The Soul Seen is a retrospective of features that appeared on ISPYSOUL during its acclaimed initial run. These features provide a snapshot in time of key moments in the careers, from fledgling to legendary, of several creative and talented artists. The projects featured are older now, but no less significant. The insights and perspectives they shared, speak to their success and as you will find still resonate today.
Just prior to his 2003, platinum – selling release, Comin’ From Where I’m From, I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing the talented singer/songwriter, Anthony Hamilton. I remember right from the start feeling I’d known the soulful crooner like he was one of my homies from years back, catching up on what’s been going on in his life. It was indeed due in great part to his amiable personality, this is true, ( Upon letting him know of my looking forward to the CD’s release he enthusiastically responded, “Me and you both! You get it first you call me. We’re gonna ride in your car and listen to it.”), but it was also because of the voice that delivered his words with a wisdom-laced, down-home flow reminiscent of your favorite uncle from down south – a voice and tone that belied his years, heavy with experience, but full of life – a voice that has now captured a ton of industry respect, a legion of fans and oh yeah, a host of awards including a Grammy to boot. Its been a successful career still going strong with Billboard hits like “Charlene”, “Can’t Let Go”, “The Point of It All” and more for himself and a host of hot collabs with Jill Scott, Jadakiss, Nappy Roots, Angie Stone and 2Pac. His story is one many aspiring artists should hear and one many successful artists have themselves lived – Its about perseverance, timing, peaks and valleys, being yourself, believing in yourself, working on being the best you can be and most importantly faith. Here’s a look back.
WAITING NO MORE
If anyone has encountered the rollercoaster ride that is the music business, it’s singer/songwriter, Anthony Hamilton. Since charting the course north to the Big Apple from his Charlotte, North Carolina digs in 1993, Hamilton has over and again risen to the awareness of keen ears who set the “star-making” wheels in motion only to have them come to a screeching halt in the wake of the chronic, industry shifts and woes. But in a rich tone seasoned with a grit and time-honed wisdom that belies his relative young years, Hamilton, who now calls Harlem, NY his home, simply puts his rocky journey in perspective. “In the past, it was the past and it wasn’t my turn totally,” says Hamilton. “It was my turn to taste it and to view it up close, but it wasn’t my turn to really, really, really do it yet.” But the stars have all finally aligned perfectly for Hamilton who has persevered on the wings of faith and strength of his talent to deliver one the most anticipated debuts this year, Coming From Where I’m From. And he’s not at all worried of the prospect of history repeating itself. “I’m not [worried] at all because it’s just so right, right now.”
The long road to Hamilton’s new found fame which includes writing songs for artists like R&B vocalist Donell Jones (“You Know What’s Up), droppin’ vocals on cuts from rappers like 2pac (“Thug Mansion”) and jazz trumpeter, Roy Hargrove as well as backing up soul crooner, D’Angelo on his worldwide Voodoo tour, was significantly lined with signs toward the right opportunity when his perfect hook appeared on the rap group, Nappy Root’s Grammy nominated hit, “Po Folk’s”. In short, that ultimately led to a chance to perform in front of industry brass at a Grammy event, which in turn brought him to the doorstep of producer and So So Def head, Jermaine Dupri and as they say the rest is history. For Hamilton the difference between this situation and the ones in the past are clear. “What makes it different now is that it’s working. The doors are open”, he says with a noticeable excitement. “I don’t have to fight so hard to be heard. People are putting the loud speakers up for me now and chanting, ‘you’ve got to hear this cat.’ And adds, “I’ve got the surround sound set up for me now.”
Indeed speakers around the country are no doubt pumping tracks from the new release, in particular, the first single and title track, “Coming From Where I’m From.” This cut, like all the rest, serve as views of life or love’s peaks and valleys sans rose-colored glasses due in large part to Hamilton’s unfeigned lyrics and blues-infused voice that whiffs of classic soul singers of the 60s and early 70’s. He himself describes the CD as “definitely a trip down memory lane.”
Adding, “not even just for me, but also for people [in general]. Because I’ve seen other lives and other paths through these eyes as well and I had to talk about it.” The twelve-track set offers amongst others, a poignant portrait of a mother’s unending devotion to her child with “Mama Knew Love”, a wonderfully reworked version of the
country hit “Lucille” made famous by singer Kenny Rogers whose idyllic beauty is in stark contrast to it’s affectinglyrics, and the sensual gem “Float”.
Because of the throwback, soulful tone of Hamilton many are quick to neatly place him in the newly constructed box called neo-soul. And although there are qualities he notes, that are a part of his music that should be inherent to what soul music is all about, he also feels there’s a distinguishable difference between him and others. “It’s more me, says Hamilton. “It’s not trended out to where you get lost in just a style, writing or singing style. This shit right here is raw. It’s real! And it vibrates different.” He continues, “[My music] is not compressed in one feeling. You get a whole journey of freedom. It allows you to feel. It allows you to be happy. It allows you to cry, laugh. So I think you get free when you listen to my music.” And he makes this point, “Some music nowadays is so trying to be something, that they miss the whole point to put life in it.”
Anthony Hamilton has waiting nearly all his life for an opportunity like this and now, the wait is over.
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Below are audio excerpts from that interview with Anthony Hamilton: