Becoming a fully established artist in the recording industry can take such a long time. Many of today’s biggest artists have been working much of their lives at becoming stars. Anthony Hamilton falls right in with that bunch. His road to stardom may seem easy to many, yet, he’s been working for what seems like an eternity to get what he now has.
Believe it or not, his first deal came way back in 1993, via his brother’s upstart label. From there, he would do stints with Uptown Records, MCA Records, and Harrell Entertainment, all of which failed to launch him to the level of stardom he expected. It was with MCA though, that he released his debut album, “XTC”. The album was poorly marketed, and never managed to make any noise.
Following his departure with Harrell Entertainment, he took an invitation from Mark Sparks, the man responsible for his first deal, to join the newly formed Soulife Entertainment. He would also be joining new artist Sunshine Anderson on the label roster. While her album was worked, he spent time on the road with D’Angelo, singing backup. Once that was over, he would learn that Soulife was not running as smoothly as expected. Needless to say, nothing would be released from the label with him. He eventually spent a few years with Atlantic Records, which led to him collaborating with The Nappy Roots for their hit single, “Po’ Folks”. Still, that wouldn’t be enough to convince Atlantic to fully support his solo career. It wasn’t until a performance down the line that Jermaine Dupri’s father saw that led to him ultimately being signed to So So Def. The rest, as they say is history.
Anthony’s debut album with So So Def, “Comin’ From Where I’m From”, burst onto the billboard charts, and eventually became number one in music lovers’ hearts. It spawned the hit singles “Comin’ From Where I’m From” and “Charlene”. From there, he became one of the most sought-after collaborators, working with Jadakiss, Angie Stone, Syleena Johnson, and even being courted to complete a song that would marinate his vocals with those of the late Tupac Shakur.
Now, three years after his big break, Hamilton is back, and he declares with his new album that “Ain’t Nobody Worryin’! We took a few moments to sit down and talk with Anthony Hamilton about his journey over the past three year, and the new album he’s ready to drop!
Anthony Hamilton: How are ya?
James Johnson: Oh, I’m doing good man! Many thanx go out to ya for today’s interview…
Anthony Hamilton: Oh it’s all good, thank you man!
James Johnson: It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since you released your debut with So So Def!
Anthony Hamilton: Yea man, it’s actually been three!
James Johnson: Wow! So what else has been going on since the “Comin From Where I’m From”?
Anthony Hamilton: I’ve just been getting home bases together, and trying to make other avenues work for me.
James Johnson: Touching on your on-stage performance, the first time I saw you here in Cleveland was when you performed for The Black College All-star Game Comedy Jam in early ’04. I thought it was just beyond amazing how you were able to perform every song on the cd, and have everyone standing and singing along.
Anthony Hamilton: And I am so grateful for that too.
James Johnson: How does it feel to be so well received with your craft?
Anthony Hamilton: It feels great! It goes to show that at the end of the day, the way I felt was not in vein. Somebody really wanted to hear that.
James Johnson: Obviously, you really enjoy doing live performances. What do you do to prepare for your shows?
Anthony Hamilton: You know, I pray. Right before I go on stage, I hang out with my band and so forth.
James Johnson: When you were getting ready to drop the first album, what was your goal career-wise, and your goal for that album, and how close did you make it to achieving that goal?
Anthony Hamilton: My goal at that time was just to get the music out there for people to hear it. I’ve definitely reached that goal.
James Johnson: Despite the buzz that you had been building for yourself throughout the industry, the album took off a little slow, as I’m sure you noticed. Did you expect for things to catapult to the level you’re at now?
Anthony Hamilton: You never really know where life is going to take you and where things will drive you. I didn’t really have any expectations.
James Johnson: How would you say that you have adjusted to the fame and success? Also, how has your family adjusted?
Anthony Hamilton: I just remain the same cat! I never changed. Everything around me kinda changed, but I remained the same cat and stayed humble. At the end of the day, I just have a job, and it doesn’t make me any higher, lower, or more special than anyone else.
James Johnson: Do you find it hard to split your time equally between your craft and your family?
