It’s been really enjoyable to follow the career of Anthony Hamilton over the past two decades. He originally made a name for himself with sad songs like “Charlene” and “Can’t Let Go”, but easily broke out of that stigma and has evolved into one of the legends of his generation.
He hasn’t missed a beat since breaking away from the major label system, starting his own label, and releasing his latest album “Love is the New Black” independently. In fact, 2021 might have just been one of the most successful he’s had in his career with seemingly non stop achievements.
We recently had a chance to catch up with the singer once again for an interview. During our conversation, we touched on everything he’s achieved in 2021, the success of his album “Love Is The New Black”, his upcoming EP with Jermaine Dupri, the top 5 saddest songs he’s released so far, and much more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Looking back on 2021, talk about the accomplishment you are most proud of.
Anthony Hamilton: You know what, coming out of the hospital for two weeks from Covid, I’m so happy to still be here and healthy and still do what I love and see my family. That’s the most amazing accomplishment for me. After that, completing this album and getting it out to the people. It had been five years. The pandemic added on two years. Just being out in the marketplace again.
YouKnowIGotSoul: The new album “Love Is The New Black”, I’m so proud of you that you did it this time around on your own label, My Music Box.
Anthony Hamilton: Thank you, I had to. Sometimes you have to step out on faith and believe in the gift. Not just the music, but the gift of being your own entity and your own business and running your own thing and seeing your dream through. It takes confidence, it takes courage to do it. I’m glad I was able to do it.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We’re so happy to hear that you created the “Love Is The New Black” album to the sound you’re known for. You took it back to the gritty, soul music you’re known for. Talk about going that route.
Anthony Hamilton: I aint gonna lie, being a hip hop head, and a lover of some of the current music, you tend to want to deviate from what you’ve done and try new things, because it’s successful and creativity. I’ve got a few songs I think sonically was going in that direction, but I pulled it back, I said it had been five years. I have one with Jacquees, and I have one with D Smoke and Ty Dolla Sign and a few others. I said you know what, it aint time yet, let me reintroduce Antony Hamilton the proper way and then we’ll start to branch off. I did have a few, one with Rick Ross and one with Lil Jon, which cut the clothe a little different. Just being with the right producers who knew how to make it feel new but still feel old. Like 9th Wonder, like Bink, Kelvin Wooten, all of those amazing guys I worked with. Of course Jermaine Dupri and Manuel Seal. Being in the right company with people who know who I am musically and encourage to stay in the lane I’m in. I’m glad I listened.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I’ll be honest, when I saw the tracklist and saw that Lil’ Jon and Rick Ross were on the album, I did think for a second we may have lost Anthony Hamilton to that newer sound! But after listening, it really sounded like on those songs, you brought those artists into your lane.
Anthony Hamilton: Yes, I absolutely had to do that. My thing is, I don’t want an album to sound like a mixtape. It should be something your fans and the people who supported you, they can really appreciate. If you take them on a little journey, don’t take them too far.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We were so happy to see you link back up with Jermaine Dupri, who originally signed you many years ago. We are also still waiting on that EP you guys were working on.
Anthony Hamilton: Yea that’s still coming. But you know, doing business with BMG, as a businessman, you have to sometimes take care of your obligations, so that you can move further on with the business and show that you are capable of running your own label. So I had to do that, and take my time with being creative outside of what I owe them. We will definitely get back in and finish that project. I’m excited about it. When it comes to the R&B, Jermaine has been doing it for 30 years. So he’s still young at heart and in spirit and his ear is still young, and he’s ahead of he curve. He knows where it’s about to go, and knows what sounds I can do, with the hip hop element and making real songs and music. It’s a win win when you’re with Jermaine Dupri!
YouKnowIGotSoul: It was so exciting to hear about that upcoming tour you will go doing with Maxwell and Joe. It means so much for R&B lovers to see artists of that caliber coming together. Talk about that a bit.
Anthony Hamilton: I think this is a legacy tour. I think it’s one that people can really, really count on us to give them a great quality performance, some of our best songs, and just be exactly, if not better than the album, but exactly what people expect with bells and whistles. I’ve seen both of those guys perform. Joe is no slouch out on the road, he’s incredible. Maxwell is absolutely a monster when it comes to performing as well. I’m in good company. I look forward to taking each city and making it ours, just for the night.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I was thinking back over your career and revisiting your older albums, and it’s easy to consider you a legendary artist when viewed against your peers. How do you view your own legacy?
Anthony Hamilton: I’ve been consistent. I think I’ve been no doubt one of the most consistent when it comes to quality albums and one you can put on from start to finish, and giving quality performances. Just holding the torch for R&B and Soul music, I think I’ve done a great job of making sure it’s highlighted in the best light. I wouldn’t be mad at being celebrated, but if not, I’ll keep working and eventually the celebration will come. I’m excited either way.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about your strategy for promoting your music. I was recently speaking with one of your peers Eric Roberson, and he’s not a big radio guy, but it seems you have the opposite approach and push your singles at radio. Many artists in R&B no longer go that route. Talk about the decision to keep doing so.
