We recently caught up with Anthony Hamilton for an interview on Instagram Live. During our conversation, we touched on his new label My Music Box, being an independent artist, his new single “Back Together” featuring Rick James, what to expect on his upcoming album, signing with Andre Harrell at Uptown Records, signing with Jermaine Dupri at So So Def, and his first book “Cornbread, Fish & Collared Greens”. Unfortunately, the interview cut off near the end due to issues with Instagram, so we were unable to capture his full response about his book.
Anthony Hamilton: I just did an online protest with Bernice King, Dr. Martin Luther King’s daughter. It was very powerful. Making sure people know what’s going on and use this moment to push the agenda the right way. Just singing and doing stuff at my home and loving my kids all day, every day. Just building myself up in a different way and trying to see things past where we are now to be ready for it. That’s been really great. Just being able to have a voice outside of just singing.
YouKnowIGotSoul: It’s exciting how you’ve grown into one of the top stars in R&B, and now you’re an independent artist with your own label My Music Box. Talk about that feeling.
Anthony Hamilton: You work so hard and you start to believe that you need a big major label and the machine behind you. They are necessary at a certain point in your life. But there is a point where it’s time to step out on your own and own it and have the rights to your own stuff. To have my own label and to be able to put out new artists that I believe have it, that’s the most exciting part of it as well.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You’ve been in the major label system for many years now, is it scary at all to step out on your own?
Anthony Hamilton: Not now. I’m ready! I think a couple of years prior to this would have been different. I would have had more hesitation. Now I have the right people helping me run it. I’m aware, I’m open, remember a lot that I went through and that made my career happen and the things that kept it from going where it needed to go. I think I have enough knowledge and wisdom now to help guide some younger artists to who need to come under the right leadership.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Another thing you’ve got going for you is your live show and how you’re always able to pack out performances.
Anthony Hamilton: That’s one thing I know. If you come to see me, I’m going to give you the business! I learned that being on tour with D’Angelo and singing background for him. Seeing how impactful music is and how people really come there needing something to leave with. I want to make sure they get it. I’m going to fill your bag up when you come my show!
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about the new single you have out “Back Together” featuring Rick James.
Anthony Hamilton: I was in the studio with 9th Wonder in Durham, and it was about 2:30 in the morning and we had did about 3 songs that night. I had my backpack on it, it was kinda cold, it was time to leave. Then he kept at it, and he played this “Fire and Desire”. I heard it and I put my bag down. I immediately went into the booth and I started freestyling that first line. I thought it couldn’t be a better setup. I went with it and I decided I wanted to feature Rick James and have that keep going through the whole song. I waited to put it out a little later so that I could have the rights to say featuring Rick James. I felt like he was deserving of it, and he’s one of my favorites. It just made it more special. I want to present him to the world and to people who don’t know him and celebrate him. I’m excited about it, it feels good.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Tell us about your new album you’re working on.
Anthony Hamilton: It’s a beautiful album. I’ve got a lot of uptempos and feel good songs. I’ve got Mary J. Blige vibes from her “My Life” and “What’s the 411?”. That vibe is missing, Mary had a thing back in the early 90’s and she still has it. But when she came out with that, I wanted to capture some of that. I wanted to make it really grown and where it seeps into your bones. I wanted it to be musical oxygen and just feed it to the people. I’ve got one with Rick Ross, actually the main one that feels like that Mary kinda vibe, it’s featuring Rick Ross. I’ve got Jacquees, I’ve got Ty Dolla $ign and D Smoke, Rapsody. There are a lot of features. I’m not going to feature out the whole album, and it still feels like Anthony Hamilton, I know that’s important to my fans. I did it in a way to where it doesn’t disturb the groove. Whatever doesn’t make this album will be on the next one or some soundtracks. They’ll be still used, but they are powerful. One is called “White Hennessy”. “Pillows Where I Bury My Secrets”. Yea, I’m back.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Andre Harrell recently passed, and he is someone you linked up with early in your career on Uptown Records. What do you remember most about him?
Anthony Hamilton: That was my first record deal. Jodeci is one of my favorite groups, hands down forever. K-Ci and JoJo and me, we are cousins. I think Fantasia is related to me as well, I know she is related to them. To be on a label with my favorite group, I thought it can’t be real. Then I opened for them. To be there with all of these amazing guys who are executives now, I learned so much. If you can make it at Uptown, it was like so raw. Andre was an amazing visionary and big personality, a lot of fun and fly. I had some of the best meals hanging out with those guys, either in the Hamptons or Uptown or The Bronx. I didn’t know The Bronx had so many real Italian Restaurants! It was just a great label. There was no other place I’d rather be.
YouKnowIGotSoul: The amazing thing about your story is that even though you had a few deals that didn’t work out, and your debut album “XTC” wasn’t what it was supposed to be, you never gave up. Talk about the grind of never giving up.