Anthony Hamilton: It’s always a struggle with certain things get compromised. Depending on the mood of work or home, it differs.
James Johnson: Listeners can hear so many of R&B’s Legends in your sound and delivery. Who were your major musical influences as you were growing up and coming into music?
Anthony Hamilton: Bobby Womack, Bill Withers, The Whispers, Gladys Knight, man, a bunch of people.
James Johnson: Did you receive vocal training as you got started, or has it all just come naturally?
Anthony Hamilton: Well actually, I did have choir in school, which taught me a lot, but as far as formal training, I did one or two days with Kenny Hicks, and he taught me a few things.
James Johnson: I know you’ve been with quite a few labels in the past, but when you got the call to work with So So Def, what was your first thought?
Anthony Hamilton: It was their dedication to my project, even before it had gotten started.
James Johnson: Did you ever think that you might be out of place, being that the label was primarily rap, besides them having Jagged Edge?
Anthony Hamilton: No, I never worried about that, because rap is my thing as well. I made some rap popular in my travels.
James Johnson: Also, the fact that you were with labels before brings me to Soulife! Did you have anything to do with that material being released earlier this year?
Anthony Hamilton: The timing was a little off from what we expected, but we were able to work it all out, and everybody was happy.
James Johnson: How does the whole idea work with that? Were you ever contacted in regards to pushing that material promo-wise, or can you even have legally done that, being that you’re with a different label?
Anthony Hamilton: They have to, because me being a business man, and having done this for so long, I have rights to my music. Before it can be moved, or any final executions have been made, I have to be notified to some extent.
James Johnson: How much more music is out there that has not been released?
Anthony Hamilton: Oh, there’s quite a bit left!
James Johnson: I’m sure a lot of people don’t even realize that you sang backup for D’Angelo. How did that capitalize for you?
Anthony Hamilton: Well basically, he’s been a fan of my work and I have been a fan of his! I had a deal that wasn’t doing anything at the time, and someone in his camp reached out to me.
James Johnson: What other things did you do music-wise besides that, your collaborations with artists like Eve (Ride Away), Xzibit (The Gambler), and 2Pac (Thugz Mansion), before you finally broke with So So Def?
Anthony Hamilton: Just doing more collaborations, with Syleena Johnson, Angie Stones, Jadakiss, you know, things that just kept me out there.
James Johnson: What’s your theory on why it took people so long to catch on to what you had to offer as an artist?
Anthony Hamilton: That’s just God’s doings. It’s out of my reach, but everything happened at its own perfect timing.
James Johnson: So now you’re set to drop your new album. How long have you been working on this material?
Anthony Hamilton: The new material had been done. You have songs that kinda stem over from the last album. You just kinda listen to them, and figure out if it’s what you want now, and if you want to add to it, or add more songs.
James Johnson: How much is from the last, and how much is new material?
Anthony Hamilton: There are definitely quite a few brand new songs.
James Johnson: What’s going to be the biggest difference between this album and “Comin’ From Where I’m From”? Are you breaking any more boundaries with your new work?
Anthony Hamilton: Yea, I think I will touch more of a diverse crowd. I’ll raise some political eyebrows, and shake up the churches a bit.
James Johnson: You did production work on your first album. Is it the same this time around?
Anthony Hamilton: All of them, to be honest with you. Vocal production. As far as with musical instrumentation, I did about two songs.
James Johnson: I also see that for this first single, you work with Mark Batson again, who of course, helped in the crafting of Charlene. What made you go with him again?
Anthony Hamilton: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
James Johnson: What else can we look for on this new album?
Anthony Hamilton: Just more emotions.
James Johnson: What else is going on in the meantime until the album drops?
Anthony Hamilton: We’re working on it, but we still need to determine dates and so forth.
James Johnson: Well you know we want to see you here in Cleveland again.
Anthony Hamilton: Yea, Cleveland is like another home to me.
James Johnson: Any final thoughts or comments before we go?
Anthony Hamilton: I just want to thank everybody, especially Cleveland, for throwing such a beautiful thing in my life in making music, love, and life. It’s so important. I thank you all for listening to my music. Tell everybody that I send my best!