Anthony Hamilton: Something Other Than

Anthony Hamilton’s music sounds like it could be emanating from some off-road juke joint in the heart of Georgia – a place smoldering with fried catfish, collard greens and enough Southern drawl to make any Yankee fall in love with the ambience. His old soul sound has been interplayed with some of the hottest Hip-Hop […]

Anthony Hamilton’s music sounds like it could be emanating from some off-road juke joint in the heart of Georgia – a place smoldering with fried catfish, collard greens and enough Southern drawl to make any Yankee fall in love with the ambience. His old soul sound has been interplayed with some of the hottest Hip-Hop artists, including Nappy Roots’ breakout hit “Po Folks”, “Thugz Mansion” by Tupac, as well as other hooks with Ying Yang Twins, Jadakiss and Xzibit.

Anyone familiar with his Platinum-plus Comin’ From Where I’m From knows about Hamilton’s sit-you-down-at-his-knee style of storytelling. After an album of early-recorded, misguided songs called Soulife was released mid-2005, fans wondered if something might be amiss with the singer on his sophomore effort.

In actuality, Hamilton hasn’t missed a step when it comes to bringing the country to the ears of the masses. He released Ain’t Nobody Worryin’ in December 2005, receiving instant acclaim for the album, and assuring fans that he knows exactly where he’s coming from. Anthony Hamilton sat down with Alternatives to discuss his life as a barber, his life as a singer and his life outside of it all. Alternatives: First off, tell me about the new album. How is it different from your first album?

Anthony Hamilton: Well, I want people to see the growth, the transitions in my life and how I’ve matured. Musically, I’m pretty much working with the same cats and we’ve all matured, so we took it to the next level. I added more horns and certain things to the album that I didn’t have on the last one.

AHHA: Where you worried about the sophomore jinx?

Anthony: Naw, you can’t get wrapped up and worried about that stuff.

AHHA: I heard that you used to be a barber…

Anthony: Yeah, I’m still a barber.

AHHA: How did you go from cutting hair to singing?

Anthony: That’s just who I’ve been for most of my life. It was easy for me to make the transition…in the barber shop I would sing. And while I’m singing, I’ll be cutting hair. You know how maybe you went to school, you played soccer, you played football and did all these things but it come from one person.

AHHA: Do you still cut hair?

Anthony: Oh yeah.

AHHA: How much do you charge?

Anthony: Right now, I wouldn’t charge you too much…about ten dollars.

AHHA: Your music is heavily Soul-based, but we’ve seen you with a lot of Hip-Hop artists. How does that fusion work out?

Anthony: The Hip-Hop cats come to me with a song that’s Soul-based, so when they hear a track or have a song that’s calling for a certain kind of voice, they know to call on Dr. Hamilton, and I’ll be there in a hurry. I love Hip-Hop. I grew up with Run DMC, they’re my favorite, Public Enemy…so for me not to identify with that anymore, that would be phony. I’m from the Hip-Hop age, how can I not stand up for Hip-Hop? Hip-Hop and me go hand in hand. Rap songs have put me in a place to where some cats wouldn’t come, you know, to see me. They put me in the likes of Jadakiss, Nappy Roots, Ying Yang Twins, The Game. When people get a chance to hear me there, it’s for people who wouldn’t go to an R&B concert at all, so it broadens my audience a lot.

AHHA: Is there a type of artist or song you wouldn’t work with?

Anthony: Anything disrespecting women or anything negative, I wouldn’t want to be a part of.

AHHA: How important is it to you to represent Southern culture in your music?

Anthony: It’s very important to let the kids coming up know that we walked the same streets. I want to hear somebody say, “Wow, this guy was down for his, so why shouldn’t I be?” As an artist I believe in myself, and where I started. So how can I say I’m this Southern cat, and I was influenced by Southern music but I’m not going to talk about where I’m from.

AHHA: It is interesting that there are so many R&B/Soul singers that only make baby-making music. So how do you fit in and make a name for yourself when that isn’t your sole priority?

Anthony: I think there is an audience of people who really want to hear something other than just sex. There are people who go to church and are trying to live a Christian life. And we need people to balance out life. There are people who are trying to grow up and mature and enjoy life, you know. And there are adults and responsible people, so it’s music for them. Then we all get a little rowdy, so there’s a little Rap.

AHHA: People think of Jermaine Dupri as a Pop/R&B producer, so how do you work with him and develop the kind of organic sound that you have?

Anthony: Pretty much, I’m hand on with everything. For this album, I didn’t get a chance to work with Jermaine at all. For the first album, he did only one song, which was “Mama Knew Love”. He pretty much lets me handle the music. I’m pretty much self-contained with the music and the writing, so I know my audience, and he knows that I know them. I do whatever it is musically I want.

AHHA: What’s your favorite song on the new album?

Anthony: “Ain’t Nobody Worrying” is one of my favorites, because it talks about something other than myself or relationships. It talks about real life and things that are apparent on the surface that you just can’t deny. School, education, welfare, denying single parents rights to assistance…AIDS is still no joke. We think about AIDS when somebody dies or somebody gets it who we know who’s famous. It has touched the lives of so many people, like Eazy-E and Magic [Johnson]. A friend that I went to school with just passed away from AIDS, so it’s real and so close. You never know. The last five women I looked at and thought, “She’s nice looking, with a nice body and a nice style about herself” could have AIDS. It doesn’t wear a uniform.

AHHA: I hear that your write a lot of music. Do you have a certain ritual when you write?

Anthony: I can write anywhere. I just have to have inspiration…the moment has to arrive. You never know when, you just have to have that inspiration.

AHHA: Do you think of your music as Neo-Soul?

Anthony: You know I don’t think of my music as Neo-Soul. It’s good music.

AHHA: Do you think Neo-Soul is over?

Anthony: No, Neo-Soul is not a bad thing. I think Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and Floetry bring a new twist to music. But mine, there ain’t nothing new about it besides me. They’ve created a sound, something different than the norm.

AHHA: You had an album come out earlier this year…

Anthony: Soulife – that was some older material from Soulife/Atlantic Records. I wasn’t too happy about it because I thought it was an attempt to cash in on second album sales.

AHHA: When it came out, I don’t remember hearing a lot about it.

Anthony: I didn’t really promote it because I would have been sued. When you’re in a contract, you’re in a contract.

AHHA: So that was something they went behind your back and released?

Anthony: Yeah, we came to some agreements. I went in and listened to the songs. Trey Songz is on one of them, and that’s not how I wrote it. He is very talented, but he didn’t belong on the song. Also they put in some musicians…the musicians were good and it didn’t sound bad, but it didn’t sound like how it should have. I had the right musicians play it like I heard it originally, which made more sense. But we came to an agreement, and I just didn’t sing on anything.

AHHA: Your very first release was called XTC?

Anthony: And they spelled it horribly. I hated that. That will never happen again. I never been the one on that cliched thing…

AHHA: What does that album sound like?

Anthony: That’s a really good one. I’ll be glad when that one’s heard.

AHHA: What was your favorite album of 2005?

Anthony: Dave Matthews Band’s album is one. John Legend had a good album. Oh man, Damian Marley, Welcome to Jamrock. He shut it down. It’s amazing…it’s a masterpiece.

AHHA: What has been your favorite song?

Anthony: “Charlene” was definitely one of my favorite songs. I love that song. I wouldn’t be mad if it came out today.