Anthony Hamiltons 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 Im From knows about Hamiltons 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 hasnt missed a step when it comes to bringing the country to the ears of the masses. He released Aint Nobody Worryin in December 2005, receiving instant acclaim for the album, and assuring fans that he knows exactly where hes coming from. Anthony Hamilton sat down with AllHipHop.com Alternatives to discuss his life as a barber, his life as a singer and his life outside of it all.
AllHipHop.com 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 Ive matured. Musically, Im pretty much working with the same cats and weve all matured, so we took it to the next level. I added more horns and certain things to the album that I didnt have on the last one.
AHHA: Where you worried about the sophomore jinx?
Anthony: Naw, you cant get wrapped up and worried about that stuff.
AHHA: I heard that you used to be a barber
Anthony: Yeah, Im still a barber.
AHHA: How did you go from cutting hair to singing?
Anthony: Thats just who Ive been for most of my life. It was easy for me to make the transition in the barber shop I would sing. And while Im singing, Ill 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 wouldnt charge you too much about ten dollars.
AHHA: Your music is heavily Soul-based, but weve 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 thats Soul-based, so when they hear a track or have a song thats calling for a certain kind of voice, they know to call on Dr. Hamilton, and Ill be there in a hurry. I love Hip-Hop. I grew up with Run DMC, theyre my favorite, Public Enemy so for me not to identify with that anymore, that would be phony. Im 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 wouldnt 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, its for people who wouldnt 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 wouldnt work with?
Anthony: Anything disrespecting women or anything negative, I wouldnt want to be a part of.
AHHA: How important is it to you to represent Southern culture in your music?
Anthony: Its 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 shouldnt I be? As an artist I believe in myself, and where I started. So how can I say Im this Southern cat, and I was influenced by Southern music but Im not going to talk about where Im 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 isnt 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 its music for them. Then we all get a little rowdy, so theres 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, Im hand on with everything. For this album, I didnt 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. Im 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: Whats your favorite song on the new album?
Anthony: Aint 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 cant 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 whos 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 its real and so close. You never know. The last five women I looked at and thought, Shes nice looking, with a nice body and a nice style about herself could have AIDS. It doesnt 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 dont think of my music as Neo-Soul. Its 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 aint nothing new about it besides me. Theyve 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 wasnt too happy about it because I thought it was an attempt to cash in on second album sales.
AHHA: When it came out, I dont remember hearing a lot about it.
Anthony: I didnt really promote it because I would have been sued. When youre in a contract, youre 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 thats not how I wrote it. He is very talented, but he didnt belong on the song. Also they put in some musicians the musicians were good and it didnt sound bad, but it didnt 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 didnt 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: Thats a really good one. Ill be glad when that ones heard.
AHHA: What was your favorite album of 2005?
Anthony: Dave Matthews Bands album is one. John Legend had a good album. Oh man, Damian Marley, Welcome to Jamrock. He shut it down. Its amazing its a masterpiece.
AHHA: What has been your favorite song?
Anthony: Charlene was definitely one of my favorite songs. I love that song. I wouldnt be mad if it came out today.