Anthony Hamilton: I think all the strategies work hand in hand. I think the grassroots way of going out and telling people, with shaking hands. I do that. I do radio, I definitely still do that. A lot of stuff is on the internet now, so it’s more virtual. I think where radio has gaps, the internet fills that in. Where they all have gaps, word of mouth sort of smooths the cake over. I think they are all very important. People still listen to radio. It’s just that my older fan base, a lot of them are not savvy on the computer, about how to stream and download. It’s too foreign for them. I have a lot of older people who listen to me. A lot of them don’t even know that the album came out. At my last show they were surprised. This tour not only will it be amazing to be back on the road and perform with two amazing guys, I’ll get to put new life into my album that I worked so hard for.
YouKnowIGotSoul: That’s a real problem you bring up, the lack of awareness of fans about new music coming out. It’s not the artists fault, I just wish there were more platforms that would share good R&B music from artists like yourself.
Anthony Hamilton: Absolutely. I think hip hop is everywhere all day, every day. It’s either hip hop or pop. There’s nowhere really for R&B to live with that type of exposure for whatever reason, unless it’s young R&B like H.E.R. Some of those young artists do pretty good. I get a lot of collaborations though, I’m on Drake’s new album, on a song called “Remorse”. I collaborated with a lot of young rappers. I get all of these different looks that keep me out there with my exposure.
YouKnowIGotSoul: One aspect of your career that I love to revisit is how many sad songs you were putting out early in your career. I can really respect how you were able to take your music to such vulnerable places, when many artists would not.
Anthony Hamilton: I think there are more men that are wanting to be open, and vulnerable in the world, and then there are the men that don’t wish they could do it. You want to be able to express yourself. For whatever reason, we shut down. I came in to be the voice for those guys. I’m not sitting around sad. I’m having a good time enjoying life, and I’ve had some heartbreaks and things happen. But I’m a really silly guy, so there’s always going to be a song like “Cool” or “Sista Big Bones”. There’s always something on there, for every “Charlene”, there is something upbeat. But I like to keep a good balance and let men know, if you can’t say it, I’ll say it. Encourage them to just open up. I’ve changed a lot of relationships. I always think if I want do another slow song, but a lot of the world is still suffering. When you’re going through that you need a band aid. So I put out “You Made a Fool of Me”. It’s about being done wrong, but it gives you the energy to say “Not again!”
YouKnowIGotSoul: You even have a song called “Broken Man”, and it doesn’t get more vulnerable than that! We weren’t getting that from many artists like I said.
Anthony Hamilton: Yea, everybody wanted to be ok and super sexy, so somebody had to speak about something, somebody had to pour into the real relationships and what people go through every day. I think there are more people who are willing to learn from it and hear it out and think they could have done things different in their relationship. For me it’s almost like Mary J. Blige, they had her being sad for a long time, even with the hip hop beats, and then she was able to do whatever she wanted.
YouKnowIGotSoul: For fun, we put together a list of your five saddest songs. Of course we have to start with “Charlene.”
Anthony Hamilton: I think people love that song so much now, they throw their hands up, so it started out as heartbreak, but now it’s a jam! It started from a place of transparency.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Another one of your saddest songs is “I’m a Mess”.
Anthony Hamilton: Yes that absolutely is. That’s up there. That was sung at 3 am, so you know what you’re going to get!
YouKnowIGotSoul: Next we have “Never Love Again”, that’s one where it’s like you’ve given up hope of finding love again.
Anthony Hamilton: Yeah that is one. It’s like men, when they get hurt, you never want to try it again, so you think you’ll never do it again. But that’s a beautiful sad song, it just sounds so good. I didn’t even sing that in the booth, I sung that facing the speakers at the control board, I never went into the booth.
YouKnowIGotSoul: “Can’t Let Go” is another one, one of your early singles, and just speaking to willing to concede so much in a relationship just to make it work. The last one is “Pray For Me”, where you’re just hoping for divine intervention!
Anthony Hamilton: Yeah, you’re just so far gone, you are saying only the Lord can save you!
YouKnowIGotSoul: It was great though when you came out with “Cool” as the first single on your third album. A more uptempo single after leading your first two albums with sad songs. That put your artistry in a new light.
Anthony Hamilton: Absolutely. You have to. You don’t want people running off the bridge saying you’re too deep! You have to keep a good balance. I did “Sista Big Bones”, speaking about full figured women. “Sucka For You”, a lot of songs that are more lighthearted and upbeat.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Aside from the upcoming tour, tell us about any other upcoming plans you have coming up.
Anthony Hamilton: There’s an artist that I really like a lot, JxHines, we’re just going back and forth with the paperwork and getting the contracts and getting everybody really comfortable with this new relationship. I’m excited about taking him on and showing the world what he has to offer. He’s an incredible artist, I can’t wait. There’s a few other artists I’ve seen and heard, I’m trying to wait to see them get up to the level of preparation he’s taken himself to.
YouKnowIGotSoul: So you’ll be signing artists and developing them at your label, that’s exciting to hear.
Anthony Hamilton: Signing artists, developing them, showing them the ropes, just giving them a platform and creating some new legends. The EP with Jermaine Dupri is coming sometime at the top of the year. It may be right after the tour. We have a lot of it done. We just have to go in and finish about five more songs and we’ll be out of there.