draw listeners into Hamilton's world-weary tales about love and life, and that hit upon basic universal truths that can be appreciated by everyone. Even though cuts such as "Float" and "Cornbread, Fish & Collard Greens" find him playing the soft-core mack daddy with as much relish as Ginuwine, it's when he opts to sing about the human side of his conquests that you really warm up to him.
To help craft the old-school-inspired grooves and country soul jams that illuminate Hamilton's subject matter, he brought in a number of producers and musicians he's crossed paths with throughout his career, including Mark Batson, Cedric Solomon, and James Poyser from the Soulquarians. They succeed in creating an authentic vintage soul feel by enhancing the music with wah-wah guitar licks, stirring piano riffs, rousing horn swells, churchy organs and bumping bass lines.
"I wanna change the game in a way where I'm not knocking nobody out of the way, not claiming to be the best at this or that, but just doing wonders with the gift I've been given," says Hamilton. "I'm thankful I was standing in the way when God was throwing out musical talent, and I just wanna pass it on to the people and remain humble and shine a little bit... and smile."
Anthony Hamilton to New Orleans Jazz Fest
Nelly, Anthony Hamilton, Dave Matthews to N.O. Jazz Fest.
It's not quite Mardi Gras, but the 36th annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival will still be a great party. Nelly, the Dave Matthews Band, Anthony Hamilton and singer-songwriter James Taylor are just some of the artists set to perform during the music festival, which runs from April 22-24 and April 28-May 1.
The event includes musical acts performing on 12 stages at the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans. Among the artists appearing on the diverse lineup are Elvis Costello, Los Lonely Boys, Wilco, the Roots, B.B. King, Randy Newman, the Neville Brothers, Buddy Guy, Jamie Cullum, Nickel Creek, Juanes and Isaac Hayes.
NAACP Image Award 2005 Nominees
Usher, Kanye West, Anthony Hamilton up for Image Awards.
The nominations for the 36th annual NAACP Image Awards are in, and Usher leads the pack with five nominations for his album "Confessions." Kanye West received four nominations including Outstanding Album for "The College Dropout" and Outstanding New Artist, while Alicia Keys earned three nods including Outstanding Song for "If I Ain't Got You."
Destiny's Child, Anthony Hamilton, Jill Scott, Prince and Queen Latifah picked up two nominations each, and the late Ray Charles was nominated for the Outstanding Duo or Group award for "Heaven Help Us All," featuring Gladys Knight.
The NAACP Image Awards takes place March 19 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. FOX will televise the show on March 25 at 8:00 pm ET/PT.
Anthony Hamilton Says He's Not Neo-Soul
Anthony Hamilton says he makes honest soul music.
Anthony Hamilton says he is a soul musician. That's soul -- not "neo-soul."
Hamilton, who was recently nominated for two Grammy awards, says on his web site, "My album is honest soul music. The records are straight to the point, raw, and organic."
He adds, "It's not neo. When I think of neo, I think of neon, like it's gon' glow in the dark or something. My sh-- ain't glowin' in the dark. It's just really good music."
Hamilton's latest album, "Comin' From Where I'm From," is out now.
Anthony Hamilton's iTunes Original
Hamilton's iTunes Original performance on iTunes now. Anthony Hamilton is featured in an iTunes Originals Performance, available now at the iTunes music download store. Hamilton's performance features six exclusive, live tracks including "Charlene," "Comin' From Where I'm From," "Better Days," "Mama Knew Love," "Cornbread, Fish & Collard Greens" and a cover of the Marvin Gaye classic, "What's Going On."
The Anthony Hamilton iTunes Originals album also includes studio versions of four other Hamilton songs, plus the R&B singer's commentary about each track.