Anthony Hamilton: That grind is real, it has some texture to it, kind of hurts some time! If you’ve ever fallen down and scraped your knee, it burns sometimes. You get up, you dust the wheels off and get back on it. I learned a lot. It takes patience for something great to happen. You have to keep putting in work. Just because you think you’re ready, sometimes God has to make sure you’re ready. Appreciate that part of it. That created a hunger in me, that instant fame and success wouldn’t have given me. I wouldn’t have sang the way I did or had the relationships I went through. It took the heart and twisted it. All of it made the fabric that people love and hear. I wouldn’t undo it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Love your humble spirit!
Anthony Hamilton: This is me all day, every day. I’ve been the same, have got the same friends. It’s just music, it shouldn’t make me any different than I was before I got success.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What was the turning point to where you got your record deal to put out the “Comin From Where I’m From” album?
Anthony Hamilton: From Uptown, I went to Harrell Entertainment, Andre had another situation with Sony, that didn’t work out. From there, I went to Soul Life, where Sunshine Anderson “Heard It All Before” was fire. I was about to come out with my album, and I got a call from D’Angelo, and went on tour with him. I came back from that and that deal fell apart. I was on Atlantic, met up with Nappy Roots, I started putting out stuff. Then after that, I was left homeless again without a real deal. I was invited to Londell McMillan’s Grammy Brunch. I sang “Comin From Where I’m From”, I was introduced on stage by Isaac Hayes! So I’m sitting backstage and Kimora Lee was just staring at me, I acted like I didn’t see it because I was shy. At this point I had just started growing out my beard and I had on my trucker hat and this flannel shirt with the lining in it and these jeans and boots. She came to me and said I had a nice look. I went on stage and sang the song like it was on my last lung. Jermaine Dupri’s father was in the audience, Michael Mauldin. He pulled me to the side and said he had somebody he wanted me to meet. He let me talk to Jermaine for a minute and then we set up a meeting. Jermaine heard the music like “Charlene” and all of these songs from the album that Atlantic didn’t hear. He said this was it. He made me sing live to make sure it was me singing like that on the tracks. He introduced me to L.A. Reid. He told me to sing for him also. They were blown away. I was hungry and knew I had to make it. I did a showcase at SOB’s in New York. At that moment, Jermaine had already signed me in his mind and verbally. I was also talking to Jimmy Iovine at the time as well. But there was just something so amazing about So So Def/Artista at the time. L.A. Reid wanted me to put on a suit and shave my hair and clean up, but JD said nah, this was my look, and it makes sense. He saw the vision. I was tired of putting on monkey suits! Let’s go with it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You co-wrote “U Know What’s Up” for Donell Jones. How did that come about?
Anthony Hamilton: That was another gift that was given to me at a time when I was at my lowest point. I was invited to write with Bilal and Chris Lighty. I was invited to come co-write with them, and it became the first single, so Thank God I was a part of that. I actually co-wrote the new single for Kem “Lie to Me”.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What’s been your favorite collaboration so far?
Anthony Hamilton: I’ll name a few. The duet with Al Green, which I won a Grammy for. “Po Folks” with Nappy Roots, I love those guys. “So in Love” with Jill Scott was amazing as well. “Why” with Jadakiss, that one was really powerful. All of them are so special, they came at different times and meant something different.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What was the experience like touring and doing background vocals with D’Angelo?
Anthony Hamilton: I saw so much of the world, from Brazil, to Germany, to all over Europe. Seeing the caliber of musicians he had, Roy Hargrove, James Poyser, Questlove. I met Bilal, he was singing backgrounds for D’Angelo as well. I learned about what a great band and singers and musicians sound like. I got my masters degree doing that! He was such a great leader, it pushed me. When I got the call, I was a little intimidated. Listening to his music, it had a lot of moving parts and intricate things. At the moment, I didn’t feel like I could retain the information and give it back. It made me a believer, I can do it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Because of your greatness, it’s hard to imagine you even singing backgrounds for anyone!
Anthony Hamilton: And I had no problem in the back. I felt like I was right where I needed to be at. I felt like this was making me better. Sometimes you have to invest in somebody else to get to where you’re going. There is lessons in those moments and there is golden nuggets that are very valuable that you get when you connect with somebody else who is greater. I had access to all of that, even some relationships I still have now. I met everybody. Prince, first time going to his house. Meeting Chaka Khan for the first time. I met everybody being around him, he was a big deal and still is. We miss you, I hope he’s watching. I would love to get into the studio with him and make music with him.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You recently released your first book as an author, tell us about that.
Anthony Hamilton: “Cornbread, Fish & Collared Greens”. It goes behind the music, tells my story, tells the stories of how the song came about and the life it took to create these moments and this material. Where it all started, grandma’s house. It symbolizes a lot in my life. Corn bread is solid, it’s the stability. Fish is the serenity and ability to maneuver through life. Collared greens is the soul from the earth and family and the love it gives. I’m happy to have that extension of who I am. It made sense at the time, I hadn’t put out an album in a minute, but I still had a lot of my fans still coming to my shows. It was a gift, something a little deeper. I’m glad I did it, it’s really raw