Blavity: Can you give us some background on your career?Anthony Hamilton: Well, I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina, a country boy. I had a big dream from [when I was] a baby to make it big in the music industry and then I finally got a chance to go to New York with some guys. Mark Sparks and I landed my first record deal in ‘93, but it wasn’t until 2003 that my first release came out on So So Def/Arista with Jermaine Dupri. Prior to that, I had a few fallen deals, three or four deals that fell through the cracks and um, from there I’ve just been working — writing and touring. Everything’s been working out since 2003.
B: Great! Thank you for that background. One of the reasons why I wanted to interview you is because I see you as one of the few male R&B singers who continues to sing about love and romance. To me, you represent the celebration of black love. What is it that drives your music?AH: I think passion — being passionate about life, love and people fuels me to write the best things, the truest things... and love. Love itself, whether it’s feeling the loss, love loss or feeling love’s gain. It’s all powerful and contributes to the process.
B: So, how do you feel about the state of R&B now?AH: I feel like it’s interesting I think there’s a lot of talent nowadays in R&B. I think it’s interesting. There’s a lack of passion and dating in the lyrics (chuckling), there’s no dating in the lyrics. It’s too sexual. I believe it’s too sexual. There’s nothing left to the imagination when it comes to dating and passion, you know. But that comes with maturity. There’s a lot of young cats making music who haven’t experienced love. I think the main drive now is popularity, popularity and financial gain as opposed to social and spiritual growth. Like Earth, Wind & Fire and Stevie Wonder. They were giving you some good spiritual food in their music. Nowadays it’s just, “Let’s meet at the club. Let’s get high. Let’s have sex and I’ll holler at you.”
B: I agree! The spiritual aspect is gone from our music. It’s almost like the men, the women too in some instances, but it’s almost like the men equate love — deep love — with weakness.AH: Yeah, I do believe that. I think to be vulnerable is not to be weak but it’s actually a beautiful thing when you can allow your heart to live free. It takes a real man to not have sex before he knows it’s right. Those are the real men, the ones who have strong integrity.
B: Thank you for speaking to that. There has been a lot of social heat brewing within the last, I'll say 10 years since Hurricane Katrina and then followed up with the many killings of black people by the police. You have six children, all boys. How does all of this affect your artistry, if at all?AH: You want to speak about it. You want to let people know that it’s real. It’s definitely real. We’re living in a time now that I thought we’d be far past. There’s still that deep-rooted segregation in our hearts and people still really want a white America, and it’s not gon’ happen. We’ve been living too long. There’s a lot of injustice with the killing of young blacks and nobody is to be blamed. I mean, we do it to ourselves too, but still… When there are people of authority who take advantage and nobody gets reprimanded then the system is totally against us.
B: Do you feel as an artist that it is your social responsibility to speak to it?AH: You have a choice. You have freedom of speech. The fact that I have a louder voice than a lot of people, I think morally and spiritually speaking, yeah, I’m supposed to do something and say something, call out and let the people know, “Look, I know we’re being blinded with Trump and the buffoonery and the clown fests going on, but what’s really happening is they’re trying to kill us so be aware.”
B: On your new album, your songs, the way that I heard them at least, make a lot of, I don’t know if I want to say biblical references, but growing up in the church I’m familiar with a lot of your phrases. Some of the phrases you use to describe your relationships with and how you relate to women are very interesting to me. You know, you say things like, “You cover me, you heal me” and your new song says she got you saying 'Amen,' which is also the title. What’s your perspective of women?AH: I think women are powerful! I think they’re natural healers, lovers, resilient. I think women have the ability to bounce back a lot more than men. They have this innate ability just to be strong, to be so strong, so mighty when things are really bad. I think a lot of men would probably crack under pressure. I think women are gifts, they’re beautiful. They should be cherished. We all fall short of being our best selves and therefore leave people hurt and mistreated at times, but that’s my real feeling about women.
B: Tell our Blavity readers, those who are fans and those just getting to know you and your artistry, what you want them to know about you.AH: I’m a man who loves people, life, travel and I’ve been through a lot. I’ve been adopted. I’ve been through a series of events and I still remain strong and I still have a passion to heal. I’m a great father. I’m a great barber. I love music, fashion, cooking, travel, walking, and uh, yeah… I’m slightly introverted but I’m very outgoing (chuckles)... Aquarius to the bone, baby!
B: What do you want to be most known for?AH: As a healer.
B: What is your creative process?AH: Well, you know from being an artist yourself that things change. Each creative process has its own beginning and ending, the way you approach it is different. It depends on where you are. If you’re in a place and the music is already there then you listen to the music and see what the music is saying and then you try to be honest with the music and whatever story it’s telling you, you help capture it. So I think that each time I write a song, it’s different. There are moments when I’m in a groove and the music and the process is coming along pretty well and I end up with four songs because it’s like, okay, I’m in a groove now. Listen to the music, write what you’re feeling or state what you’re feeling first off. Sometimes I freestyle. I let my spirit just sing so I freestyle the first couple of bars and it’s incredible! I be like, “Wow, that’s beautiful” and it’s exactly, kinda what I wanted to say. But it’s beautiful.
B: Okay, so last question. What is the story of "Charlene?" It’s your biggest hit, so…AH: (Laughing) Yeah, yeah… It was a point in my life when music and love were battling for the same space and it was kind of hard to make the choice because you didn’t want to lose this person but you didn’t want to lose yourself. I’m a musical being. That’s who I am from [when I was] a child, so that moment in my life created "Charlene."
B: I saw NPR’s ‘Tiny Desk’ and you said you needed some E&J after singing that song. Was that real? Does singing Charlene still evoke strong emotion or was that all theatrics?AH: I didn’t drink after that (laughs)! I actually got some food. But yeah, that was for the moment and the people. That song sometimes, yeah… it’s been so long now that some days you feel it again, a lot of days you feel it again. Especially when I’m on stage looking out on all these people who had a similar experience and are connecting to the song. But then other days it’s like work. It’s all beautiful still. I love it all.
Photo: RCA Records