•He spent a lot of time with his maternal grandmother, who got him his first singing gig in a church choir at 7 years old.
•Hamilton is using his influence to shed light on the harsh realities behind some of America's most unfathomable injustices.
Growing up in Charlotte, a city in North Carolina, USA, Grammy-award-winning singer and neo-soul music sensation Anthony Hamilton reminds us that the grain of a committed journeyman’s voice conveys a sense of loss in a way that geniuses are too busy chasing transcendence to capture.
In his Album, “Coming Where am From” which was released on September 23, 2003, and has sold more than 75 million albums worldwide, he says that his inspiration is usually things he has gone through in life.
“Sometimes am like, I have gone through that and I think it is over until the music starts to play, and I’m like, ‘Wow, I did go through that!’ ” he told Charlotte Magazine during an interview.
Hamilton attributes his music and growth to his hometown where it all began. An experience he says is part of his music today.
The church and school journey
Hamilton’s childhood was not easy. His mother struggled to provide for him and his brother and sister, and his father was not around much.
So he spent a lot of time with his maternal grandmother, who got him his first singing gig in a church choir.
“There was a lot of influences from my church, Macedonia Baptist Church in Mount Holly,” he said during an interview with DJVlad.
“I remember joining the choir at around 7 years old. I was not ready but I had to sing because I was chosen for the lead role and my grandma did not give me any choice, (he laughs) I wasn’t really the way in, and I was still shy.”’
It was after joining South Mecklenburg high school, that Hamilton’s music director called Mark Setzer, and his wife helped him perfect his vocal application, breathing techniques, and warmups which boosted his confidence.
At 14 years old, he started writing his own songs, a craft he perfected with time.
Growing up in a Christian family, Hamilton would write both gospel and secular music, but the gospel was mostly encouraged. He loved writing love songs, but the pressure to write gospel music grew as he grew up.
“God could surely use you,” “I can’t wait for you to do your gospel album”, The pressure was building up but I told myself when God tells me to do a gospel album, that is when am going to do them but until then, am going to keep doing love songs,” he said.
“I often go through a lot of pressure of people wanting me to behave in a certain way or be like a certain person, but I do not let people define who I am.”
While trying to get his hustle up, Hamilton spent much of 1990 trying to be heard.
He would in fact sing everywhere he went. Although he joined a local barbershop in his hometown to cut hair, he says that that was not his first love.
“I was a hometown hero, but I felt something was missing. I felt like I was destined for much greater success,” he said.
He strived to cut hair in order to save up some coins that would take him to New York, (Concrete jungle (yeah) where dreams are made of) his main goal, to be heard.
At this time his family was struggling to make ends meet, Hamilton recalls how his mother “used to wipe pee just to make the ends meet” on “Mama Knew Love”.
“Mom I'm gonna struggle with ya
I'm gonna help you see the bigger picture
You gave me something no one can take away
You make it so easy to say
I love you, mama”
Mama knew love - Anthony Hamilton - 2003
Moving to New York.
Determined to make it work at all costs, and with only 67 dollars in his pocket saved from cutting hair, Hamilton says had to sacrifice a lot for his music career.
“When we went to New York with my friends, in the ’90s, I was still a kid. So we had someone rent us a car. Which we would sleep in and sometimes we would sleep at the studio making music in Broadway,” he said.
He spent 11 years between Charlotte and New York, singing in the barber shop, and performing in showcases but his records kept falling through.
“We snuck on several tour buses, Jodeci, Boyz II Men. In 1994, I got signed with Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records (where Puff Daddy and Mary J. Blige got their starts). But Uptown folded the next year before my album was released, but I was turned down three times,” he told Charlotte magazine.
Hamilton had it hard in New York, according to his mother, Pearl Hamilton, it seemed like everybody was turning him down, but she remembered his childhood, and she knew he would make it.
“I knew he was going to be a singer because when he was a kid he would walk around the kitchen table with a spoon or a spatula, singing into it like it was a microphone,” she says.
“He would even sing himself to sleep."
For the culture
After signing the contract, he started singing background vocals for artists and that is when his career took off after he met legends like 2Pac, AI and other artists.
He was first introduced to mainstream audiences with his singing of the chorus of Nappy Roots 2002 single "Po' Folks" which earned a Grammy Award nomination for "Best Rap/Sung Collaboration" in 2003.
In 2003 he released his “Coming From Where I Am From” which has peeked since, and gave him a breakthrough.
Though Hamilton’s music has brought people of various races under one roof all across the globe, an immense amount of change is necessary to begin the process of healing and progression.
Drawing inspiration from 2Pac, Hamilton believes change looks like having more opportunities to receive the best education, experiencing true peace of mind no matter where one walks, and applying for a bank loan without being denied despite meeting the qualifications.
He sees that using our voices as an instrument for change. Throughout his nearly two-decade career, his lyrics have served as the soundtrack behind some of the most intense emotions people around the world experience daily.
The fight for social justice is an ongoing, uphill battle led by past, present and future generations. Whether one is a musician or not, Hamilton encourages all to use their voice to rebel against the racism that has plagued the black community for centuries.
“ “Coming From Where I Am From” is just that song and album for me. It’s the first song that came out at the point of my career when I was tired and fed up. I needed to be heard, that’s my once upon a time. Remember it takes time but it’s paying at the end of it all. People want something real, something that will make them feel good.”Hamilton says.
But with the recent tragedy of George Floyd's death and the resurgence of conversations surrounding police brutality, Hamilton is using his influence to shed light on the harsh realities behind some of America's most unfathomable injustices.
“I’m just like the guy next door. I’m not perfect. I’m not on a pedestal. It wasn’t easy to get to where I’m at, but now I’m here and I’m very fortunate. If you see me on the street, speak. If you don’t like my music, speak anyway. I might just need somebody to talk to that day.” he advises.
"Be creative; don’t be afraid to be different; don’t be afraid to be yourself 100 %. I have done it and am stuck with it. It takes a little time, but if you stick with it and it’s something people want to connect with, do it."
Lord lift me over the hurt and pain Deliver me from the rain See I don't wanna stress over stress no more
Performing in Kenya
Having performed in Kenya for the first time in 2013, at the Tusker Lite experience, he is making a comeback and will headline Stanbic Yetu Festival on July 30th, 2022 at the Carnivore grounds in Nairobi.
This has been made possible after a partnership of Stanbic Bank and Radio Africa Group.
This will be the second edition of the Stanbic Yetu Festival concert which will be graced by local artists including Otile Brown, June Gachui, and The Motown.
The concert will also showcase some of the best Kenyan old and new Soul Dj’s including DJ Pinye, DJ Stylez and DJ Forro.
The tickets are available at all Stanbic Bank Branches and on this link: www.ticketsasa.com.
Regular tickets go for 8000, Couples Tickets 14,000 while VIP tickets are only 15,000.
In the partnership, the lender is looking to leverage music to bring to life Stanbic’s brand promise “It Can Be” and create a soulful and magical live musical experience in Kenya.